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An assemblage of reflections on the nature of writing and the writer from one the greatest American writers of the twentieth century.

Throughout Hemingway’s career as a writer, he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing—that it takes off “whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk’s feathers if you show it or talk about it.”

Despite this belief, by the end of his life he had done just what he intended not to do. In his novels and stories, in letters to editors, friends, fellow artists, and critics, in interviews and in commissioned articles on the subject, Hemingway wrote often about writing. And he wrote as well and as incisively about the subject as any writer who ever lived…

This book contains Hemingway’s reflections on the nature of the writer and on elements of the writer’s life, including specific and helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and discipline. The Hemingway personality comes through in general wisdom, wit, humor, and insight, and in his insistence on the integrity of the writer and of the profession itself.
—From the Preface by Larry W. Phillips

Topics: Literary Criticism, Informative, Writing, Creativity, American Author, and Male Author

Published: Scribner on Jul 25, 2002
ISBN: 9780743237369
List price: $11.99
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I've read just twenty pages, however I've never seen anything so true about writing.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Five stars means the book couldn't be better, and is not often given as a rating. In this case, I believe Phillips did an outstanding job in researching Papa's comments and do not believe much could be added.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Hemingway lived to write. His eventual failing as a writer—his inability to actually write—is one of the several reasons that led to his suicide in 1961. What he did write for the most part and for much of his life was superior and often innovative seen even from the perspective of the twenty-first century. It was not merely that Hemingway was a gifted writer but he also had a profound impact on a generation of writers who cut their teeth in imitation of or in reaction to his works.

In spite of that impact, Hemingway was not often open to discussing the mechanics of his art. In an effort to correct that apparent deficiency, Larry Phillips, the editor of On Writing, collected from Hemingway’s writings—from his novels, letters, and interviews—fragments where, over the years, Hemingway did broach what might be viewed as his theories of art in general and his own ideas about writing in particular. There are chapters that collect Hemmingway’s thoughts and counsels about a variety of topics related to his wiring and to the creative process. Among them:

What Writing Is and Does
The Qualities of a Writer
The Pain and Pleasures of Writing
What to Write About
Advice to Writers
Working Habits
Knowing What to Leave Out
Obscenity
Titles
Politics
The Writer’s Life

The thin volume, given its objective, does have some value. Although the fragments reveal little about the Hemingway style that is not spelled out in his major novels, published letters and secondary studies, it does collect in one place some of what is scattered. Phillips includes for example, his 1949 note to Charles Scribner: “A writer, of course, has to make up stories for them to be rounded and not flat like photographs. But he makes them up put of what he knows.” [p.21] And he also includes the section in “Death in the Afternoon” where he talks about the “Iceberg Theory”:

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. [p.177]

But is seems to me that the greatest utility of the volume is that it continues to milk the Hemingway name, raising additional money for Hemingway’s heirs, publisher and managers.
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I've read just twenty pages, however I've never seen anything so true about writing.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Five stars means the book couldn't be better, and is not often given as a rating. In this case, I believe Phillips did an outstanding job in researching Papa's comments and do not believe much could be added.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Hemingway lived to write. His eventual failing as a writer—his inability to actually write—is one of the several reasons that led to his suicide in 1961. What he did write for the most part and for much of his life was superior and often innovative seen even from the perspective of the twenty-first century. It was not merely that Hemingway was a gifted writer but he also had a profound impact on a generation of writers who cut their teeth in imitation of or in reaction to his works.

In spite of that impact, Hemingway was not often open to discussing the mechanics of his art. In an effort to correct that apparent deficiency, Larry Phillips, the editor of On Writing, collected from Hemingway’s writings—from his novels, letters, and interviews—fragments where, over the years, Hemingway did broach what might be viewed as his theories of art in general and his own ideas about writing in particular. There are chapters that collect Hemmingway’s thoughts and counsels about a variety of topics related to his wiring and to the creative process. Among them:

What Writing Is and Does
The Qualities of a Writer
The Pain and Pleasures of Writing
What to Write About
Advice to Writers
Working Habits
Knowing What to Leave Out
Obscenity
Titles
Politics
The Writer’s Life

The thin volume, given its objective, does have some value. Although the fragments reveal little about the Hemingway style that is not spelled out in his major novels, published letters and secondary studies, it does collect in one place some of what is scattered. Phillips includes for example, his 1949 note to Charles Scribner: “A writer, of course, has to make up stories for them to be rounded and not flat like photographs. But he makes them up put of what he knows.” [p.21] And he also includes the section in “Death in the Afternoon” where he talks about the “Iceberg Theory”:

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. [p.177]

But is seems to me that the greatest utility of the volume is that it continues to milk the Hemingway name, raising additional money for Hemingway’s heirs, publisher and managers.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
One hundred and forty pages of sage advice to budding writers from one of the best of all writers. There is something here for everyone who writes from necessity. Those who write for pleasure may find it less useful -- even abusive -- for it is indeed as Papa said: "If any son of a bitch could write, he wouldn't have to teach college English."There's a lot more where that one came from. Read this book if you've got the nerve. Keep it by the keyboard for those days when you need a little help.Highly recommended to a certain group of people. Only four-and-a-half stars because it needs an index.
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Don't buy this book. He doesn't have much to say. The editor had to make a few stretches to even get this to book-size.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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