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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Hello fellow readers, booklovers and friends!

At long last, welcome to my blog, The Art of Reading! Let me begin by saying that this is the first blog I’ve ever written, and once I write something in it, it will become the first blog I’ve ever really read (if reading one’s own blog counts as reading a blog at all). Nearly every day for over a decade now, I’ve felt the need to write, but the desire to write a blog is rather new to me. I spent the past four years studying English literature (and philosophy and other things) at a small, women’s liberal arts college in southern California and even though I only graduated this past May, I think the main reason I’ve chosen to create this blog is very simple: I miss writing about reading.

Over the last several years and particularly throughout these past months since graduation, I’ve been struggling with a growing awareness that reading, in this technology-driven world, has become a fragmented process—so often the work of a moment, rather than the sustained project of many minutes or many hours. The text message, the email, and the one hundred and forty characters of a twitter post are so different from the continual, dedicated experience of reading I’ve had for the past four years as a scholar and the past twenty-two as an enthusiastic bibliophile. So, at the center of this blog is my desire to write about reading in order to think about reading, and in order to make myself read more, and more attentively, and to consider, more closely than I have in the past, an activity I’ve always felt to be central to the most important and best parts of myself. Since I intend to continue studying English in the near future, I want to use this time away from the regimen of syllabi and semesters to good purpose. I want to become a better reader, writer and thinker (and thereby, I hope, a better person).

I plan to use this blog as a deposit for my thoughts and as a reason to polish these thoughts up a bit more than I otherwise would, and hile I don’t know exactly what I will write about, I do know that this will not be a blog about what to read or what not to read—as Virginia Woolf writes in Jacob’s Room, “any one who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, with extravagant enthusiasm.” Of course, I don’t mean that I won’t write occasionally (or more than occasionally) about books—honestly, after four years studying English, I think it would be hard for me to stop writing about books even if I wanted to—but I certainly won’t be writing lists of recommendations or condemnations. I just want to create, through these writings, a place in which to reflect on the art of readership, its challenges and joys, its future and its past, its benefits, its ethics, its many uses and guises, and its place and importance in my own life and in the modern world. I want to create a space in which to consider, with my own extravagant enthusiasm and an overabundance of detail and attention, the act of reading itself.

I hope to post here every week or so, on whatever reading-related topic strikes my fancy; these posts may seem a bit odd to begin with (actually, they’ll probably seem a bit odd all along, but especially to begin with) because I’m on a trip at the moment, composing this as I go along from city to city. Though I started thinking about this blog before I left the states, I began writing this first entry in Dublin, worked on it little bit more this past week in Vienna, finally finished it Zurich and am posting this (hostel-wireless willing) from Brussels. Since I’ve been making regular literary pilgrimages (e.g. Trinity College and the Freud Museum) my travels are sure to show up here a bit, but for the most part I plan to focus on writing about reading.

All I want is to write about something that is remarkably important to me, something that I hope is important to others, and to do so in a way that will make me a more thoughtful, skillful and accomplished reader, more dedicated, more aware, and more in love than ever with the art of reading. So to that end, I welcome you, whoever you are, (actually I might know exactly who you are, i.e. the six-ish people to whom I’ve given this address) to The Art of Reading. I hope you enjoy whatever I offer here, and that you chime in as often as you like; I always love to hear what other people are reading.