Re: RARA-AVIS: To Have and Have Not

From: Ray Skirsky (
Date: 14 Mar 2002

At 05:10 PM 3/14/2002 -0600, you wrote:
>There's been some discussion of Hemingway on list even though he hasn't
>written alot of hardboiled stuff. He wrote one hardboiled novel called To
>Have and Have Not. Forget the movie. it was good but again you must go to
>the book it is far far darker and more hardboiled.

The movie just wasn't good, it was a classic. Even though it isn't as dark or hardboiled as the book, it has some of the best one-liners in the movies, and snappy dialog is a hall-mark of hard-boiled. For example:

"What are you trying to do? Guess her weight?" --Bacall, when her character decides that Bogie's is taking a bit too long to set down the resistance fighter's wife.

"He couldn't write and faster than he could duck." --Bogie, after the playboy is shot before signing the check.

"I think he was trying to get me drunk. He don't know me very well." --Walter Brennen's character's response to attempted interrogation.

And there are plenty more besides the famous "whistle" scene. Also, there's some of the best use of light and shadow you'll ever see anywhere in the B&W movies.

>The first half
>of the book is actually some of Papa's best writing. In the last half he
>seems to lose focus and meander a little, it is still good stuff however.

This happens a lot in Hemmingway's novels, that is, the second half losing focus and wandering. For the record, my belief is that his best novel is "A Farewell to Arms." The worst offender is "Islands in the Stream," but that may be unfair because Hemmingway didn't get a chance to work with the editor before it was published. Hemmingway was a master of shorter fiction--the Nick Adams stories and "Old Man and the Sea" being prime examples.


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