An enjoyable exploration of how Hemingway’s influence on American literature continues to be significant.
In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway gave a direct instruction to writers: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Find the essential truth of the story, and the rest will eventually follow—profound, yes, but surprisingly difficult to do. Cirino and Von Cannon, academics who share a special interest in Hemingway, have been pursuing this idea for years, especially via their One True Podcast. This collection brings together the best of the interviews and adds some other material. Each interviewee was asked to pick their favorite Hemingway sentence (although some pick a paragraph or several sentences) and explain what it means to them. Some examine a sparse, compact line. Others opt for one of Hemingway’s long, swirling sentences. This underlines the variety of Hemingway’s writing as well as his capacity to imply volumes in a few words. Several contributors discuss why Hemingway’s writing has endured, pointing to his focus on the evergreen themes of love, loss, and war. Others note the time and consideration that Hemingway put into his craft, with endless redrafting and rethinking, as well as his embrace of a wide range of the human experience. As he demonstrated, writing is not, in fact, particularly difficult; doing it well and making it look easy, however, is. This is one of the keys to Hemingway: polishing the text until the effort seems to disappear and the authenticity shines through. This is summed up by a line that several writers point to as their inspiration—the concluding line from The Sun Also Rises: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Yes, it is. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick co-wrote the foreword, and contributors include Valerie Hemingway, Elizabeth Strout, Sherman Alexie, Paula McLain, Craig Johnson, Joshua Ferris, Russell Banks, and Pam Houston.
A valuable take on a canonical writer, highlighting how good work stands the test of time.