Monday, May 27, 2013

A reading list for an aspiring author: by Ernest Hemingway

Arnold Samuelson, an adventurous 22 year old, wanted to see his country and after college packed up, and hitchhiked his way across from Minnesota to California.  He read a short story by Hemingway, 'One Trip Across', a short story which would later become part of Hemingway's fourth novel To Have and Have Not.  Samuelson was smitten.  He was so impressed that he decided to travel across to Key West to meet Hemingway and ask him for advice. 
'What do you want?' said Hemingway.
After an awkward moment Samuelson explained: 
'I read your story 'One Trip Across' in Cosmopolitan. I liked it so much I came down to have a talk with you.'
The two men arranged a meeting to 'chew the fat' the next morning.  Hemingway offered Samuelson some invaluable writing advice:
The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time, never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along.
Hemingway advised Samuelson to avoid contemporary writers and instead to focus on the dead ones who have passed the test of time.  He wrote Samuelson a list.
The Blue Hotel and The Open Boat by Stephen Crane
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Dubliners by James Joyce
The Red and the Black by Stendhal
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
Anna Karenina and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
Hail and Farewell by George Moore
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Oxford Book of English Verse
The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson
The American by Henry James
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