Re: RARA-AVIS: Conrad/Hemingway

From: James Rogers (
Date: 03 Mar 2000

At 02:43 PM 3/3/00 -0800, Doug Basset wrote:
>I'd like to humbly point out that Hemingway's
>influence over the entire hb field has been immense --
>indeed, it's hard to imagine hb literature without
>him. Like him or not (and many do not, often because
>they disapprove of his life) I think he has to be
>respected as one of the few giants of 20th Century
>literature. (Whatever one thinks of his personal
>philosophy -- and it can be justly criticized -- I
>think it's unfair to call it "superficial").
>Although I admire and respect Conrad, he has always
>struck me as essentially a transitional figure between
>the 19th and 20th centuries. I do not think he has
>been particularly influential in American fiction.

       I think that Hemingway's early short stories and first novel are extraordinary, but the decline in the later pieces was very noticable and was commented on even during his lifetime by friends like Edmund Wilson. By
"The Old Man And The Sea" it seems to me that he is just imitating himself
(in that particular case, imitating a very fine younger story; "The Undefeated"). Admittedly, by this time he was probably quite ill as well as at an advanced stage in alcoholism. I do agree that, for better or for worse, parodies of his approach have been and continue to be the dominant mode of expression in "hard-boiled" literature.
     Likewise I think that Hemingway's reputation was at it's apex about when he was awarded the Nobel and has been downgraded ever since....I think that the intervening years have made readers more sensitive to the self-pity and sentimentality which began to dominate the later stories. This is not to denigrate his achievments but just to note that it isn't all up to one consistent standard
       Conversely, I believe that Conrad's reputation is actually picking up steam as time goes by. If he is less imitated that Hemingway, at least part of the reason has to be that it is very hard to duplicate his ironic and ambiguous effects. I would suggest that, among American novels, _The Great Gatsby_ shows a lot of Joseph Conrad influence. I think that this might be true for Nabokov as well. And I don't think that I am the first person to wonder at Chandler's adoption of the name Marlowe for _his_ narrator.


# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 03 Mar 2000 EST