Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Forget Your Personal Tragedy"

Letters of Note today (Wednesday 25 April 2012) posts a letter by Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It's a fascinating critique of the novel Tender Is the Night.

Hemingway asserts that the novel is good, but not nearly as good as Scott Fitzgerald can do.  And he's pretty brutal about it.  If anyone in a modern critique group was as blunt as Hemingway, we'd ask him to tone it down.

Among Hemingway's other comments, he says:
Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it—don't cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist—but don't think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.
Hemingway also says that he wants to talk in person when Scott Fitzgerald isn't so drunk, and that he's a better writer now than when he wrote The Great Gatsby.  In fact, Hemingway claims:
You are twice as good now as you were at the time you think you were so marvellous. [sic.] You know I never thought so much of Gatsby at the time. You can write twice as well now as you ever could. All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is. 
Interesting, considering that few people read anything other than Gatsby nowadays.

So, if someone you respected gave you a critique like this, would it make you a better writer?  Or would it make you give up writing?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link, I would be visiting that site regularly. I recently re-read 'Tender is the night' and thought that 'Gatsby' was much better. But then, I was never a fan of Fitzgerald as I am of Hemingway's writing.