Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The Inevitable Ernest Hemingway Post
Putting the image of Hemingway-as-self-publicist to one side for a moment, no one is considered to have exerted more of an influence on American literature during the twentieth century than Ernest Hemingway. His terse prose and penchant for writing straightforward, convincing dialogue often reveals as much by silence or omission as by the words on the page. One of my favorite Hemingway shorts, “Hills Like White Elephants,” is comprised almost entirely of dialogue between a man and a girl at a café outside a train station in Spain. Though the subject is never stated, it is clear that the two are discussing a prospective abortion. While the man favors the procedure, the girl has serious reservations, recognizing the tremendous loss that she (and they) will feel if she decides to go forward. What makes the story powerful is the careful dance between the two around a difficult subject and the hidden (but universally understood) meaning behind the literal words that are exchanged between them. Whatever one might think of Hemingway as a person, writing like this leave no doubt of his tremendous talent.