My Hemingway Column Opened a Conversation
On Thursday, April 28, 2023, I published a column on Substack entitled “What Made Ernest Hemingway’s Writing So Successful.” It received hundreds of views in just the first 24 hours. One of those viewers was the award-winning novelist Jerome Charyn who was generous enough to share his thoughts on Hemingway’s writing. I have included them below with his permission. For your reference, Jerome Charyn is the author of over 50 books who Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon called "one of the most important writers in American literature."
From Jerome Charyn:
Whatever Hemingway's limitations, he did change the language. And EVERY writer since has been influenced by him. Each sentence serves as an island. And the space between sentences is as important as the sentences themselves. This all happened in Paris. He mythologized his past. He did not fight in the First World War. He was an ambulance driver who was shot in the ass. But his real apprenticeship was in Paris.
Once he returned to the States with a rich new wife, he was never the same. His real power came from the magical simplicity of his sentences, starved of adverbs and adjectives. His nouns often did double duty as verbs. Compare him to the Master, Henry James. James' sentences build into a crescendo that's almost like an orgasm. Hemingway had none of that. He's like a demonic fisherman with a sharp blade, scraping off every scale that poor fish has. He brings us down to the bone.
The later Hemingway is much more baroque. That sparse symmetry is gone. He feels sorry for himself. That need for invisibility, as he sat in a Parisian cafe scribbling in a blue notebook, is gone. He traded in his apprenticeship and soon became a clown. We can't include A Moveable Feast here, that was a forgotten ms written much earlier and published after his death. It almost serves as a primer. We watch his panther-like moves as he rips across Paris. We watch him sitting in a sweatshirt and writing in a cold, damp place. We watch him before the myth of Papa Hemingway was ever born.
If you would like into this conversation about Hemingway’s writing, please become a Free Subscriber and contact me directly through my Substack email address.
And, stay tuned for my next regular Substack to be released on Thursday, May 4th entitled, “The Questions Every Writer Asks.”
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