Passages and Quotations: Interview with Ernest Hemingway

Again, many apologies, but I’m stalling on adding a proper post, since I haven’t found the time, for lots of reasons, to write much recently. Or, if you want to be critical I haven’t made the time.  Either way, for better or for worse, a long, wordy post is in the works, I promise!

For now, I’m going to try a new kind of post, which in the future will consist of very little to no explanation from me, and just contain a quotation or passage from something I’ve read recently that I liked and wanted to share. I like the idea of posting passages from my reading here because eventually I’ll be able to look back and have some sort of record of “where I’ve been”, so to speak. I recently looked over all my photos from my trip (that I’ve been on for over two months now!) and loathe as I was to whip out my camera and take them all at the time, I’m so happy to have them as visual reminders of the amazing places I’ve been.  So these posts, which I’ll categorize under “Passages and Quotations,” will be a record of what I’m reading and of what I’ve read, and of particular paragraphs and sentences that intrigue me or puzzle me or simply that I find beautiful. I’ve read whole books that were made worthwhile by the perfection of only a single sentence somewhere in the middle, and I’d like,  eventually, for some of those sentences to make their way here.

This particular passage is from an interview with Ernest Hemingway, published in The Paris Review in the spring of 1958 (Paris Review #18), which I read on the second floor (or the first, European-style) of the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in, appropriately enough, Paris:

Interviewer: What would you consider the best intellectual training for the would-be writer?

Hemingway: Let’s say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with.

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2 thoughts on “Passages and Quotations: Interview with Ernest Hemingway

  1. Isn’t it odd that he, of all people, should recommend hanging as a remedy for writer’s block? If his are great works (a presumption I’m not about to contend in the comments section), I’d think he’d recommend a leisurely stroll with a glass of your favorite alcoholic beverage on a Caribbean beach or eavesdropping on the neighboring table at an over-priced restaurant. I hardly think of his work as having the urgency he describes.

    It’s poignant advice, I just don’t think he follows it.

  2. I’m not sure Hemingway recommends hanging so much as a remedy for writer’s block but rather as a prescription for writing in general. And that’s what I like about this quotation, really, is the acknowledgment of how difficult it is to write, or perhaps how difficult it SHOULD be to write if one were to hold oneself to a high enough standard. It gives me more resolve in my struggles to find the right words, the perfect words, when the mediocre words often come to me so easily, and are so hard to resist.

    And as for whether Hemingway follows his own advice, I can’t say I’ve read enough of his work to make that call–I’m most familiar with his short fiction and “The Old Man and the Sea”–but I seem to like him better than you, and in what I’ve read (less the novels, more the shorter works) his writing certainly can carry a goodly weight of intensity.

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