Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hemingway Revisited

I've been revisiting Ernest Hemingway after twenty years away from his writings through Michael Reynolds fabulous five part biography.

With the exception of The Garden of Eden and The Sun Also Rises, I have not read his work with any serious intentions since I was a teenager.  For a long time his work seem outmoded.  His masculine stance a bit out of step with the times.  Of course, this is wrong.  Hemingway suffered the fate that most artists who develop a public persona suffer: people confused the man with the work and work with the man.  He was treated as a card board cut out when the reaction against his work and style set in.  That seems to be gone now.  He is an American writer of the stature of Twain, Melville, James.  His work is one of those markers in the annals of American fiction: here is a man who captured his times, and transcended them by creating a fiction that would be read in all times.

From volume two, you get this impression most firmly.  Who reads Gertrude Stein unless you are writing a dissertation?  Who knows anything about Ezra Pound except that he edited The Wasteland? (Let alone reads his poetry).  Of course, people will read such writers, if they are inclined.  But do they live on?  We are in an age almost like the Medieval period.  Then, unpopular books that were not read were not copied and faded to oblivion.  Now books just sit on the self, unread.  Or they are placed in the Annex, the equivalent to the land of broken toys.  They go out of print.  Fading away seems almost natural.

Just read the biography.  So many names are non-names now.  Non-people.  Art is forgetful, unforgiving.


  1. I read Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein!
    In the world of poetry, Ezra Pound is still a giant. I guess that makes him a great big fish in a tiny little pond. Nonetheless, he is read by more than dissertators. Stein to has many fans. She was actually popular in her day, and she may be little read now, but among novelists and poets her reputation is secure. As for Hemmingway, I couldn't agree more. Whatever the reputations and importance of his confreres from Paris, his own reputation is well past its nadir. At least, i hope so.

  2. Did you remember your google password?

    I suppose here I meant the popular world of book reading, such as it still exists. I don't see people reading Tender Buttons on the bus. Or The Making of Americans. Or the Cantos.

    You inhabit a different world; a sub-culture of people who read good books for the joy of reading. So, you just confirm my point. You are like a person in the Middle Ages, reading the books that others will not.