Deb Linda Doesn’t Appreciate Papa

To the left is Ernest Hemingway. On the right, c’est little ol’ moi. To look at those pictures, you’d think I’d be a natural fan of Papa Hemingway, wouldn’t you? Alas, it isn’t so.

Though one particular grad school professor of mine would no doubt be shocked to hear that. He *cough* may have been left with the impression that Hemingway was my favorite writer in the whole world.

I know! Bad Linda. Bad, bad Linda!

But, really, I had no choice. It was patently obvious from day one of this professor’s class that he thought Ernest Hemingway was the most brilliant writer of the 20th century, and that anyone who didn’t feel similarly was an idiot.

Well, I’d read enough of Hemingway’s books by then to form my own opinion of them, which was a trifle lukewarm compared to my professor’s. But I was no idiot.

A hypocrite, perhaps, but not an idiot.

So of course I extolled Papa H’s genius whenever his name arose in class (which, trust me, was waaaay too often),Β  speaking reverently of the deceptively simple prose that was merely the tip of an iceberg of deep meaning and roiling emotion, seven-eighths of which was hidden beneath the surface of the actual words. (Hey, grad students are BS masters, especially in the *cough-cough* fertile field of literature, and I’d learned to fling it with the best of them.)

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. Linda, how could you? Where was your courage? Your honor? Your literary integrity?

I’ll tell you where it was–buried right under my acute sense of self-preservation. I was there on scholarship–tuition, books, and enough of a stipend to cover rent and, if I was careful, food. I needed that A! The theater god and I had just purchased our first house, and no way was I going to risk tossing away a full ride for the fleeting satisfaction of telling my professor my true opinion of his idol.

Oh, he probably wouldn’t have flunked me. But I’d heard rumors about some of his more *ahem* honest students barely squeaking by with C-minuses. A C-minus was not going to keep me in Cheetos and Dr. Pepper. Plus, he was head of the department, and if disliking Hemingway would color his opinion of my literary worthiness, why put myself through the grief?

Besides, I was an actress as well as a grad student. I saw it as an opportunity to hone my craft. Multitasking is good, right?

BTW, I’ve since softened a bit on Hemingway. I do recognize the genius in his sparse prose. For example, the wrenching simplicity of the final line of The Sun Also Rises (“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”) brings a tear to my eye. But honestly? Ol’ Ernie will never be the first name I go for on the bookshelf. I’m just too fond of adverbs.

How about you? Hemingway fan or not?

Have you ever lied about liking a book for personal gain?



26 Replies to “Deb Linda Doesn’t Appreciate Papa”

  1. I think of Hemingway as I think of Kerouac. I often wonder if I’m more enamored of/fascinated by the man than the writing–but certainly, in the case of the two, I am far more fond of Hemingway’s work. For me, Hemingway’s writing is like blue cheese (or is it bleu cheese?)–one of those things I knew I would come to appreciate as an adult and sure enough, I have. Now I am a great fan of the sparseness of his writing, which I couldn’t appreciate in high school.

    I think that’s one of the brilliant things about the craft of writing–it really depends on where you are in your life experience’s for something to move you, to impress you.

    1. So true about timing, Erika, with regard to writers AND cheese. Given enough time, I may even come to appreciate Limburger. And James Joyce. *grin*

    1. There’s still time! *grin*

      Seriously, there IS a lot to learn from Hemingway. He’s just not my choice for a pleasant afternoon with some chocolates and a glass of something intoxicating. πŸ˜‰

  2. I’m right about where you are. Didn’t get him at first, but I’ve learned to see the genius (though mad genius) there. The occasional read is good for all, but like you, I’d probably reach for something else first…like In a Fix, mayhaps?? πŸ™‚

    1. I will quite happily be an alternative to Hemingway. πŸ™‚

      I don’t expect my books will ever be required reading in a literature class. Since I’m morally opposed to required reading, this makes me happy. *grin*

  3. I’m okay with Hemingway, but I’m okay with adverbs, too. (Still don’t like bleu cheese, though.)

    Indeed I have done a little pretending to pass a class. In high school, I used to like to do my first paper of the year taking the opposite position on whatever the teacher had professed to love. It worked out well for me until my Junior year wherein my teacher was very embittered at having been “forced” into the teaching profession by her gender. Well…long story short, I scraped by with a C. Lesson learned.

    1. I had a few teachers like that–annoying as hell. But I suppose the lessons we learn in school aren’t only from the books, huh? Figuring out how to best handle different types of authority figures is equally important, I think.

  4. not a big fan of ole Ernest.

    im not one to tell peeps i liked a book when i clearly didn’t. i do a lot of reviews on my blog, so i usually perscribe to philosphy that if i dont find something likeable about the book i dont review it, which is why i mostly post glowing reviews πŸ™‚

    1. I’m normally that way, too. Well, except in situations like the one I described above, in which my pragmatic streak leaps to the fore. πŸ˜‰

  5. I’m afraid I come in rather more strongly on the Opposite side of that argument. Can’t read the man. Tried. Can’t. Despise.

    But my husband likes him rather a lot. We have a running joke/”discussion” about it. Also see Steinbeck, Faulkner, that whole crowd. Not my thing.

    But I would’ve totally lied in class. πŸ˜‰

  6. I like Hemingway OK, but I wouldn’t say I was a fan. A little every once in a while is good enough. But I think it would be fun to create a character based on him that I could tweak to my liking.

  7. I like The Old Man and the Sea. The rest of them I was never really able to get into. But then, I have trouble with books written strictly by men anyway.
    I haven’t lied for personal gain but let me tell you I’ve done some wiggling to keep from expressing my true opinion of a book to avoid hurting the author’s feelings.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure we’ve all been there. I’ll go out of the way not to hurt a fellow writer’s feelings. Though I do my best to stay polite without lying. And I’m brutally honest with my crit partners, and expect the same in return from them.

  8. I’ve read a lot of Hemingway, but it wasn’t with a huge amount of enjoyment. It was more like taking cod liver oil. I read them because I thought they’d be “good” for me. As for lying about a book, yeah. Only once. I faked my way through tests on “Moby Dick” because I could NOT bring myself to finish that book. I hated it. ‘Course, I was probably only about sixteen at the time. Wonder if I’d like it now?

  9. I … um … have never read anything by Hemingway. There. I said it.
    He never happened to be assigned in any of my courses, and there wasn’t anything about his books that beckoned me to read them for pleasure.

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