Re: RARA-AVIS: Conrad/Hemingway

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 04 Mar 2000

--- James Rogers <> wrote:

> 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.

Pretty fair, although I personally would put the start of the "bad Hemingway" a lot later than Mr. Rogers seems to. I think Hem was firing on all cylinders up until FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, and even that has some worthwhile moments.

> 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

Well, academics certainly hold Hemingway in contempt nowadays, but others? Even if you left aside his continued profound influence on popular fiction, you'd still have to reckon with the number of "literary" writers who owe him an obvious debt (Raymond Carver and the rest of his merry band of Minimalists come to mind.) And in the popular imagination, well, I just saw an ad the other day for the "Hemingway" collection of furniture. Hard to think of a "Conrad" collection.
(How about a "Hammett" collection? Now there's a thought...)

> Conversely, I believe that Conrad's
> reputation is actually picking
> up steam as time goes by.

Well, you'll have to do a lot of work to convince me of that. To try to stay on topic, any attempt to link Conrad with "noir" fiction seems to me to be pretty much of a stretch -- you'll have better luck, I think, linking him to the horror field.


===== Doug Bassett
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