Death in the Afternoon: What do we do about this?

In order to write about life first you must live it.
Ernest Hemingway

We don’t like bull fighting. It’s cruel. We care for and hope the bull will win. We, meaning Americans in general, don’t get it or understand how any civilized people could watch such a sport and actually sit through it and even applaud. I adore animals. I cannot watch the maiming and killings. So what did Hem see that we don’t?  He loved animals and he had great heart and empathy.

Matador
Matador

I have to start by noting that I have always found The Dangerous Summer, Hemingway’s chronicle of a summer following two competing bullfighters, to be a wonderful, original and absorbing book. It started as an Esquire article and expanded to the book. I really loved it but for the killing of the bull scenes.  I even understand and can accept the drama of the matadors, their dignity and honor.  As much as all of us shun this sport, please take a chance and read the book for the saga and adventure that it was.  It is excellent writing and you become part of the pageantry, of the training, and of the honor of being a bullfighter.

Spanish Civil war
Spanish Civil war

Pamplona of course is a key portion of The Sun Also Rises and Brett runs off temporarily with the young matador.  She then does her noble act of leaving him so as not to ruin him.  Because Spain and Pamplona are so wrapped in the Hemingway image and lore, it is important to know a bit about it, although not imperative to accept that bullfighting is in fact noble in its enactment of the life and death cycle.

So that brings us back to the old philosophical question: Must we avoid a writer because we hate his subject matter? My first post talks about how I don’t like hunting, fishing, war, bullfighting, heavy drinking and yet I love Hemingway.  How is that possible?  Because in the fewest words possible, Hemingway gets to the heart of what matters, what makes all of us tick, what it means to die and to live.  The arena may be war or fishing or bullfighting but it’s about love, hate, living and dying. Thus you don’t have to love his forums to love his books.

dog laughingdog laughedI just read in Hemingway’s Cats, a truly lovely book by the way, that Papa lost his love for big game hunting as well as for bull fighting in his last years. He chose later in life to photograph animals in Africa, not shoot them, and felt that bullfighting had become a commericial and depressing spectacle. I admire people who can change opinions and he could. Ah, just more for me to like.

By the way, I just came across the below which is some footage of Hem that I enjoyed. Please don’t take offence by the title of the link. I just copied it!  But it is a treat to see Hemingway moving, walking, in his home. Take a look. I loved it.

http://fuckyeahhemingway.tumblr.com/post/44461799990/literaryartifacts-ernest-hemingway

 

 

 

I LIKE it!
I LIKE it!

IS IT TRUE?

 Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.   Ernest Hemingway

It has been said someone bet Hemingway that he couldn’t write a story in six words that would make you cry.  Try this on for size, ye of little faith.

Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris

 

 

FOR SALE: BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN.

 dog and baby

I am souless
I am souless

If that doesn’t tear your heart out from the inside out and make you gasp for breath, then you have no soul.

 

Hemingway was complicated.  For those of you who’ve read this blog from the beginning, and especialy the Mask post, the Hemingway bluster and the macho “stuff” were both real and a mask for what Hemingway felt he should be.  Please remember his devastation at the death of his cat, Willie.

Devastated
Devastated

 

The above, for me, says so much. Can you in six words sum up anything?  In my women’s group, we did a similar exercise. In six words, sum up your life.  We had three tries ( three versions) if so inspired. It’s not easy. Mine were something like: ” Good Girl, Bad Girl, Okay Woman” and “Love as the answer, not sure.”

This will be a short post.  I find the above so thought-provoking and devastating that I think it’s enough.  Hemingway is anything but a one-trick pony.

Hem, boys, and cat
Hem, boys, and cat
The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises

More Favorite Lines from Hemingway books

Scott
Scott
Hem, Mary, and AE Hotchner
Hem, Mary, and AE Hotchner
Catherine and Frederic
Catherine and Frederic

 

 

1.)      If you were lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.  A Moveable Feast.

2.)      You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil. A Moveable Feast.

3.)      Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.  A Moveable Feast.

A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast

4.)      If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction.  But there is always a chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.  A Moveable Feast.

5.)      I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day.  A Moveable Feast.

Working at the Finca
Working at the Finca
6.) Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so. The Old Man and the Sea
7.) So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.  Death in the Afternoon.
8.) “Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it—don’t cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist—but don’t think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.”
Letter to Scott Fitzgerald, dated 28 May 1934
9.) Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is. The Old Man and the Sea.
Hem and Black Dog

My novel and Hemingway

My first draft is shit

Tell Me when It Hurts

The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway

 

It is not my intent to “plug” my novels on this blog but once in a while it fits so I’ll write a bit about my first novel and Hemingway.  My book is called Tell Me When It Hurts. La Femme Nikita meetsThe Horse Whisperer. That’s my novel. Healing, second chances with a few horses and a few dogs thrown in for good measure.  One Amazon critic noted that it is more horse whisperer than femme nikita although she wrote a favorable review. She just thought the book jacket description suggested an action packed gun-fest.  Fair enough comment. It is more romance than thriller. And as for reviews, small –no tiny–fry that I am, it is a rush to read a good review from someone across the country or nearby, and an icepick stab in the heart to read the bad ones. I only have a few of them but they hurt.

A few good dogs

A few good horses.

Hemingway inspired me in a few ways. I don’t think anyone can pull off his style without it reading like an entry into the best of bad Hemingway contest. (Some of the entries in the Best of Bad Hemingway are a hoot and are quite entertaining.  Hmm, that’s another post for another day.) Still, here is what wormed its way into my book by osmosis from Ernesto.

1)      Hem always worked steadily and with discipline and daily when working on a book. He might get drunk at the end of the day but while working, he worked.  He demanded that he write a certain number of words and produce every day.  And he revised, revised, revised.

Drinking and working with cat

 

You all know, I’m sure, that he wrote the last line of The Sun Also Rises something like thirty different ways, with slightly different inflection. And it was a short sentence!  “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”  Every word mattered to him and he wasn’t looking for the ten dollar word.  It was how he put the simple words together.The point is that even a creative literary genius like Papa had to work it.  It didn’t flood down from heaven and then come flowing out. He had to work, rework, revise, cut, add, revise. That was reassuring and inspiring for a mere attemptor like me.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gave him invaluable advice on The Sun Also Rises.  He crossed out Hem’s original beginning and said “start it here.” Hem did and the rest is history. As my best writing mentor put it, “New writers are always telling me to stick with their story, that it really gets good. I tell them to start it where it really gets good.” INVALUABLE ADVICE.

Me in Palm Beach:  Just finished first draft of second novel.

 

2)      The main character in my novel is named Archer Loh.  She cites Hemingway often and not just the ever popular grace under pressure comment. She has one scene in which she gets drunk and renacts a conversation with Jake Barnes pointing out his lack of empathy for Brett’s point of view and issues. Her dog is named Hadley. I think it works. You be the judge.

 

3)      Hemingway tended to know where his books were going. To even talk about my book and its planning in the same breath as Hemingway is so absurd as to be insane.   My only observation is that when I planned my novel, I knew the beginning and the end. I did not have the center all set out in outline form with detail but I did know where I was going. For me, it gave me freedom to see where the writing took me but I always knew where I had to end up. I think Hem knew exactly where he was going if not in every detail.

Midnight in Paris

Many of the finest writers know the entirety of their books before they set it down.  I can’t imagine that John Irving doesn’t have the details in mind before starting. If anyone knows if this is so, or not so, I’d be interested.  His plots are just so intricate and yet connected despite seemingly random plot elements that to me they must be preordained.

Hemingway is not as prominent in my second novel, with a working title of The Rage of Plum Blossoms. There is one reference to one character collecting Hemingway First Editions but that’s about it. And I of course wish I’d written The Paris Wife before Paula McLain. Sigh sigh. Sigh, sigh. Sigh.

It should have been me

 

All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened. Ernest Hemingway