Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Writing Hero Would Hate My Guts

When asked which dead writer's work I would take with me to that desolate island, I said it'd have to be Ernest Hemingway. But I wouldn't need his whole catalog. Just The Nick Adams Stories, A Moveable Feast, The Old Man and the Sea, and his dispatches. You see, I think Papa was a better short story writer and journalist than novelist. Plus I'm not a huge fan of stories about bull-fighting, though many of his short stories touch on it. Why is he a writing hero of mine? Well, I'm partial to his sparing use of words and understated style.

Then my thoughts turned to the man himself, and I realized my writing hero and I would have very little in common--except for a shared interest in Ava Gardner. In fact, if we were stranded together, he'd probably take a great disliking to me. Maybe not at first, but the above opinion about his novels and the fact that I find his forced machismo unnecessary might just ruffle his feathers. Nor would I make a good drinking buddy for him as I'm not inclined to be three-sheets-to-the-wind every morning and every night. Of course, he could counter with the fact he was a war hero and won the Pulitzer Prize, so who the hell am I to critique him? I'm just a pigeon pecking at a statue, right? So I guess it's best I was born well-after he pulled the trigger.

How about you? Do you think you and your (writing) hero would get along if you could meet her/him in person? Maybe you already have. I'd be curious to hear how that went.

34 comments:

Marina Sofia said...

I've got a few writing heroes and can't imagine sharing a desert island with any of them, mainly because they wouldn't be caught dead on an island. Jane Austen? Virginia Woolf? F.Scott Fitzgerald?

But I do agree with your opinions of Hemingway.

Chris said...

That's a great question, Dave. It's one I'd have to think about. I think REH and I would have plenty in common. Jack London too, but he also drank too much for my tastes.

But if I get to pick a writer I admire I want to be stuck on a desert island with, I'm going with Christa Faust. Heh.

Rick said...

Hello David. I don't think Hemingway would look down at you at all. In fact, one of the great needs of his life was friends that he could count on. Regardless of any other differences, you'd be that friend.

Brian Drake said...

I think Ian Fleming and I would get along just fine, and there would be no end to experimenting with food and adult beverages.

Chris Rhatigan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Rhatigan said...

Ha! That's funny stuff. I don't think Hemingway got along with people in general well, so he probably hate me too. I don't like anything that he likes--hunting, fishing, bull-fighting, being a nutball, misogynist asshole.

David Cranmer said...

Marina, I like F. Scott a lot. My favorite novel is THE GREAT GATSBY. We could sit on the other side of the island and talk about Ernesto and the mean things he's saying about us. :)

Chris, Ms. Faust would be a great choice but are you ready to rumble? You know she's a big fan of wrestling and I'm betting could kick your ass. :) I have a feeling I would have a lot in common with London. I read his bio a few months ago and came away with a new found respect. He had a lot of faults (who doesn't) but he was a lot deeper than I thought.

Thanks, Rick. I appreciate that, sir.

Ian Fleming was such a unique writer and fascinating human being, Brian. I found his exploits to be as entertaining as Bond. Yeah, I could hang with Ian.

Chris, I would submit The Nick Adams Stories to you. If you don't like those shorts then his catalog is probably a wash for you.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I have two literary heroes - Oscar Wilde and Neil Gaiman. I like to think Wilde and I would get along fairly well, but I've already met Neil Gaiman twice. At the second sighting, I had three different books to be signed - one for me, and two for two of my friends. He commented on the books having three different names so I made a joke about them being for my split personalities, and Neil said I seemed far too nice to be mad! Lovely chap.

Linda Rodriguez said...

David, I agree with you about Hemingway. Short stories, yes. Novels, no. And couldn't write a real woman for the life of him. Probably because he didn't have any respect for them--not that he had any respect for anyone really. And he was NOT a war hero.

I love Charles Dickens and think we'd probably get along well. Also love Virginia Woolf who would be patronizing to me, I'm sure, because I'm far from an aristocrat. But I'd put up with it to hear her talk.

Steinbeck, I adore, and I think he'd be a great companion.

Agatha Christie and Tony Hillerman and I would all get along, I think. all very open and curious about everyone and everything and pretty humble.

wayne d. dundee said...

I have many writing heroes, some still alive. But a primary one I have always claimed as an inspiration(who is sadly gone now)was Mickey Spillane. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting him and spending a couple days around him when we were filming Max Allan Collins's MOMMY II: MOMMY'S DAY some years back. You always fear that meeting a personal hero might be a disappointment if he or she turns out to be a jerk in real life --- not so with Mickey. He was exactly the way I imagined and a joy to be around.

Court Merrigan said...

Nabokov might allow me to carry around his spare butterfly nets, as long as I didn't talk to much. I don't think it's so much that he wouldn't like me as he wouldn't notice me.

Scott Wolven, another hero of mine, now, I don't know much about him as a person but his characters often like whiskey and I like whiskey, so, maybe we'd get along fine.

jj. said...

Mr. Dundee is right, Mickey Spillane was a great guy, easy to talk with … despite his dour existence, I believe Poe and I would have muddle along just fine … but I would have gotten on Papa's nerves :o)

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

David, I hope you've seen MIDNIGHT IN PARIS~it's a lot of fun! If not, you'll see F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway & many other writers/artists portrayed in Paris in the 1920s. Papa was a scene stealer!

I was extremely fortunate to meet Frank McCourt several times between '06-'08, and attend his memoir writing workshop in '07 at the Southampton Writers Conference, in a class of 14. While workshopping my true crime memoir, Frank announced, "You're sitting on a five-million-dollar screenplay." The class erupted. My jaw dropped!
The critiques he wrote on my work (which I'll always treasure) were overwhelmingly positive.

When chatting with Frank at the AWP conference in Feb. '08, he asked if I was attending the summer conference again; I said I hadn't decided yet. He said, "You don't need it. Stay home and write. You know your material, you know how to write. Stay home and write!" What is the appropriate response when your Pulitzer-prize-winning author hero says this to you? I somehow managed to speak, and thanked him for his incredibly kind words.

I'm lucky to have lived a dream and study with one of my literary heroes!

Thomas Pluck said...

I like Hemingway as well, but he's difficult to imagine. He practically invented manhood for several generations, whether he deserved to or not. The legend is what we often remember, rather than the man. I recently read A Moveable Feast, and I tend to see him through a lens of his pain. His father's suicide, his mother giving him the gun for his 18th birthday, running away and being abused by men riding the rails.
His desire to succeed and be loved was fierce. I read an excellent article about how his early writing captured life as we experienced it, without the reflection that comes later. I like that, it's one way of looking at the strength of his prose.

If Hemingway looked down on you, I wouldn't say it was due to a flaw in your own character.

I do better in correspondence than in person with my heroes. I've met a couple, shook their hands and said a few words. Wrote them later. Andrew Vachss has always been incredibly supportive. I met him a long time ago on a book tour, but I had crippling shyness back then. We'd probably end up talking about muscle cars and the blues, if it wasn't about writing.

Lawrence Block is also very generous with his time, and a very funny man. I hope to have a chat with him again sometime. I still tease my wife that if she hadn't been tired from a business trip, we could have tagged along to dinner with Christa Faust and Mr. Block the last time they were at the Mysterious bookshop. (But I bet they talked about stamp collecting all night. Sour grapes.)

David Cranmer said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Icy. I remember Neil Gaiman on The Simpsons. I think the episode was called "The Book Job" and proves he can easily poke fun of his image. Wilde would be too clever for me.

Linda, It just occurred to me that folks who lived toward the second half of the 20th century opened up a bit more. Was it television and all the interviews, book tours, et cetera? I would have loved to meet Ms. Christie. She's in my top three of all-time favorite wordsmiths. Her books ENTERTAINED. That element needs to return to storytelling.

Wayne, Meeting Mickey Spillane! Indeed beyond cool in my world, sir. And, quite honestly, I'd get just as much of a kick hanging out with you and Max Collins.

Court, These days you could release I CARRIED HIS SPARE BUTTERFLY NETS and have a best-seller. The interest in Nabokov shows no signs of abating.

jj, I would have put up with any oddities in Poe's character to be around that genius. He's easily in my top five of favorite writers.

Kathleen, Being in a workshop of just 14 with McCourt must have made for an intimate experience and you had to learn so much! Have you blogged about this? I would love to know more of his tips on writing and publishing. He always appeared to be such a generous and kind man in his interviews. And Angela's Ashes was such an inspiration read for me in 1996.

Thomas, You have nailed Hemingway's personality by zeroing in on that unconventional and damaging upbringing. ".. his early writing captured life as we experienced it, without the reflection that comes later." If you find a link to that article I'd love to give it a read. Mr. Block was very generous to me by tweeting how he enjoy Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. That was an incredible boost. Yeah, I would have HAD to tag along with Faust and Block.

Charles Gramlich said...

Robert E. Howard! Yeah, I think we'd probably get along as long as I didn't talk about politics or academics to him.

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Ron Scheer said...

Pleased once again to read a blog post from you. I would probably be too intimidated to spend any time alone with a celebrated author. He/she would have to be really dead...I did spend a few hours once with Allen Ginsberg who made such an impression on me that I cried when he left. He had a way of getting right there on your level, and then challenging you a bit to move you off your spot. Just what you'd want in a good friend.

eleanor said...

Working in publishing is a bit like Mark Twain learning to navigate the Mississippi; the mystery dissipates quickly. My butt was pinched by Asimov, and I met Michner and Vonnegut. Jonathan Lethem once proposed to me, but he was drunk, so I didn't take it seriously. The only thing that ever made me stop short was the night I got home, listened to my voice mail and heard "This is Arthur Clarke. Would you be available for lunch on Thursday?"

And I think that Hemingway would have been grotesquely unpleasant in person.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Hi David,

It was an honor, and certainly inspiring, to work so closely with the master memoirist. Such a funny guy, too, who loved to talk.

These are some of the posts I've written in which I mention Frank:

http://www.womenofmystery.net/search?q=Frank+McCourt

Back then, I had promised to put together a post with some of his words of wisdom. You've given me a nudge to do just that. I have to search my notebooks to dig it up, so it may take a while, but I will do it!

I was touched by his kind support, and he even shared my story with his wife; when he introduced me to Ellen, she gave the synopsis of my story!

After spontaneously sharing a story with Frank as we gathered for class one morning (a classmate mentioned a breaking news story, which prompted me to share a tale about a 911 call I answered nearly 2 decades earlier), he suggested, "You must write that story!" I ultimately did, and it was published in THE SOUTHAMPTON REVIEW, in March 2010. The same essay, "The Watcher" will appear this fall in WOMEN WARRIORS: STORIES FROM THE THIN BLUE LINE, Ed. by John M. Wills. It received a creative nonfiction award in 2009 from the Public Safety Writers Association.

David Cranmer said...

Charles, Two topics left off the table isn't bad. With Hemingway I'd be lucky to have two to talk about.

sbo, I was in Brussels once upon a long ago but I don't think I tried any "fosbobetund."

Ron, Allen Ginsberg! You are so full of surprises, sir. Like other comments for this post I'm left wanting more!

You have piqued my interest, Eleanor. There was a time when I read a lot of Arthur Clarke and would like to hear what happened next. What was he like in person? Humble or not?

Kathleen, I will follow that link and will look forward to more of your posts on Frank McCourt. And you have me reaching for another McCourt novel. I haven't read much beyond ANGELA'S ASHES and 'TIS. Btw I've never seen MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and will check that film out this week.

eleanor said...

When I did have lunch with Clarke, Woody Allen showed up, making a cameo appearance in Clarke's court.He was known for his ego, but really, it was earned, and mostly wanted to let you know about all the cool things he knew.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am playing it safe and taking Megan. I know what I'm up against with her and can make plans accordingly. If not Megan, I would take Anne Tyler because her books make her seem like an awfully nice woman.

David Cranmer said...

Eleanor, I can't wait for you to write your memoir! :)

Patti, Megan's body of work would past the time nicely.

Chris Rhatigan said...

By the by, I'm a huge fan of Hemingway's writing. His complete short stories got me interested in writing. I just don't think we'd get along personally!

Dave King said...

I agree completely about Hemingway's novels and short stories. Also about his forced machismo. Ava Gardner might not be easily shared. I understand your anxiety!

I think I would probably plump for Hugh MacDiarmid. Like you, not his complete oeuvre but for sure "A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle" and "On a Raised Beach". And no, we would not get on. His extreme nationalism would be something with which I would have to take issue.

David Cranmer said...

We agree on that, Chris. Maybe I could have hung out with him a few times. But that would be about it.

Dave, You just introduced me to Hugh MacDiarmid. What an interesting life and body of work.

Ben said...

I don't think Dennis Lehane and I would get along well. I hear him talk in interviews and I find him self-satisfied and irritating. Good thing though. I want him to write his amazing novels more than him to be my friend.

David Cranmer said...

Very good point, Ben. The work is what's important and endures.

Sarah Laurence said...

What a fun post and question to ponder. I did get to meet one of my literary heros. My husband who teaches Japan at Bowdoin College invited the reclusive novelist to give a talk to students. Before they went to dinner, Henry took him by our house so I could meet him. He was very charming and surprisingly down to earth. When he heard I was writing a novel, he wished me good luck. It was a wonderful, unforgettable meeting, at least for me.

Sarah Laurence said...

The Japanese novelist was Haruki Murakami - somehow I left that off my comment above.

David Cranmer said...

Sarah, Thanks for sharing your visit with Haruki Murakami. That has to be awe-inspiring for sure.

Kyle Knapp said...

I think that being stranded with Hemmingway would be great fun. drinking and swimming and hunting beasts w/ carved branches. To make of Nabokov a diurnal companion though, especially in the rain forest, would be a challenge. It may even conclude in an old world duel, and end with him using my corpse as a raft back to his fastidious lifestyle.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I think Dylan Thomas, me and a crate of best quality scotch.