You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Ernest Hemingway’ tag.

In last October’s Time Magazine cover piece entitled “Great American Novelist,” Jonathan Franzen said that when he writes, he does so in a small, barren room, facing a blank wall, with no phone, no music, no internet access, not even a window. It’s almost as if he were a monk, channeling lofty words and thoughts rather than God’s spirit.

In contrast, Ernest Hemingway was famous for inhabiting the larger-than-life worlds of his stories. Fishing for marlin, hunting lions, running with bulls… not to mention fighting in World Wars, drinking magnums of fine French wine, and bedding truckloads of exotic babes. God bless him, Ernie was no monk, that’s for sure.

Polar opposites, the ascetic and the immersive. Is it those extremes that allowed these two writers to create such acclaimed and enduring work? I ask myself this, as I go through my daily paces of cleaning up dog poop, paying bills, shopping my little indie-film projects, and making my billionth batch of grilled-cheese sandwiches for my sons and their pals – not exactly hotbeds of literary inspiration – while also trying to drum up interest and support for my own debut novel, Golden State, and maybe conjure up a paragraph or two for my next one.

Did Hemingway gambol about the Serengeti with little plastic baggies to pick up stray rhino droppings? Somehow, I think not.

Does Franzen break from his Zen-writer state to whip up little afternoon snacks for the adorable urchins from his own suburban Minnesota ‘hood? “Hey, kiddies, Uncle Johnny’s got chicken nuggets for ya!” Again, a resounding “no” echoes in my mind.

Of course, the grass is always greener. Hemingway, looking like a debauched department-store Santa from all those years of hard living, committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head at the relatively young age of 61. As for Franzen, his one brief marriage ended years ago in bitter divorce, he has no children, and his reputation as an arrogant douchebag is apparently well deserved. Would I willingly accept those fates for the chance to write something as great and enduring as theirs?

No, probably not. I love my family way too much to put that at risk. And the fact   is, most of us mere mortals have our fair share of bland obligations and nausea-inducing messes to deal with, as well as the occasional larger catastrophe. That’s called life.  And I like to think that these things – okay, maybe not in their initial throes, but at least in retrospect – provide valuable perspective and big-picture clarity.  And maybe that’s the sort of storytelling I’m best suited for. Regular people, in all their endlessly fascinating variations, facing everyday struggles in relatable, sympathetic ways, with perhaps a little sociopolitical irony in the background to add some spice.

Now that I think about it, Hemingway often got criticized for his work being too overbearingly macho, and Franzen has the rap for his being emotionally distant.  Whatever flaws I may have (laziness and impatience somehow leap to mind), I am neither of those things.

So, we all have our own crosses to bear. And if mine are not nearly as monastic and martyr-worthy as Mr. Franzen’s, or far less worldly and bombastic than Mr. Hemingway’s, perhaps this simply means that the stories I am trying to tell, and the characters whose lives I am trying to portray, will have a little more resonance for you, my friends and neighbors and fellow American Dreamers. And if that’s the case, then all those bags of poop – in both their literal and figurative forms – will have been well worth their while.

David’s Twitter