Tag Archives: Hemingway

Thank you Mr Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway circa 1937

It has been the most productive day I have had in quite some time. I have been revising the first seven chapters of my novel and the feeling of being alive has returned.

It’s probably obvious to regular readers of this blog that my motivation for writing ebbs and flows and I go through periods of manic activity which then give way to periods of procrastination. If it was possible to pinpoint one thing that turned procrastination into action, those periods of not writing would probably not worry me so much. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any connection between the things the seem to revive my writing motivation.

So, who or what was it that brought about a resurgence of motivation and activity this time? Believe it or not, it was reading Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.

This might not be considered such a strange event, especially since Hemingway is considered one of the greatest writer’s of all time, but it’s not exactly what you might think. The reason Hemingway’s book motivated me is not because it was a fantastically well-written novel, in fact, it was the exact opposite.

This was my first Hemingway. I plunged into it expecting to be blown away by some mystical power of amazing literature – boy, was I disappointed. Part 1 was okay, nothing totally amazing, but it wouldn’t be the first book I have read that took great persistence to get really involved in the story.

The change of perspective in Part 2 was when I started to have doubts about the greatness of Mr Hemingway. Although, in truth it wasn’t just the change in perspective, lots of novels do that, it was also the disconnected and disjointed feeling that came through reading it.

When I started on Part 3, I wondered out loud if the book wasn’t really a collection of short stories.

Then, I was overcome with complete confusion as the whole thing seemed to take a major detour from the original idea. I was seriously starting to question why this guy was supposedly considered to be some kind of writing God. Hope and motivation for my novel were starting to return.

I finished the book, and straight away started to research Mr Hemingway. I discovered that To Have and Have Not came 8 years after his previous novel, although he had published some short stories in between. I also discovered that this novel started life as two short stories and a novella, so some of the change in perspective and disjointedness started to make sense. But then, according to some contemporary reviewers from the late 1930s, disconnection seems to be a common theme through all Hemingway’s work (that and the lack of distinction between characters in his dialogue).

To Have and Have Not has been referred to as a ‘bunch of junk’ although there seems to be some confusion as to whether this comment should be attributed to Hemingway, himself, or to film director, Howard Hawks, who made the novel into a film of the same name. However, once you start looking into the novel a little deeper than words on a page, and start to question Hemingway’s motives for writing it or what he was trying to explore, then you can start to see that, as a piece of literature, and as an author, Ernest Hemingway was bordering on brilliant.

Regardless of whether this is Hemingway’s worst book or indicative of his work in general, if a great writer can produce a novel like this, there is hope for me yet. That is not to say that I, in any way, shape or form, consider myself in Hemingway’s league (heck, I haven’t even finished writing 1 novel yet, let alone published 7 of them!), but if readers of my novel are not left scratching their heads or having to resort to Google to work put the story together then I will consider myself successful.