Ernest Hemingway forever

I’m re-reading “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” this morning. The story has so much to offer in so many ways. Hemingway’s familiar emotional battles are prominent with a full catalog of the enemies, all of which restrain his writing: 1) the finiteness of life (God as editor, so to speak)(and the paradox that this finiteness provides dramatic interest to this and most of his stories); 

 “So now it was all over, he thought. So now he would never have a chance to finish it. So this was the way it ended in a bickering over a drink. Since the gangrene started in his right leg he had no pain and with the pain the horror had gone and all he felt now was a great tiredness and anger that this was the end of it. For this, that now was coming, he had very little curiosity. For years it had obsessed him; but now it meant nothing in itself. It was strange how easy being tired enough made it.

“Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that was why you put them off and delayed the starting. Well he would never know, now.”

 and

 “There wasn’t time, of course, although it seemed as though it telescoped so that you might put it all into one paragraph if you could get it right”

 2) the need to satisfy editors, critics, and readers;

 “Can’t you let a man die as comfortably as he can without calling him names? What’s the use of slanging me?”

 and

 “It was not her fault that when he went to her he was already over. How could a woman know that you meant nothing that you said; that you spoke only from habit and to be comfortable? After he no longer meant what he said, his lies were more successful with women than when he had told them the truth.

 “It was not so much that he lied as that there was no truth to tell. He had had his life and it was over and then he went on living it again with different people and more money, with the best of the same places, and some new ones.”

 and 3) the temptations of leisure and lethargy (comfort);

 “You kept from thinking and it was all marvellous. You were equipped with good insides so that you did not go to pieces that way, the way most of them had, and you made an attitude that  you cared nothing for the work you used to do, now that you could no longer do it. But, in yourself, you said that you would write about these people; about the very rich; that you were really not of them but a spy in their country; that you would leave it and write of it and for once it would be written by some one who knew what he was writing of [thumb in your eye, Scott Fitzgerald]. But he would never do it, because each day of not writing, of comfort, of being that which he despised, dulled his ability and softened his will to work so that, finally, he did no work at all.”

 The technique he uses is noteworthy, starting the clock with the first sentences:

 “The marvellous thing is that it’s painless,” he said. “That’s how you know when it starts.”

 Here is “Larry,” terminal with full awareness of his coming death. Close third-person, punctuated by flashbacks. Dialogue versus inner monologue. Too raw for memoir. Then for the final five paragraphs, the viewpoint shifts to that of Larry’s lover, because Larry is gone…

A master at work.

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One Response to Ernest Hemingway forever

  1. keithferrellwritenow says:

    A master indeed, and in a certain, severe way the greatest of all American masters. Good insights into the ways in which Hemingway put his mastery to work in crafting a story that works on so many different levels, but that is, ultimately, about talent and both its death and its death as a result of being unfulfilled.

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