It's Hemingway's birthday. I can't stand Hemingway, though I will be pitching something about him. When I say I can't stand him, I don't mean that you can't read it. Like, you can't read MFA-machined fiction now. You cannot get yourself through it. But I detest how one-note Hemingway is, and the cowardice in his writing. So much attitudinal pose. If you, the writer, can't get past your own shortcomings, your own hang-ups, your own insecurities, your own need to project, project, project, you cannot truly give me anything. Hemingway was one fantastically insecure person, and it bleeds through all of his writing. He was a gimmick-writer for a while, and some people fell for it. F. Scott Fitzgerald fell for it. But Fitzgerald had his own insecurities, and was prone to hero-worshiping and, worse than that, hero-worshiping people who bullied him, as Hemingway did. Zelda Fitzgerald saw right through Hemingway's prose, calling it that faux-Biblical shit, or something like that.
I don't think Hemingway had much to work with. The best authors have no style. Everyone gets that wrong. No, what the best authors have is the ability to always make something new, and yet, immediately, no matter how different the work is from their last work, you know it is them. Could only be them.
I'm also uninterested in writers who cannot write men and women and children and everything in between with the same level of felicity, empathy, understanding. I don't want to read a guy who just writes about men, nor a woman who just writes about women. I despise poses, I despise machismo, I despise when people overcompensate to cover up things that they think would make them weak, when what they are in fact doing is showing how weak they truly are. I am hockey guy who goes to the ballet and watches The Golden Girls every night and cries over the beauty of a Radiohead song and not once has anyone ever thought less of me for those things, or thought me less strong because of them, or less masculine, whatever that means, because I am 100% comfortable with who I am, and am incapable of pose. (In fact, the irony is, that will make people so intimidated by you.) That plays a huge part in how I write, because it's also played a huge part in how I hear, see, feel, experience, know the world, and know myself. There is no color of the paint box I will not use. Hemingway was like, "um, just this one color for me."
Having said that (and it's unfortunate that one feels it necessary to occasionally slip in this disclaimer), if you love Hemingway, have a room in your home dedicated to Hemingway books, from floor to ceiling, this does not mean we cannot like each other, and frankly I like when people legitimately like anything. I don't think anyone legitimately likes any of the work of the system people in publishing--I think it's all for show, all for cronyism, nepotism, pose, ball-licking, this notion of community which is really about a sick, discriminatory, subculture of broken freaks--but I can see why someone would like Hemingway. I can puzzle it out. I can do the "in theory" thing. It's rare that people have any real abiding interest in anything. What fills up their life, is what is put in front of their face. That is not what I'd call having interests.
When Fitzgerald wrote his Crack-Up essays, Hemingway wouldn't stop making fun of him. The Crack-Up essays are brilliant, they're brave, they can change your life if you read them. And you won't be bored. I get it, people see the word "essay," and they think, "Yikes, boring," but don't paint some of us with that brush just because you've read so much shitty, boring work, taught to you by boring--and perhaps shitty--people. Hemingway belittled Fitzgerald for writing those pieces, went after his manhood, etc. And Hemingway never once wrote anything with the energy, the life force, of those essays.