"Throughout Hemingway's career as a writer, he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing -- that it takes off 'whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk's feathers if you show it or talk about it.'"
Despite this belief, by the end of his life he had done just what he intended not to do. In his novels and stories, in letters to editors, friends, fellow artists, and critics, in interviews and in commissioned articles on the subject, Hemingway wrote often about writing. And he wrote as well and as incisively about the subject as any writer who ever lived....
This book contains Hemingway's reflections on the nature of the writer and on elements of the writer's life, including specific and helpful advice to writers on the craft of writing, work habits, and discipline. The Hemingway personality comes through in general wisdom, wit, humor, and insight, and in his insistence on the integrity of the writer and of the profession itself.
-- From the Preface by Larry W. Phillips
"Throughout Ernest Hemingway's career as a writer," says Larry W. Phillips in his introduction to Ernest Hemingway on Writing, "he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing." Hemingway seems to have courted bad luck. Phillips has amassed a slender book's worth of Hemingway's reflections on writing, culled from letters, books, interviews, speeches, and an unpublished manuscript. These musings are arranged into topics such as "Advice to Writers," "Working Habits," and "Obscenity" (of which there is plenty here). Sometimes ponderous, other times offhand, these thoughts form a portrait of a man driven to create not solely the best writing he could, but the best writing, period. Hemingway craved exactness, both in his work and in the work of others; he strove to make every word necessary. "Eschew the monumental," he wrote to Maxwell Perkins in 1932. "Shun the Epic. All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones." His aim? Mere perfection. "I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit," he confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. "I try to put the shit in the wastebasket." --Jane Steinberg