Thursday, July 09, 2009

He kind of has a point.

I'm reading Hemingway's short stories now. I like them more than not, and I liked "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," tedious glorification of machismo notwithstanding. Still, this summation of the story by Frank O'Connor--found on its wikipedia page--cracks me up:

Francis runs away from a lion, which is what most sensible men would do if faced by a lion, and his wife promptly cuckolds him with the English manager of their big-game hunting expedition. As we all know, good wives admire nothing in a husband except his capacity to deal with lions, so we can sympathize with the poor woman in her trouble. But next day Macomber, faced with a buffalo, suddenly becomes a man of superb courage, and his wife, recognizing that[...] for the future she must be a virtuous wife, blows his head off. [...] To say that the psychology of this story is childish would be to waste good words. As farce it ranks with "Ten Nights in a Bar Room" or any other Victorian morality you can think of. Clearly, it is the working out of a personal problem that for the vast majority of men and women has no validity whatever.

I don't know that I totally agree with this, but it's nonetheless a palpable hit. Well played, old man.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

"Clearly, it is the working out of a personal problem that for the vast majority of men and women has no validity whatever."

Yeah, but honestly, this comment -- particularly this comment, out of all the comments one could make -- could easily be leveled at any postmodern writer as well. Or, for that matter, pretty much any writer. Hell, Mishima arguably did nothing but work out personal problems.

Personally, I love Hemingway, though it's mostly for "The Sun Also Rises." I do understand the criticisms of his machismo; I think Hemingway touches on very particular character types rather than on Universal Truths. But the character types that Hemingway describes are quite real, I think -- maybe not reflective of "the vast majority," but they are definitely recognizable in real life, at least to me.

SK

7:40 PM  
Blogger GeoX pontificated to the effect that...

Well, it depends on what you're trying to do in your writing. If your work has literally no relevance to anyone but yourself, you're probably writing Finnegans Wake. Mishima's work, like anyone's, is informed by his own aesthetics and life experiences, but it expresses a kind of modernist horror that is easy to identify with or at least to understand. Postmodernism may be dealing with a fractured world, but that doesn't mean it doesn't continue to grapple with universal human themes--just in a different context.

They don't have to be instantly identifiable, but if you're writing a story that is basically about character, presumably you want to be saying SOMETHING about human nature that resonates with readers, and I think that's the crux of O'Connor's complaint, valid or not (and, while maintaining that I still like the story, I do think there's something to it). Note that I'm not trying to characterize Hemingway as a whole; I am speaking only of this one story.

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

On an unrelated subject: remember our recent discussion of the Manics' new album, and on the possibility of it being a soul-less, exploitative cash-in? Well, I have listened to it extensively, and I think that it is -almost- brilliant. It is very clear in places that they are grasping at obvious throw-away phrases scrawled by Edwards in the margins of his notebooks. But, at least four songs on the album are as good as anything on the first three albums, and a lot of the rest is pretty good. A more detailed review shall be forthcoming.

SK

11:28 PM  
Blogger GeoX pontificated to the effect that...

Cool. I'll check it out.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

...And the review is written. Again, the album is highly recommended.

SK

12:11 AM  

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