The difficult years

“At a certain age the men writers change into Old Mother Hubbard.  The women writers become Joan of Arc without the fighting.  They become leaders.  It doesn’t matter who they lead.  If they do not have followers they invent them.  It is useless for those selected as followers to protest.  They are accused of disloyalty.  Oh, hell.  There are too many things that happen to them.  That is one thing.  The others try to save their souls with what they write.  That is an easy way out.  Others are ruined by the first money, the first praise, the first attack, the first time they find they cannot write, or the first time they cannot do anything else, or they get frightened and join organizations that do their thinking for them.  Or they do nor know what they want.” – Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa

Filling the trough

“It is only by hazard that a writer makes money although good books always make money eventually.  Then our writers when they have made some money increase their standard of living and they are caught.  They have to write to keep up their establishments, their wives, and so on, and they write slop.  It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried.  Because they write when there is nothing to say or no water in the well.  Because they are ambitious.  Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop.  Or else they read the critics.  If they believe the critics when they say they are great then they must believe them when they say they are rotten and they lose confidence.” – Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa

Fearful scribes angling for academic posts

“Writers should work alone.  They should see each other only after their work is done, and not too often then.  Otherwise they become like writers in New York.  All angleworms in a bottle, trying to derive knowledge and nourishment from their own contact and from the bottle.  Sometimes the bottle is shaped art, sometimes economics, sometimes economic-religion.  But once they are in the bottle they stay there.  They are lonesome outside of the bottle.  They do not want to be lonesome.  They are afraid to be alone in their beliefs.” – Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa

Blow the factory whistle, storm the palace gates

“The great thing is to last and to get your work done and see and hear and learn and understand; and write when there is something that you know; and not before; and not too damned much after.  Let those who want to save the world if you can get to see it clear and as a whole.  Then any part you make will represent the whole if it’s made truly.  The thing to do is work and learn to make it.” – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

The great turkey shoot

“Killing cleanly and in a way which gives you aesthetic pleasure and pride has always been one of the greatest enjoyments of a part of the human race.  Because the other part, which does not enjoy killing, has always been the more articulate and has furnished most of the good writers we have had a very few statements of the true enjoyment of killing.  One of its greatest pleasures, aside from the purely aesthetic ones, such as wing shooting, and the ones of pride, such as difficult game stalking, where it is the disproportionately increased importance of the fraction of a moment that it takes for the shot that furnishes the emotion, is the feeling of rebellion against death which comes from its administering.  Once you accept the rule of death thou shalt not kill is an easily and a naturally obeyed commandment.  But when a man is still in rebellion against death he has pleasure in taking to himself one of the Godlike attributes; that of giving it.  This is one of the most profound feelings in those men who enjoy killing.  These things are done in pride and pride, of course, is a Christian sin, and a pagan virtue.”  – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

Populating the work

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters.  A character is a caricature.  If a writer can make people live there may be no great characters in his book, but it is possible that his book may remain as a whole; as an entity; as a novel.  If the people the writer is making talk of old masters; of music; of modern painting; of letters; or of science then they should talk of those subjects in the novel.  If they do not talk of those subjects and the writer makes them talk of them he is a faker, and if he talks about them himself to show how much he knows then he is showing off.  No matter how good a phrase or a simile he may have if he puts it in where it is not absolutely necessary and irreplaceable he is spoiling his work for egotism.  Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.  For a writer to put his own intellectual musings, which he might sell for a low price as essays, into the mouths of artificially constructed characters which are more remunerative when issued as people in a novel is good economics, perhaps, but does not make literature.  People in a novel, not skillfully constructed characters, must be projected from the writer’s assimilated experience, from his knowledge, from his head, from his heart and from all there is of him.  If he ever has luck as well as seriousness and gets them out entire they will have more than one dimension and they will last a long time.  A good writer should know as near everything as possible.  Naturally he will not.  A great enough writer seems to be born with knowledge.  But he really is not; he has only been born with the ability to learn in a quicker ratio to the passage of time than other men and without conscious application, and with an intelligence to accept or reject what is already presented as knowledge.  There are some things which cannot be learned quickly and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring.  They are the very simplest things and because it takes a man’s life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave.  Every novel which is truly written contributes to the total of knowledge which is there at the disposal of the next writer who comes, but the next writer must pay, always, a certain nominal percentage in experience to be able to understand and assimilate what is available as his birthright and what he must, in turn, take his departure from.  If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.  The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.  A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.  A writer who appreciates the seriousness of writing so little that he is anxious to make people see he is formally educated, cultured or well-bred is merely a popinjay.  And this too remember: a serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer.  A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.” – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (emphases in original)

A double shot of Mr. Molotov’s cocktail

“After one comes, through contact with its administrators, no longer to cherish greatly the law as a remedy in abuses, then the bottle becomes a sovereign means of direct action.  If you cannot throw it at least you can always drink out of it.” – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

Any way you look at it

“All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.  Especially do all stories of monogamy end in death, and your man who is monogamous while he often lives most happily, dies in the most lonely fashion.  There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife then outlived her.  If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it.” – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

Keeping it real

“If a man writes clearly enough any one can see if he fakes.  If he mystifies to avoid a straight statement, which is very different from breaking so-called rules of syntax or grammar to make an effect which can be obtained in no other way, the writer takes a longer time to be known as a fake and other writers who are afflicted by the same necessity will praise him in their own defense.  True mysticism should not be confused with incompetence in writing which seeks to mystify where there is no mystery but is really only the necessity to fake to cover lack of knowledge or the inability to state clearly.  Mysticism implies a mystery and there are many mysteries; but incompetence is not one of them; nor is overwritten journalism made literature by the injection of a false epic quality.” – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

What security, indeed

“I ask you what confidence you would have in a Court thus constituted—a Court composed of partisan Judges, appointed on political grounds, selected with a view to the decision of questions in a particular way, and pledged in regard to a decision before the argument, and without reference to the peculiar state of the facts. Would such a Court command the respect of the country? If the Republican party cannot trust Democratic Judges, how can they expect us to trust Republican Judges, when they have been selected in advance for the purpose of packing a decision in the event of a case arising? My fellow-citizens, whenever partisan politics shall be carried on to the bench; whenever the Judges shall be arraigned upon the stump, and their judicial conduct reviewed in town meetings and caucuses; whenever the independence and integrity of the judiciary shall be tampered with to the extent of rendering them partial, blind and suppliant tools, what security will you have for your rights and your liberties?” — Senator Stephen A. Douglas, 1858