Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

by Ernest Hemingway

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Oct 26, 2008 9:56 am

pg. 209 – “That every day should be a fiesta seemed to me a marvelous discovery. I even read aloud the part of the novel that I had rewritten, which is about as low as a writer can get and much more dangerous for him as a writer than glacier skiing unroped before the full winter snowfall has set over the crevices.”


Why does Hemingway feel reading one's work aloud is dangerous for a writer?
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Oct 26, 2008 1:05 pm

Maybe because reading aloud the writer uses his voice to add emphasis and meaning that isn't really written on the page, convincing him that he has written what isn't really there?

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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Parlez » Sun Oct 26, 2008 1:30 pm

Are we at the end of the book already?? I don't want to jump ahead, but it seems we're already there. So...
To me, this whole section of the book is like one big rant. Even though Hemingway keeps his theory of omission going by not revealing names (and making me postively hungry to know who, precisely, these 'rich' people and 'pilot fish' were) he nevertheless is clearly writing in an agitated state. He's no longer the calm memorist with a somewhat nostalgic, somewhat ironic perspective; he's full-out angry here, feeling duped and used and manipulated. And oh so vulnerable.

I think his reading outloud to his 'friends' was, for him in retrospect, the height (or depth) of his vulnerability. He apparently trusted them enough to feel safe reading his work aloud, but then regretted it. Who knows why? Thoughts of theft come to mind - people stealing his words. (?) Also thoughts of false praise that could definitely undermine a writer's sharpness regarding his own work and turn him into a showboating celebrity-mascot seeking applause.

In any case, it seems to me that by this point in the book, Hemingway realizes he traded a lot of his self-respect, his sense of discipline and of going about his life and his work his own way, for the chance to be a member of some good old boy network that ultimately let him down.
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Buster » Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:45 pm

Reading one's works aloud certainly doesn't feel dangerous to every author; it was something Hunter certainly seemed to relish.
So why did it feel dangerous to Hemingway?
Nebraska, if an author enhances his writing with inflection and phrasing, how does that constitute danger? If he recognizes that the "tip of the iceberg" that he has actually written is too scant for his audience, then that is actually positive feedback, needed to inform future revision.
Given the image that he uses (skiing over a glacier), I wonder if he felt as if he didn't really have enough beneath his writing - that the tip of the iceberg may not have had an actual iceberg holding it up. In Paris, he was still finding his style, and he may have felt very exposed when subjecting himself to the immediate feedback that reading aloud engenders.
Parlez, by the end of the book I was feeling as if Hemingway was a major egotist, with a nice dash of paranoia thrown in. It is hard to imagine that he really wanted feedback at that point. Also, his style, while original, is not to hard to emulate. It seems as if he saw himself as a man of action, and pandering to the public hardly fits that image.

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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:19 pm

Parlez, we are not exactly at the end of the book, just this particular sentence. We will be discussing the mystery persons in a later question.

nebraska, maybe they way you interpret it goes to his theory of the iceberg in the sense he is giving away something to the listener that he wants the reader to decide for themself.

buster I think my take on it is similar. He was taken off guard, living the good life when he should have been concentrating on his writing and he does seem angry. I took it to mean he would accept their praise for his work and rest on what could turn out to be false laurels instead of reworking something he might feel later wasn't good enough. He also uses the word "rewritten" which I think is significant but I'm not sure why. Maybe because it was still a work in progress...I'm rambling. :lol:
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Liz » Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:22 pm

I think it is just a very vulnerable place to be, exposing your writing out loud….unless you truly want feedback. Before and after the quote he points out that he stupidly trusted these people. And when one trusts another, one can put oneself in a very vulnerable position by exposing oneself. And I think he knew that exposing his writing by reading it aloud would put him in a vulnerable position. It is a very scary thing to have your work critiqued. And you also have to consider the source of the criticism. And in retrospect, he remembers “wagging his tail in pleasure” at their positive response “instead of thinking, ‘If these bastards like it what is wrong with it?’” I think that he was trying to say that an author should trust himself, not others.
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Liz » Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:29 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote: He also uses the word "rewritten" which I think is significant but I'm not sure why. Maybe because it was still a work in progress...I'm rambling. :lol: [/color]

My first thought was that he had already "rewritten" it and shouldn't have read it aloud because then he may end up rethinking it again.....maybe overthinking it. I'm not a writer, but I'm thinking that if you are happy with something, go with it.
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Oct 26, 2008 8:55 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:

nebraska, maybe they way you interpret it goes to his theory of the iceberg in the sense he is giving away something to the listener that he wants the reader to decide for themself.



I think I took the above quote out of context, looking only at what he said in this paragraph rather than relating it to the whole experience of reading to the group.
I was thinking in terms of the feeling of "I know what I meant even though it may not be what I wrote".

I think everyone else here has taken the quote as part of the whole chapter.

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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Lady Jill » Sun Oct 26, 2008 10:41 pm

Liz wrote:I think it is just a very vulnerable place to be, exposing your writing out loud….unless you truly want feedback. Before and after the quote he points out that he stupidly trusted these people. And when one trusts another, one can put oneself in a very vulnerable position by exposing oneself. And I think he knew that exposing his writing by reading it aloud would put him in a vulnerable position. It is a very scary thing to have your work critiqued. And you also have to consider the source of the criticism. And in retrospect, he remembers “wagging his tail in pleasure” at their positive response “instead of thinking, ‘If these bastards like it what is wrong with it?’” I think that he was trying to say that an author should trust himself, not others.

Liz, I am in agreement here. I think that based on what I have been learning about Hem here at the Zone ( nay, I didn't know much before ), that the man was a bit of a " looney tune" . . .so this statement of his makes a lot of sense. Having a critique of ones work places one in a vulnerable place . . I can feel him feeling this way.

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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby dharma_bum » Mon Oct 27, 2008 1:27 am

I think that reading aloud had nothing to do with the danger he perceived. Out of context that aspect seems important, in the context of a couple pages, not so much. My take is that Hemingway felt like a whore pandering for praise and encouragement from people he didn't respect, people unworthy of his creative mojo. Their patronage seems to be a necessary evil, for what? Getting published?

I'm not sure he felt personally vulnerable, either, he had too much ego for that. I think he was fearful for his child though.... his novel. He didn't want it to be stillborn without having its chance in the world and previewing his work created that risk.

The entire passage seems to be rant about the clash of enterprise and art and having to sell your soul to the soulless.
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Liz » Mon Oct 27, 2008 1:05 pm

nebraska wrote:
DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:

nebraska, maybe they way you interpret it goes to his theory of the iceberg in the sense he is giving away something to the listener that he wants the reader to decide for themself.



I think I took the above quote out of context, looking only at what he said in this paragraph rather than relating it to the whole experience of reading to the group.
I was thinking in terms of the feeling of "I know what I meant even though it may not be what I wrote".

I think everyone else here has taken the quote as part of the whole chapter.

Nebraska, I think you have a valid point about how it could be interpreted. And you can interpret it whatever way you would like. Remember, there are no wrong answers here at ONBC. :cool:
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby gemini » Tue Oct 28, 2008 11:28 pm

I am late here and see you all have covered the topic pretty well. I sort of lean towards the feeling that someone as egotistic as Hemingway would not like being critiqued on his work. Even he would want a rewrite to be of his own creation and if he had received suggestions he would have felt like his work was not his own. A review of a finished work is one thing but a work in progress would be letting others in before you stake your claim.
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Endora » Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:15 am

When you write, you can hear it in your head as you read each paragraph through. Every time you go over it you see all those words that you have failed to use hovering in the background, waiting to be let in by your adding another sentence, another clause, to something already overstuffed. All those words are telling you that you should not trust your reader to understand what you wanted them to understand, but if you do add them the result will be worse, because what you write will be all you and no them, so it will be just plain bad. If you read your words out loud, it's the end of them. You're saying that's it, it's finished, that's the best I can do. It's like giving up.

Sorry, unclear. But I know what I mean.
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Parlez » Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:52 pm

I know what you mean, Endora. The same thing happens to me on a micro level every time I hit 'submit' here on ONBC! Hours later I'm still thinking about what I could've/should've said...but going back to edit seems risky too, and a bit overly self-indulgent, a bit moot. I can definitely see that for a legitimate writer reading words aloud would be like carving them in stone somehow; there would be no going back. And the fact that in this case it was a rewrite for Hemingway - well, that would only make it worse as he was already messing with the original material. I guess you could go back and back and back until you were sick of the whole thing, yes? Feedback would be no help in terms of getting it 'right'. That's why I was so surprised to learn that Amy Tan dished up practically every sentence of The Joy Luck Club for her writers group to dissect. They did a good job, but the end result was very much a collaborative effort, not a solo performance, which I always assumed was the point of wanting to tell your own story...? Different styles, perhaps, for different writers.
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Re: Question #14 ~ Reading Aloud

Unread postby Liz » Wed Oct 29, 2008 3:29 pm

I think I get it, Endora. It's like once you've said something in a conversation with someone, you can't take it back. It is also the same with posts, like Parlez said, or with emails. If you are conversing in email, you can edit as long as you want until you hit "send". Then it is what it is--which is like speaking aloud.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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