Quote of the moment: Hemingway, writers need “shock-proof, [excrement] detector”


Ernest Hemingway and cat Cristobal, Cuba; JFK Library collection

Ernest Hemingway with his cat, Cristobal, at his home, Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.  Date unknown (circa 1955?) Photo from Ernest Hemingway Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. (Copyright status unknown)

Was Ernest Hemingway the greatest writer in English of the 20th century?  Fortunately we don’t have to choose.  We can read Hemingway, and Faulkner (with whom he had a few bones to pick), and Hammett, and Parker, and Feynman, and Vonnegut, Bellow, Morrison, dos Passos,  Shaw, Kipling, Ford, Conrad and a dozen more, enjoying each for the gifts she or he demonstrated so well on a page.

Any way you stack it, though, Hemingway was a great one.

In an interview with George Plimpton, published in the Paris Review in 1958, Hemingway talked about what it takes to be a great writer.  Maybe it’s something one needs to be born with:

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.

If we could make a machine to substitute for that, a solid-gold, built-in, shock-proof [excrement] detector, we could improve writing, politics, government, business, and a hundred other fields of endeavor.

If we had a just and appropriately skeptical world, everyone would have one, a “solid gold, built-in, shock-proof [excrement] detector.”

What an enormous If.

Also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

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6 Responses to Quote of the moment: Hemingway, writers need “shock-proof, [excrement] detector”

  1. […] Oh, yeah, and the Hemingway™ Brand Solid Gold, Shock-proof Sh** Detector started clanging away. […]

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  2. […] if your Hemingway Brand™ solid gold Sh** Detector didn’t start clanging at the headline, you need new batteries — maybe better get the thing calibrated, […]

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  3. […] Hemingway [Excrement] Detector probably clanged as soon as you pulled the poster up.  Patrick Henry was a powerful opponent to […]

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  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Quick count, I figured at least two dozen others might be listed as candidates. I left out Mailer, Heller, and a couple dozen whose works were published first in other languages but might be considered English language. I left out most of the great mystery writers. Heck, I left out Hemingway’s buddy, Fitzgerald.

    Who else did we leave out?

    Thanks!

    Like

  5. Kerry Maxwell says:

    You left out Nabokov.

    Like

Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes.

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