Re: RARA-AVIS: Hammett and... Henry James

From: Patrick King (
Date: 25 Nov 2007

--- Brian Thornton <> wrote:
> Show, don't tell, Patrick. If it's so easy to find,
> please show it to us. I've read A MOVEABLE FEAST
> twice and I don't recall any specific reference
> along those lines at all. I suppose it's possible
> that I missed it, but being the big Hammett fan that
> I am, I doubt I'd have missed a reference like that
> one.

Winning the argument isn't worth reorganizing my day to play fetch for you, Brian. Why don't you come up with the quote where Hemingway says, "Hammett, never read any of that crap! He had no influence on me at all." When you find that then I'll be wrong.

> Or of Hammett himself and Lillian Hellman. Nick
> Charles bears as much resemblance to Scott
> Fitzgerald (either privately or publicly) as (to
> borrow from your anaology below) he does to John
> Carter, Warlord of Barsoom.

Well both Nick Charles and Scott Fitzgeral wore suits and traveled about staying in the best hotels and drinking a lot. I never heard that Fitzgerald wore a loin cloth and killed four armed green men with swords. You'll have to fill us in on that part of his bio.

> Take as much exception as you like, but bear in mind
> that Hemingway's connection to Twain/Crane and the
> realist school is well-documented on this list, so
> you're taking up the club with more people than just
> myself, here.
> Don't believe me? It's easily confirmed by a quick
> search of the Rara Avis archives. We've been over
> that ground several times in the five-plus years
> that I've been a member of this list.

No, I'm really not going to reorganize my day so you can prove some point to me. I have no doubt that Hemingway read both Twain and Crane. As to either of them being from some "realistic" school of writing, Crane is noted for making RED BADGE OF COURAGE up entirely from his imagination while Twain is the master of hyperbole, read ROUGHING IT, and romance. Most kids who get lost in cave die, they don't discover hidden treasures. And in real life Huckleberry Finn's experiences would probably have been a lot more noir, rather like Aileen Wornos or William Bonnie, rather than the very amusing experiences in Twain's classic story book.

> Spare us the hyperbole. I read everything by
> Burroughs that I could get my hands on when I was a
> kid. Loved his stuff, especially the Martian
> Chronicles. BUT if I go read his stuff now, it
> reads as labored, histrionic, post-Victorian
> romantic escapist fantasy with carboard cutouts for
> characters and plots so laughably predictable that
> they'd make Carroll John Daly blush.
> Bear in mind, too, that "realistic" and "real" are
> not the same thing in either Webster's dictionary or
> in literary criticism.

Actually, Ray Bradbury wrote THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, but that aside, have you read FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS? Unlike Crane's RED BADGE OF COURAGE, which did depict a Civil War battle in such detail that soldiers who had actually fought in them were convinced Crane knew what he was talking about, Hemingway's "masterpiece" bares little resembelance to circumstances that took place in Spain in 1938. Like Crane, Hemingway made FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS up from his imagination. Until we get to Mars, we can't tell how close Burroughs came to the truth, but I'll bet Hemingway's Spanish Civil War is closer to Burroughs' Mars than it is to Crane's American Civil War. I believe there's a Martian shuttle scheduled for lift off summer, 2010. We'll just have to wait to see if I'm right or not.

> You'll have to do better than that to convince most
> of the folks on this list that Hemingway's writing
> was the stuff of heroic fantasy and not someone
> struggling to write "one true sentence."

I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. I'm offering you the benefit of my extensive reading. Any college course in 20th Century American literature will tell you Hemingway is listed with the romantic writers. Sinclair Lewis, Pearl S. Buck are realistic writers. Hemingway and Fitzgerald are romantics. Its a matter of how their plots evolve, not their sentence structure.

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