Hemingway In Hell
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
I know I’ve been carrying on both about Robert Butler’s new novel, Hell, and Hemingway recently, so I can understand if this post makes you shake you head. However, I was reviewing part of Hell and found the perfect opportunity to blend these two recent topics.
In one early section of the book, the protagonist and his wife hear a wailing outside their window. Hatcher McCord believes it’s “a woman crying” in the alleyway, while his wife (Anne Boleyn) thinks it’s someone singing. It presents a haunting duality, but most importantly, it presents another famous denizen of Hell; Hemingway.
The part about Hemingway, an author the protagonist admits he wanted to “be”, I thought to be simultaneously funny and striking. I’ll quote it quickly below. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: support modern literature and buy Hell, and support classic literature and read Hemingway.
On another note, I’m sorry these posts have been coming so late. Like I’ve said, I’ve been swamped with work, and I also am writing a few poems (hopefully) for publication. I’ll try to pay you more attention.
“…Ernest Hemingway stands even now out there in the dark. He is looking for a good bar–he has been looking for a god bar for pretty much as long as he’s been in Hell–and he can’t find one and, as it often does, his failure has made him weep for a time. A little girlishly, it’s true.
…And now Ernest Hemingway stands in an alleyway in Hell and his head is full of words. It was late and everyone had come into the café. The place was dim and full of bullfighters and Gulf fishermen and boxers and Upper Peninsula Indians and some boys from the Lincoln Battalion who died at Jarama. No one could see anyone’s face, the bar was so dark. The old man sat at a table by the window. The only light in the place came from a lamp on the street and it shone on the old man. He was dressed in a white poplin empire dress.
…Ernest looks into the darkness above him, thinking about who might be hearing his words–he has always wanted at least to be heard–and his hand goes reflexively up and palms the back of his head, which he once blew off with his favorite Boss 12-gauge shotgun. Then the hand falls and he lowers his face. He begins to cry once more and he begins to sing once more, but he does both things very softly, so softly that no one around can hear.”
God Save the Books,