Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Ernie noiring about

From: Marc Seals (
Date: 23 Feb 2004

From: "Brian Thornton" <>
> Marc-
> I'd love to read your conclusions or even the whole paper, once you've
> finished working on it. I think you have a very provocative subject!

The funny thing is, I was not even planning on presenting this year. I gave a paper at the last conference 2 years ago on Lake Maggiore in the north of Italy, but I had no real big ideas for this year (even though I live in Tampa-- Key West is a whole lot easier a trip than Italy!). I was talking to a colleague and explaining that I wanted to concentrate on my dissertation, rather than have a million distractions. He asked if there was any way to combine Chandler with Hemingway; I began to tell him about how Chandler had integrated Hemingway into his fiction (especially FAREWELL, MY LOVELY) and mentioned him several times in his letters. I mentioned the parody
(mentioned several times on this list) of Hemingway that Chandler had written. Anyway, my friend finally said, "Marc, you've TALKED about Chandler's treatment of Hemingway for as long as a conference paper should last! Submit a proposal!" I did, and (to my surprise) it was accepted. Now I must write a paper that I have little on other than a collection of relevant quotes. I really have no conclusions yet. Heck, since Chandler is of OBVIOUS relevance to this list and someone _else_ brought up Hemingway, here are some of the quotes that I plan to draw upon. If anyone has any opinion and/or feedback, I'd love the help. This is rather long....

"Chandler on Hemingway"

[From Chandler's Working Notebook: Discussing the American language style]
"It has too great a fondness for the faux naļ¦¬ by which I mean the use of a style such as might be spoken by a very limited sort of mind. In the hands of a genius like Hemingway the may be effective, but only by subtly evading the terms of the contract, that is, by an artistic use of the telling details which the speaker never would have noted. When not used by a genius it is as flat as a Rotarian speech." (LATER NOVELS 1013)

[Excerpt from a 1932 Hemingway parody entitled "Beer in the Sergeant-Major's Hat, or The Sun Also Sneezes"] Chandler's dedication reads: "dedicated with no good reason to the greatest living American novelist: Ernest Hemingway"
      Hank went into the bathroom to brush his teeth.
     "The hell with it," he said. "She shouldn't have done it."
     It was a good bathroom. It was small and the green enamel was peeling off the walls. But the hell with that, as Napoleon said when they told him Josephine was waiting without. The bathroom had a wide window through which Hank looked at the pines and the larches. They dripped with a faint rain. They looked smooth and comfortable.
     "The hell with it," Hank said. "She shouldn't have done it."
     He opened the cabinet over the wash-basin and took out his toothpaste. He looked at his teeth in the mirror. They were large yellow teeth, but sound. Hank could still bite his way for a while.
     Hank unscrewed the top of the toothpaste tube, thinking of the day when he had unscrewed the lid off the coffee jar, down on the Pukayuk River, when he was trout fishing. There had been larches there too. It was a damn good river, and the trout had been damn good trout. They liked being hooked. Everything had been good except the coffee, which had been lousy. He made it Watson's way, boiling it for two hours and a half in his knapsack. It had tasted like the socks of the Forgotten Man. (MacShane 42-43)

In FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, Chandler makes Hemingway part of an extended joke. In chapters 23 and 24, Marlowe is "taken for a ride" by two corrupt L.A. cops. When the "big" officer (later identified as Galbraith) begins repeating Marlowe's wisecracks, Marlowe says: "Listen, Hemingway, don't repeat everything I say" (884). Chandler mentions Hemingway fifteen times in five pages, and finally delivers the punch-line:
"Who is this Hemingway person at all?"
"A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good."
"That must take a hell of a long time," the big man said. (887) See also chs. 32, 33, 34, and 36. In all, Hemingway is mentioned 52 times!

[From an October 22 1942 letter to Blanche Knopf] But as I said I do hope the next one will be better and that one of these days I shall turn one out that will have the fresh and sudden touch that will click. Most of all perhaps, in my rather sensitive mind, I hope the day will come when I won't have to ride around on Hammett and James Cain, like an organ grinder's monkey. Hammett is all right. I give him everything. There were a lot of things he could not do, but what he did he did superbly. But James Cain--faugh! Everything he touches smells like a billygoat. He is every kind of writer I detest, a faux naif, a Proust in greasy overalls, a dirty little boy with a piece of chalk and a board fence and nobody looking. Such people are the offal of literature, not because they write about dirty things, but because they do it in a dirty way. Nothing hard and clean and cold and ventilated. A brothel with a smell of cheap scent in the front parlor and a bucket of slops at the back door. Do I, for God's sake, sound like that? Hemingway with his eternal sleeping bag got to be pretty damn tiresome, but at least Hemingway sees it all, not just the flies on the garbage can. (RCP 32-33)

[From a Jan. 29 1946 letter to detective writer Erle Stanley Gardner] You never were a Black Mask writer in Shaw's meaning of the term. You never really were tough. You owed nothing to Hammett or Hemingway. Your books have no brutality or sadism, very little sex, and the blood doesn't count.
(Selected Letters 69-70)

[From a March 27 1946 letter to Blanche Knopf] But don't take me too seriously. I am becoming a pretty sour kind of citizen. Even Hemingway has let me down. I've been rereading a lot of his stuff. I would have said here is one guy who writes like himself, and I would have been right, but not the way I meant it. Ninety per cent of it is the goddamnest self-imitation. He never really wrote but one story. All the rest is the same thing in different places - or without different parts. And his eternal preoccupation with what goes on between the sheets becomes rather nauseating in the end. One reaches a time of life when limericks written on the walls of comfort stations are not just obscene, they are horribly dull. This man has only one subject and he makes that ridiculous. I suppose the man's epitaph, if he had the choosing of it, would be: Here Lies A Man Who Was Bloody Good in Bed. Too Bad He's Alone Here. But the point is I begin to doubt whether he ever was. You don't have to work so hard at things you are really good at - or do you? (RCP 67)

[From an Oct. 4 1950 letter to Dale Warren (editor for Houghton Mifflin)] Look what they've [critics] done to the old war horse, Hemingway, and what they've been doing to him for a good many years for that matter. He'd have quit writing a long time ago if he had the faintest suspicion that any of them knew what they were talking about, that they had no spite in their systems, and that they were not sniping at him just because he had made good. Let's face it. One of the penalties of any kind of success is to have the jackals snapping at your heels. They don't hate you because you're bad. They say you're bad because they hate you. (Selected Letters 227-28)

[An Oct. 9 1950 letter to Charles W. Morton, Ass. Editor of the Atlantic Monthly] My compliments to Mr Weeks on belonging to that very small minority of critics who did not find it necessary to put Hemingway in his place over his last book [ACROSS THE RIVER AND INTO THE TREES]. Just what do the boys resent so much? Do they sense that the old wolf has been wounded and that it is a good time to pull him down? I have been reading the book. Candidly, it' s not the best thing he's done, but it's still a hell of a sight better than anything his detractors could do. There's not much story in it, not much happens, hardly any scenes. And for that reason, I suppose, the mannerisms sort of stick out. You can't expect charity from knife throwers obviously; knife throwing is their business. But you would have thought some of them might have asked themselves just what he was trying to do. Obviously he was not trying to write a masterpiece; but in a character not too unlike his own, trying to sum up the attitude of a man who is finished and knows it, and is bitter and angry about it. Apparently Hemingway had been very sick and he was not sure that he was going to get well, and he put down on paper in a rather cursory way how that made him feel to the things he had most valued. I suppose these primping second-guessers who call themselves critics think he shouldn't have written the book at all. Most men wouldn't have. Feeling the way that he felt, they wouldn't have had the guts to write anything. I'm damn sure I wouldn't. That's the difference between a champ and a knife thrower. The champ may have lost his stuff temporarily or permanently, he can't be sure. But when he can no longer throw the high hard one, he throws his heart instead. He throws something. He doesn't just walk off the mound and weep. Mr Cyril Connolly, in a rather smoother piece of knife throwing than most of the second-guessers are capable of, suggests that Mr Hemingway should take six months off and take stock in himself. The implication here apparently is that Hemingway has fully exploited the adolescent attitude which so many people are pleased to attribute to him, and should not grow up intellectually and become an adult. But why? In the sense in which Connolly would define the word, Hemingway has never had any desire to be an adult. Some writers, like painters, are born primitives. A nose full of Kafka is not at all their idea of happiness. I suppose the weakness, even the tragedy, of writers like Hemingway is that their sort of stuff demands an immense vitality; and a man outgrows his vitality without unfortunately outgrowing his furious concern with it. The kind of thing Hemingway writes cannot be written by an emotional corpse. The kind of thing Connolly writes can and is. It has its points. Some of it is very good, but you don't have to be alive to write it. (RCP 137-38)

[From an Oct. 5 1951 letter to Hamish Hamilton, RC's London friend and publisher]
[Speaking of second-rate authors like Marquand, Irwin Shaw, Herman Wouk, Nicholas Montserrat, and Preistley] I like to read them and while I read them they seem very good. It is only afterwards that the quality fades. [. .
.] Essentially one good chuck of Flaubert or Hemingway at their best is wirth the whole pack of them. (Selected Letters 293)

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