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Ernest Hemingway on Writing Paperback – July 6, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Throughout Ernest Hemingway's career as a writer," says Larry W. Phillips in his introduction to Ernest Hemingway on Writing, "he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing." Hemingway seems to have courted bad luck. Phillips has amassed a slender book's worth of Hemingway's reflections on writing, culled from letters, books, interviews, speeches, and an unpublished manuscript. These musings are arranged into topics such as "Advice to Writers," "Working Habits," and "Obscenity" (of which there is plenty here). Sometimes ponderous, other times offhand, these thoughts form a portrait of a man driven to create not solely the best writing he could, but the best writing, period. Hemingway craved exactness, both in his work and in the work of others; he strove to make every word necessary. "Eschew the monumental," he wrote to Maxwell Perkins in 1932. "Shun the Epic. All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones." His aim? Mere perfection. "I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit," he confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. "I try to put the shit in the wastebasket." --Jane Steinberg

From Library Journal

Yet another volume reproduced to celebrate old Hemingstein's centennial, this 1984 title offers Hemingway's comments on the writing game gleaned by editor Phillips from the author's numerous fiction and nonfiction works as well as his personal correspondence. It's not "how-to" instructional advice but rather Ernesto's impressions on writing and those who do it. More of a fan's book than a practical guide.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684854295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684854298
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bernard M. Patten on November 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
Of course, I've read everything he wrote, but I wasn't prepared to get the key information on writing enclosed in this little book. Most people think Hemingway was a rough and tumble guy who wrote in his spare time when he had the urge. Most other times, the legend goes, he was too busy drinking, fishing, or womanizing. This book clearly shows that ain't so. He spent most of his time, the way real writers do: Writing and thinking about writing. Often he would check into a hotel, let everyone know he was there, and then stay somewhere else so as not to be disturbed from his main mission. The gems of informations depicted here come in the form of advice to the Mice (H's term for young student writers) from Y.C. (your correspondent). Did you know, for instance, "Most live writers do not exist. Their fame is created by critics who always need a genius of the season, someone they understand completely and feel safe in praising, but when these fabricated geniuses are dead they will not exist." Or how about this gem: "If an sonofbitch could write he wouldn't have to teach in college." Particulary interesting is Papa's advice to writers about reading. He was of the opinion that most writers write too much and don't read enough. His advice is to master Tolstoi, Flaubert, Mann, Joyce, Fielding, Mark Twain, Stendhal, Dostoevskis, Crane, Kipling, Turgenev, Hudson, James, (on and on so fast you can't write them down, three times that many) before you start writing. Very good advice, I would say. His point being you must first read the literature before you can write literature. This book does omit one piece of advice that H never gave but which he practiced by example. He memorized the King James Bible (cf Moveable Feast) and could recite it by heart.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Hemingway was reticent about his craft; he feared that talking about it would destroy it, or even worse, be a substitute for it. Yet, woven throughout his novels and other writings are numerous observations about writers and the art of writing. In "Ernest Hemingway On Writing", Larry Phillips has culled several hundred excerpts from Hemingway's books, interviews, and personal correspondences that touch upon some aspect of writing. They range in length from a mere sentence fragment to several paragraphs. As Phillips explains in the introduction, "This book contains Hemingway's reflections on the nature of the writer and on the elements of the writer's life, including specific helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and discipline. The Hemmingway personality comes through in general wisdom, wit, humor, and insight..."
Some of these reflections are insightful, some are humorous, and some show us Hemingway at his best. But this is not to say that the collection works as a whole. While I like the idea behind book, and feel it has definite value, there are a good number of excerpts that do not seem to have any of the above qualities, so I question why they were included. They seem like filler. Nonetheless, I'll list a few of the reflections that I liked, as they show something of Hemingway's many moods and styles.
In a letter to Charles Scribner, Hemingway reveals a tortured ambivalence about writing: "Charlie there is no future in anything. I hope you agree. That is why I like it at a war. Every day and every night there is a strong possibility that you will get killed and not have to write. I have to write to be happy... But it is a hell of a disease to be born with. I like to do it. Which is even worse.
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Format: Paperback
At the risk of being branded a heretic or something, I have to say that while the quotes throughout this book are interesting, it simply is not the guide to writing that one is led to believe it is.
It is a great reference for finding Hemingway's commentary on various aspects of writing and it does contain some genuinely good advice. But ultimately it is a collection of Hemingway's commentary and quotes, not a true guide to writing.
I think the book would work better had the editor (who is to be complemented for culling all of this information out of Hemingway's work and letters and organizing it) incorporated further advice or commentary from other sources. Perhaps by asking some other author or authors how Hemingway's advice has applied to them, the book would better work as a kind of writer's guide.
Regardless, the book is a great source of Hemingway quotes and commentary and I do recommend it. Just don't expect it to turn you into the next Ernest Hemingway.
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By A Customer on November 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
Hemingway's straight-to-the-point advice reveals much about his own process of writing and helps us get inside his head (just a bit) which is of much interest to the Hemingway fan. It is also great for those of us seeking advice or new ways of looking at different aspects of the writing process. Even when I don't entirely agree with his comments, they are insightful and enlightening and offer suggestions for what may be benificial variations in our too-routine writing routines. I also must agree with one of the other reviewers: the paper is poor (like the brown stuff you used to practice your alphabet letter writing on when you were in kindergarten.) Why? I don't know- this is a book that I can easily refer to anytime I feel myself lacking in drive and I would like to know that it will stand the test of time (physically); a few passages from it and I feel energized by what he has to say. Regardless of the por paper quality, I HIGHLY recommend it.
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