In which Deb Eve outs herself

Oh, gosh. This is where I have to confess to not being a literary genius, or even moderately well-read. I can’t think of even one life-changing moment that I associate with a certain book. I’ve never read an entire classic unless forced to and even then, I likely didn’t understand it and I certainly don’t remember it. Oh, there was the compulsory Shakespeare in high school. The take-home message for me in all that was, “Huh?” followed by, “Wait a minute, if you’re stoned enough, this stuff actually makes sense. Wow, look at my hand!” And then there was some interminable unrequited love story in Freshman English class about some guy named Heathcliff . . . or was it a guy named Cliff on a heath? I did try to revisit some classic literature last year, when my son was reading the child-friendly versions in school. I thought it would be fun to get the actual classics out of the library and read along with him. But let me tell you, Moby Dick is NO fun at all when you have to keep asking your fifth-grader to explain it to you.

This is not to say that I don’t have a favorite line. I actually do. It’s just that I have no idea where it comes from. I do know that it’s from something that Ernest Hemingway wrote. And let me just get myself in trouble right now by saying I am no fan of Ernest Hemingway. I know, I know, I should be a Hemingway fan. My god, the man won a Nobel Prize in Literature. Surely, he knows a thing or two about good writing. And after all, we share a love of Cuba and traveling and life on the edge. So you’d think me and Ernie would hit it off. But there’s just something about the bullfighting and hunting and soldiering that seems to be in so much of his writing that just kept me from turning the pages.

But at a writing conference a couple of years ago, the facilitator pulled out this paragraph from something that Ernest Hemingway wrote and the first line just blew me away. I clipped the little paragraph and stuck it up on the bulletin board of writing inspiration that sits just over my left shoulder and spurs me on as I write.

“In the fall the war was always there, but we didn’t go to it anymore.”

That one sentence riveted me. I could see Hemingway’s war, it had been brutal and stretched on for far too long. Somehow, from this incredibly spare sentence, I knew that the fall was cold, the streets were bare and the people were tired. That simple sentence spoke to me as much about today’s reality as about Hemingway’s fiction. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are always there, but how many of us don’t go to them anymore? We’re tired and it’s so awfully easy to be oblivious in America.

“In the fall the war was always there, but we didn’t go to it anymore.”

From an author I am not even a fan of, from a work I don’t even know. Maybe I need to give old Ernest another shot. Maybe I should give a few of those classics another try. Who out there can tell me the origin of this line? And anyone care to make some recommendations for the literary edification of Eve?

9 Replies to “In which Deb Eve outs herself”

  1. I loved TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT by Hemingway. I love his writing, how spare and yet powerful it is, such as that example you cited, Eve. I don’t know its origin, alas.

    One of my other favorite Hemingway quotes is not from one his novels, and may be apocryphal. It is something like about writers needing to have a “shockproof bullshit detector.” I’ve always liked that.

  2. It’s from ‘In Another Country’-Ernest Hemingway. And no, i didn’t know it, i just googled (I was too interested to just let it go). I haven’t read EH ever though I feel I should.

  3. Since you realize, obviously, the impact words can have you should try some of the books you’ve never read. Think of all the wonderful and impactful lines you’ll come across — and you’ll never need to out yourself for being “unread” again. I’d think that would be an excellent New Year’s resolution for an author!!

  4. That is a great line! I’ve read some Hemingway. I like his sparse prose, but I didn’t like THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA very much. That said, the first “grown-up” novel I ever read cover to cover was A FAREWELL TO ARMS. I couldn’t put it down, and I bawled through the last twenty pages. By the way, I just sold my debut novel. It will be coming out in 2010. I would love to join the debutante ball as my publication date becomes clearer. My publisher is Shaye Areheart at Random House. If you can, let me know, how I might join the debs. My debut novel is titled THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS.

    Michele Young-Stone

  5. Amy – I think you’re right and a News Year’s reading list resolution is in order for this author! And TO HAVE AND TO HAVE NOT, IN ANOTHER COUNTRY and A FAREWELL TO ARMS all need to be on my list. And thanks Kristina for that info. and I love that line too!

    Violet – thanks for the correct info. I wondered if I could google it myself. But thought it would be more fun to hear from folks out there. And nice to meet you!

    CONGRATULATIONS Michele!!! You must be over the moon about your book sale. You are in for a fun ride. Keep reading the Ball. We run a contest for new Debutantes each summer. Be sure to apply next time it comes around.

    Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving with plenty to be thankful for.

  6. Every few years, I hit the classics shelf and find the ones I never had a chance to read pretty rewarding. I think you have to be in the right frame of mind, and not be in any kind of hurry to get through them, though. Asking your 5th grader for help is okay, too.

    My book group reread Lady Chatterley’s Lover last spring, and I was shocked at how political it was and revolutionary for its time. I think the first time I read it as a teen, I was skimming for all the sexy bits and missed the whole message…

  7. Oh, if Lady C. is a classic, I guess I read a classic, all the way through, no Cliff Notes, and not for any course either. Spend long time looking for her “lover” myself.

  8. Hemingway was never a fav for me- but I loved Vanity Fair, pretty much anything by Jane Austin, Rebecca…. then again I quite liked Shakespeare. English degree- gets you every time.

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