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?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

James Bond Drinks WHAT?

It's been reported that, in the next James Bond film, the iconic hero will forsake his traditional martini for a beer. A Heineken, in fact.

I suppose that Heineken was willing to pay more in product placement money than whatever the martini fixin's paid. (For the record, a standard martini is just gin and vermouth plus a garnish, although there are many variants.)

They already did away with his martini mixing preference in the remake of "Casino Royale." When a bartender asks Daniel Craig if he wants his martini "stirred or shaken," Craig intones, "Do I look like I give a damn?"

But you can only update James Bond so much before he's no longer James Bond. That's the way it is with iconic characters.

For example, DC Comics tried making Catwoman into a butch prostitute. But the fans didn't like it, and her backstory was changed at the next re-boot. (Comics get revamped every few years, nowadays.)

Even though I'm not personally fond of martinis, I'd prefer that James Bond continue drinking them. And, as a former bartender, I can attest that martini drinkers tend to be high on the "annoying customer scale." They want their drinks made just so ( "Gimme a dirty, bone-dry vodka martini with three olives, straight up" ). They often return martinis that aren't made to their satisfaction. I even had a customer pull the strainer out of my hand as I was making his martini, accusing me of "watering down" his drink!

But James Bond should be drinking martinis.

The only way I'd approve of James Bond drinking a Heineken is if he kills someone with the Heineken bottle.

And if he does, no doubt the brand name on the label will be visible, even if most of the bottle is jammed inside a malefactor's skull.