Re: RARA-AVIS: Thoughts and Shots

James Rogers (
Mon, 27 Dec 1999 14:18:13 -0600

At 01:49 PM 12/27/99 -0600, Bill Crider wrote:
> And sure, maybe To Have and Have Not wasn't so noir of a moive, but
>>what a great crime novel. Very underappreciated by Hemingway crits, and one
>>of my faves. I think he was going for a little Cain in that one.
>I've always thought that the first half of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT was a
>pretty darn good start at a hardboiled novel. The second half didn't hold
>up for me.

         I can't recall who said that THAHT was, along with "The Killers", Hemingway's only really hardboiled stuff. Personally, I didn't actually care for the book. I would pick almost all of Hemingway's early short stories, but especially "Light Of The World" and "The Battler", as hardboiled.
         I remember a rock critic saying once that Van Morrison started his career by imitating Mick Jagger and Jagger was ending his by imitating Van Morrison. I think much the same thing could be said of Hemingway with reference to the Chandler/Hammett/Cain offshoots. But just as they couldn't equal Hemingway at his rare best, so he was unable to cheapen his skills as effectively as they. Consequently I find Hemingway's later books almost unreadable.
        When Hemingway was hot, though, he was just the greatest. Witness the "irony and pity; pity and irony" passage from _Sun Also Rises_. Maybe Hammett didn't lift this kind of dialogue, but Cain and Chandler did for sure.
        I think we sometimes forget - if I can be presumptious enough to suggest that my better read peers on RARA-AVIS forget anything - that ALL of the hardboiled writers were originally perceived as Hemingway spinoffs/ripoffs. You can obviously quibble insofar as Hammett is writing his early stories at around the same time as Hemingway is producing _In Our Time_. But I don't think that there can be a fair question but that later authors borrowed a lot. And still do: Brett Easton Ellis is an almost monotonous catalogue of Hemingway moments.


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