Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Lost Generation

I've always had some sort of respect for Ernest Hemingway. I didn't really know why until I finished reading A Moveable Feast, though.
"Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written...I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline."
If I were to ever fancy myself a writer, I think I would go back regularly and study this passage. The elimination of wasteful, flowery language seems to be what set Hemingway's work apart from many others. Sometimes the simplest realization is the foundation for genius.

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