Hemingway is Overrated
A philippic against one of the ‘greatest writers’ of all time
Ask anyone who their favourite writer is, and you’ll more than likely hear the name Hemingway. I believe these people are lying. Who can earnestly say Hemingway’s writing is enjoyable? Pun intended.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say his prose is actually painstaking. His novels are a mixture of self-indulgent dialogue and long winded descriptions. You drag your eyes over pages and pages, only to discover that entire situations have no relevance to the plot.
Now before you get your pitchforks out and start claiming that Old Man and the Sea is the best novel ever written, consider this. I believe there is a part in every Hemingway novel where you’ve experienced extreme boredom. For me it was the fishing trip in The Sun Also Rises. God that was boring.
To summarise; the dickless protagonist and his mate spend a weekend in the Spanish countryside. There, I just summed up a quarter of the book for you.
They sat and fished and napped and drank wine and fished and drank and napped and so on and so forth. While we’re on the subject, does anyone else find his liberal use of ‘and’ annoying?
The funny thing is, I actually enjoyed The Sun Also Rises. It’s probably one of his better ones, along with Old Man and the Sea, because it was short.
The most boring one in my opinion is For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s actually amazing how little action this man fits into this book. Literally two-thirds of this novel is about a bunch of Spanish resistance fighters having lunch. Yes, the finale was interesting, but he could’ve gotten there a lot quicker, and with less absinthe.
When I press people for an actual reason for why they love Hemingway, they claim it’s the way he writes, rather than the story. Oh his magnificently short succinct sentences and his wonderful dialogue that leaves so much to the imagination. I do admire his style, but I don’t think he actually did it so well. In my opinion, Graham Greene and Truman Capote do a much better job. It’s interesting to note that they were all journalists.
So what style of writing do I like in lieu of Hemingway? Well I do enjoy Fitzgerald. His books make you feel like you’re at a swanky cocktail party, slowly drowning in champagne. Bukowski is another favourite, I barely realised I was reading about a postman for 208 pages. And Huxley’s Brave New World, probably my favourite Sci-Fi book, along with Orwell’s 1984.
Ultimately, I think good writing is about comfort. It’s about being able to smoothly scan across a page and completely immerse yourself.
Hemingway simply doesn’t do it for me. I was too aware that I was reading a book by the great Hemingway. I studied every sentence carefully, trying to unlock his secrets, and in the end I discovered I couldn’t force myself to like it. And neither should you.
You shouldn’t just blindly follow the greats. Just because someone is a famous writer doesn’t mean all their work is good. Hell, if you enjoy Twilight, just come out and say it. There’s no use in hiding behind these ‘great writers’ because you’re secretly embarrassed about the books you actually enjoy.
In terms of Hemingway, I believe people are more in love with his legend, rather than his writing. I for one am a fan of his persona — an incredible man who sat around drinking bottles of whiskey and writing thinly veiled allegories of himself. But is he the greatest writer of all time? I don’t think so.
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