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Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Larry W.…
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Ernest Hemingway on Writing (original 1984; edition 1999)

by Larry W. Phillips (Editor)

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593733,829 (3.95)10
An assemblage of reflections on the nature of writing and the writer from one the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. Throughout Hemingway's career as a writer, he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing--that it takes off "whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk's feathers if you show it or talk about it." Despite this belief, by the end of his life he had done just what he intended not to do. In his novels and stories, in letters to editors, friends, fellow artists, and critics, in interviews and in commissioned articles on the subject, Hemingway wrote often about writing. And he wrote as well and as incisively about the subject as any writer who ever lived... This book contains Hemingway's reflections on the nature of the writer and on elements of the writer's life, including specific and helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and discipline. The Hemingway personality comes through in general wisdom, wit, humor, and insight, and in his insistence on the integrity of the writer and of the profession itself. --From the Preface by Larry W. Phillips… (more)
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Title:Ernest Hemingway on Writing
Authors:Larry W. Phillips (Editor)
Info:Touchstone (1999), 160 pages
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Ernest Hemingway on Writing by Ernest Hemingway (1984)

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"Writing is easy; you just open a vein and bleed."

There's no evidence that Hemingway ever said this, or anything much like it. He wasn't given much to ironic statements that mean to say the opposite of their literal meaning, and he was quick to assert that serious writing is hard work indeed. From the time he was a young man, Hemingway's driving ambition was to be the best American prose writer of his generation, and he didn't take his task casually. Whatever you think of Hemingway as a human being—and I find I like him more the more I learn about him as opposed to his myth—he took his work much more seriously than he took himself.

This collection picks what Hemingway wrote or said about writing and the writing life, in his personal letters, in interviews, and in works such as A Moveable Feast and The Green Hills of Africa. As the editor notes, quotes dating from the early 1920s to the late 1950s, even taken out of context and mashed together regardless of chronology, paint a consistent picture: Hemingway's ideas about writing didn't change significantly between youth and old age. And they're worth listening to by any aspiring writer. The quotations are grouped into thirteen chapters by subject, including "What Writing Is and Does," "The Pain and Pleasure of Writing," "Working Habits," "Characters," "Knowing What to Leave Out" and "The Writer's Life." Although most quotations don't run more than a paragraph and many are just one or two sentences, I found the collection easy to read straight through and worth keeping on the shelf. ( )
  john.cooper | Aug 22, 2022 |
Phillips puts together a collection of quotes from Hemingway's work and also from a number of letters and interviews. I am not sure Hemingway would have been happy about this book, although Mr Hemingway's fourth wife Mary Welsh Hemingway gave the editor (Phillips) permission to use the various quotes from Hemingway's major works. Phillips' major contribution is putting together Hemingway's thoughts on writing in one convenient place. Other than that, it smacks of someone getting to publish a book simply because the subject is famous. It is a very quick read and I enjoyed reading it, but I was a little disappointed that it is just a series of quotes organised thematically. Worth a read, worth keeping to refer back to, but reading about Hemingway just isn't the same as reading Hemingway. ( )
1 vote madepercy | Nov 7, 2017 |
Hemingway engenders strong opinions. Of late, there has been a surge in opinion that he doesn’t deserve the attention and acclaim that he garnered over the years. There are those who think that his stripped down, powerful prose is just a sign of a writer lacking in language and imagination. Others continue to hail him as a genius. If anything, Papa would be pleased to be at the center of such a debate, to have so many arguing over the worth of his work.
If nothing else, [Ernest Hemingway on Writing] shows us that worth was something he thought a lot about. The book excerpts Hemingway’s letters, books, and essays for comments on the craft. The man refused to reduce his own thoughts in one place for any one treatise on the topic – he said many times that it would knock the dust from the butterfly’s wings to do so. But he commented on his work many times in private correspondence and in the fiction he wrote. On nearly every page, there is a comment from Hemingway that he is constantly striving to be the best author and to produce the best writing.

“…writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done – so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.”

Passages like that are paired with rants about other authors, and how is either measures up or doesn’t. Say what you want, but I’ve read few author’s comments that anguish so over whether they’ve achieved a measure of success with their writing. Today, writing books go out of their way to make everyone feel better about themselves, to see success in the act of putting any word to paper. But Hemingway believed there was a truth to fiction that couldn’t be achieved without constant and committed work. He was not be the kind of teacher who could cultivate the midrange writer up standards, but he could inspire anyone to strive in their soul with his example.

Along the way, he comments on his writing practice, even down to how he picks up the thread from the previous day’s writing in a way that helps to create a unified narrative. He comments that on how to write from the senses, how to observe the events of the day and translate them into truth on the page. And he even comments on what a writer should be reading, providing a reading list of the authors he thinks have something to teach. He even debunks symbolism, reminding us that sometimes the boy is a boy and the fish is a fish.

I wish that Hemingway had not been worried about the butterfly, that he would have had the confidence in his own ability to share it without worry that the act would separate him from the spiritual connection he felt. And that’s the only criticism for the book. It’s not one that could be remedied, and, in a way, it makes Larry Phillips success in creating the book that much more impressive.

Bottom Line: An all too narrow glimpse into a master’s mind, but a glimpse worth taking for anyone who has the same passion.

4 bones!!!!! ( )
1 vote blackdogbooks | Feb 14, 2016 |
Great, wonderful book. This isn't anything but a collection of wisdoms from Hemingway, but if you're interested in how he looked at writing (and if you want to write yourself) this is a goldmine not to be underestimated. Highly recommended. ( )
  chaosmogony | Apr 27, 2013 |
A commendable and extensive collection of quotes by Ernest Hemingway on the act of writing, the thoughts and the life of a writer. I personally found this book very useful and interesting.

For lengthier texts by Hemingway on the art of writing, "A Moveable Feast" and the "Green Hills of Africa" remain invaluable.
  GYKM | Dec 31, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hemingway, Ernestprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Phillips, Larry W.Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Phillips, Larry W.Editorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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This book is dedicated to my Mother and Father; to Mr. Edwin Benish; and to Charles ("Pete") Redfield of the Silver Coach.
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An assemblage of reflections on the nature of writing and the writer from one the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. Throughout Hemingway's career as a writer, he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing--that it takes off "whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk's feathers if you show it or talk about it." Despite this belief, by the end of his life he had done just what he intended not to do. In his novels and stories, in letters to editors, friends, fellow artists, and critics, in interviews and in commissioned articles on the subject, Hemingway wrote often about writing. And he wrote as well and as incisively about the subject as any writer who ever lived... This book contains Hemingway's reflections on the nature of the writer and on elements of the writer's life, including specific and helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and discipline. The Hemingway personality comes through in general wisdom, wit, humor, and insight, and in his insistence on the integrity of the writer and of the profession itself. --From the Preface by Larry W. Phillips

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