About The Point of a Point
Many writers have gone down in history as heroes of the word, set aside from the rest of us losers. I know this, because my own little mind has its particular pantheon of the elevated.
Thing is, adulation isn’t fair, and why would it be—nothing else is.
Let’s talk about our old friend Ernest Hemingway. I’ve read opinions from great writers that say he was the game-changer for 20th century prose.
Okay. What do I know? I’ll say this—when you read Hemingway, there’s no possibility it’s some other guy ripping him off. He does his thing.
I haven’t read all his work, and even if I had, it wouldn’t make me an expert. I don’t believe in experts. I haven’t met a person who’s an expert on their own self, so it seems a little far flung to expect a whole other soul to know the intimates of another.
There’s a little Hemingway short called The End of Something. The good news is it’s really quick—just a few paragraphs. He starts by describing the closing of a mill. He writes it with his usual effective, succinct style. He is good at that; painting a picture without wasting a brushstroke.
So I’ll give him his due.
After the boring but beautiful thing with the mill, we go fishing with a young couple. We kind of know they’re a couple, but he doesn’t want to come out and say that, because the whole fishing thing is some sort of metaphor for what’s going on with these two winners.
She’s pretty enthusiastic about fishing—he’s not—incongruity—sounds like trouble in paradise.
It doesn’t work out. Just like the mill that closed, this punk tells the nice girl to take a hike. He’s closed for business. He seems like a jerk and she seems like a pretty nice “catch,” but young men and sowing wild oats and all that.
It’s good writing. Maybe even brilliant. There’s a lesson, there’s metaphors—I feel the scene, and yet… eh.
Could be that it’s just boring. I guess great literature has to describe the times; for instance, here Hemingway is saying that the days of marrying young and starting a family are over, just like the days of little towns having their own little industries.
All right. But here’s my question, and it is just a question. What if the reader’s life is pretty much unchanged? What if they plan on or are already married? If so, the story might be lost on them. I get describing the circumstances, but maybe the point shouldn’t be to make a point—maybe it should be to engage or entertain.
Doesn’t matter. This guy could go back to hieroglyphs and they’d call it genius. I don’t like to think of myself as part of the Idiocracy, but perhaps I’m just a simpleton in need of bread and circuses.
I’m probably coming off more negative than I mean to. At least EH makes me think—here I am, rambling about some little story written a century ago. Dammit. He got me again. You win, Ernest. You magnificent, terse, weird, drinking, carousing… writer.
Cheers and see you after.