A Violent Trade

I enjoy listening to The Beatles, but tonight, as I listened to Paperback Writer on the way to the local coffee shop, I realized how terrible a song that is for writers.  It’s too idealistic, too full of that wide-eyed naivete.  It was the first time I really felt the Fab Four screwing with me.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about Ernest Hemingway over the last couple of days.  Most people probably associate him with passion.  I think of him as the most violent of men.  The man hunted, boxed, turned his liver into his bitch.  But I also think of him as a violent writer, and I started to think about how writing – good, consummate writing – is at its core an act of violence.

Hemingway’s son John once said that writing was the one thing that his father couldn’t live without.  The man could do without family time, and he often did.  He seemed to have a fragmented personality when it came to fatherhood; he was sometimes very warm and supportive, but when he was in his writing mode, everything else was simply shut out.

In fact, John Hemingway remarked that writing was the closest thing the man had to a religion.  He didn’t always enjoy writing, but he was committed to it.  At five in the morning every day until noon, Ernest Hemingway was faithfully at the typewriter.  And he never left, even in his later life when people suspected that he was starting to lose his touch.

Hemingway is the man who hunted lions in Africa, caught the largest marlin of his day in the Gulf, almost got his ass blown off in World War I, and – I’ll always remember this – derisively told Gertrude Stein that “a bitch is a bitch is a bitch“.  He was bold, passionate, and in his own way, be it overt or subtle, he was violent.

Ernest Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  But I’d also like to think that he imagined writing as facing a bull in Spain, each work a powerful beast looming before him.  If it were, he’d grab it by the horns and slam it into the dirt.  I think every writing, especially the struggling ones, would be wise to adopt that same sort of no-bullshit attitude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s