I’m thinking about writers tonight, while outside a huge thunderstorm makes me glad I’m now home snug and dry. The thinking about writers thing is because of an architect friend who I saw earlier this evening. I feel smarter in his company, because he is a well-read guy. We talked, as we often do, about books.
Driving home in the rain it crossed my mind that one measure of whether you have become a well-known writer is that your first name disappears, except in term papers.
Try it: Shakespeare, Shelley, Keats, Yeats, Patchen, Sturgeon, Heinlein, Zelazny, O’Brian, Furst, LeGuin, Gann, Hemingway.
See what I mean? No reference to William, Percy, John, William, Kenneth, Theodore, Robert, Roger, Patrick, Alan, Ursula, Ernest or Ernest was necessary.
Reading Shakespeare, although watching performance is better, is a good thing. I could make a list of why, but it’s late … it’s true, however, even if only to see how much language his work has given us. Shelley’s work, especially that Ode to the West Wind, reveals that incantation is the bedrock of great poetry, and who can read Ozymandias without understanding the nature and uselessness of pride – a necessary lesson for all of us, especially writers.
Hemingway is in my pantheon of favorites. My sentences are long. His aren’t. I learn from that.
I picked my bride up from the airport tonight. She said it was a bumpy ride on the commuter flight as they dodged the thunderstorm cells. She was at a conference in Key West. On a break she stopped by Hemingway’s house, which is now a museum and is someplace I’ve always wanted to visit. Apparently Hemingway’s study, where he wrote many of his novels, is intact as if he had just gone out fishing or for a drink. Otherwise the house is empty except for the descendants of his cat. Lots of them, 30 or 40. The cats have even ended up in a federal court case. It’s over whether the museum needs a U.S. Department of Agriculture permit if the cats are adjudged part of the museum exhibit.
I’ve read that Papa loved those cats. But that’s a lot of cats.
Copyright 2011, David Hipschman