04 April 2012

Hemwit

One of the wonderful things about working with Hemingway is his tremendously enjoyable wittiness.  It's seldom seen in an outright way in his fiction, but in A Moveable Feast and in his letters he roars out some truly hilarious lines - even if they are occasionally rather nasty.

A Moveable Feast has some amazing examples.  Hemingway's description of critic Wyndham Lewis remains one of the most viciously cutting things I've ever read: Hemingway claimed he'd never "seen a nastier looking man" and said Lewis had the "eyes of an unsuccessful rapist."  But even better (and less nasty) are some of the cracks and aphorisms in the new The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: 1907-1922.  Here are some choice examples of a truly amazing collection of correspondence:

In 1925, to F. Scott Fitzgerald:

Or dont you like to write letters.  I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something.

In 1922, to Kate Smith:

THIS [TYPEWRITER] IS DIRTY AND ONLY FUNCTIONS IN THE UPPER REGISTER.  SO IF I NEED THE EMPHASIS USUALLY GIVEN BY CAPITAL LETTERS I WILL INSERT SOME PROFANE PHRASE OR VULGAR EJACULATION LIKE SAY HORSESHIT FOR EXAMPLE.

In 1922, to Ezra Pound, after hearing about T.S. Eliot's new poem "The Wasteland," which had been published after the poet's nervous collapse:

I am glad to read Herr Elliot's adventure away from impeccability.  If Herr Elliot would strangle his sick wife, buggar the brain specialist and rob the bank he might write an even better poem.
The above is facetious.


In 1922, to Frank Mason (his boss, who had questioned his expense reports):

SUGGEST YOU UPSTICK BOOK ASSWARDS.

Amazing stuff.

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