AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

by Ernest Hemingway

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AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby Liz » Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:59 pm

Let’s discuss accrochable vs. inaccrochable. Do you agree or disagree with Ms. Stein?

From the chapter entitled, Miss Stein Instructs:


Miss Stein sat on the bed that was on the floor and asked to see the stories I had written and she said that she liked them except one called “Up in Michigan.”

“It’s good,” she said. “That’s not the question at all. But it is inaccrochable. That means it is like a picture that a painter paints and then he cannot hang it when he has a show and nobody will buy it because they cannot hang it either.”

“But what if it is not dirty but it is only that you are trying to use words that people would actually use? That are the only words that can make the story come true and that you must use them? You have to use them.”

But you don’t get the point at all,” she said. “You mustn’t write anything that is inaccrochable. There is no point in it. It’s wrong and it’s silly.”

She herself wanted to be published in the Atlantic Monthly, she told me, and she would be. She told me that I was not a good enough writer to be published there or in The Saturday Evening Post but that I might be some new sort of writer in my own way but the first thing to remember was not to write stories that were inaccrochable. I did not argue about this nor try to explain again what I was trying to do about conversation. That was my own business and it was much more interesting to listen. That afternoon she told us, too, how to buy pictures.


And….

On this day Miss Stein was instructing me about sex. By that time we liked each other very much and I had already learned that everything I did not understand probably had something to it. Miss Stein thought that I was too uneducated about sex and I must admit that I had certain prejedices against homosexuality since I knew its more primitive aspects. I knew it was why you carried a knife and would use it when you were in the company of tramps when you were a boy in the days when wolves was not a slang term for men obsessed by the pursuit of women. I knew many inaccrochable terms and phrases from Kansas City days and the mores of different parts of that city, Chicago and the lake boats. Under questioning I tried to tell Miss Stein that when you were a boy and moved in the company of men, you had to be prepared to kill a man, know how to do it and really know that you would do it in order not to be interfered with. That term was accrochable. If you knew you would kill, other people sensed it very quickly and you were let alone; but there were certain situations you could not allow yourself to be forced into a trapped into. I could have expressed myself more vividly by using an inaccrochable phrase that wolves used on the lake boats, “Oh gash may be fine but one eye for min.” But I was always careful of my language with Miss Stein even when true phrases might have clarified or better expressed a prejudice.

An except on the subject of accrochable and inaccrochable From Chapter 1 of The Queer Composition of America's Sound - Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity by Nadine Hubbs

Click here for the entire chapter, the rest of which is not relevant to the term "inaccrochable".

Abstraction, Accrochabilité, and the Naked Woman

Undoubtedly Stein’s Four Saints libretto is concerned with problems of form and intended to "oppose, subvert, and disrupt the dominant, conventional forms of drama." Similarly, Thomson’s setting is determined to instantiate an American music of directness and simplicity in line with his anti-German Romantic, antimasterpiece vision. Much of what is "abstract" in Four Saints surely arises in connection with its authors’ avant-garde attempts to resist prior artistic forms and their effects—for example, with Stein’s struggle against the disconnect between (on the one hand) a play’s narrative and (on the other) the sensate response of its audience members. She described having felt herself caught, as a playgoer, between a rock and a hard place: forced to choose between keeping pace with the onstage narrative, or attending to her own emotional response to it, always unfolding at a different pace. Stein’s linguistic and formal experiments in Four Saints were directed to this and to other perceived problems of conventional narrative and drama, and they were tied to her artistic theories, particularly her notion that "the business of Art . . . is to live in . . . and to completely express [the] complete actual present." Her quasi-cubist approach to expressing the "complete actual present" in this "landscape play" eschews narrative, with its focus on the past, even while deploying the (conventionally narrativic) medium of language. The abstraction that ensues might seem all but inevitable, quite apart from any queer content in the work or in the authors’ lives………

Ernest Hemingway can serve as a case in point. For all his preoccupation in his Paris memoir, A Moveable Feast, with identifying queer markers and subtexts and ostentatiously distancing himself from them, Hemingway seems deaf here to the resonant queer implications of a certain piece of advice he received (by his account) from Stein. After reading (circa 1922) a short story of Hemingway’s that contained vulgar language, Stein instructed the young writer, "You mustn’t write anything that is inaccrochable" (unhangable, hence: unpresentable for public display). "There is no point in it," Stein emphasized. "It’s wrong and it’s silly." Hemingway appears to have been, even some thirty-five years later, so intent on portraying (by contrived understatement) the purity and instinctual integrity of his own literary vision that he misses completely the possible significance of Stein’s statement in relation to her writing.

Given Stein’s emphatic stand on this principle (as well as her keen attention, as discussed above, to matters of reception) we might well suppose that she observed it in her own work: Never write anything that is inaccrochable. Do not offend the standards of bourgeois modesty and respectability, for there is no use in painting a picture that can be neither hung in a show nor displayed in a genteel home, and thus cannot be sold. Hemingway gave no indication that Stein encouraged him to alter his themes, but only the means of their conveyance, and then to specific, professionally strategic ends. Impressed by the naughty transgressiveness of his own slangy, tough-guy language in "Up in Michigan," however, Hemingway was apparently absorbed in a (retrospective) fantasy of himself as youthful challenger to the prior generation’s orthodoxy, represented by Stein. He betrayed no awareness of the far more radical potential of Stein’s conservative tactic, of its ramifications in relation to her own writing, or to the truly unorthodox meanings her assiduous avoidance of inaccrochabilité might have allowed her to pass under the public’s nose. However useless as advice to Hemingway circa 1922, Stein’s statement is valuable to us as an indicator of her priorities and strategies vis-à-vis obtaining exposure and getting her work, and its messages, before the public.
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby fansmom » Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:09 pm

I think I'd better disagree with Gertie on this. Long ago, someone (Peter Finley Dunne--I googled it) said that a newspaper exists to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Art, if it is to be more than pretty pictures on the wall and happy stories to read, do both as well. Civilization moves forward (and sometimes backward) by defying conventions.

(That said, I'll admit that the line Hemingway used as an example of an inaccrochable line made me recoil the first time I read it.)

(Does the fact that Hemingway's writing has lasted longer than hers prove that he was right?)

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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby Liz » Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:42 pm

Well said, fansmom. I would agree about art and about literature. But if you consider the time period, there was still censorship going on. So, to a degree, it was good advice. As far as her work, I think much of her work was inaccrochable in the sense that no one could figure out what she was trying to say. :perplexed:
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:32 pm

Love that line, fansmom and you may have a point about longevity.

As far as Gertie, she certainly didn't follow her own advice in much of her writing. Maybe only in what she wanted to get published?
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby gemini » Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:22 pm

Accrochable vs. inaccrochable?
Maybe this is how Hemingway came up with his theory of omission or "iceberg principle".

I may be stepping into it here so feel free to ignore me if I offend your views. Here, I find myself in agreement with Hemingway's writing again and some of you may have noticed I am not a big fan of his real life. To me censorship has always been a dirty word in either art or literature. I can't imagine burning books. I know that the era Stein and Hemingway were in was much more "unenlightened" when it came to the sexual revolution. If you wanted a broader reading audience Gertrude certainly had a point about making it accrochable. Hemingway, being young and male, probably thought he was bold enough to openly flaunt conventions in his literary vision. He style many times was macho or living life to the fullest in hunting, bullfighting, etc so he may have felt colorful language was necessary.

Looking back and considering what is written now as common place, makes the point that writers have set the pace for change in the sexual revolution. I think minors should be protected but adults free to read what they wish. Consider if some of these writers were writing an autobiography, should their life styles be edited out as unaccrochable?
Last edited by gemini on Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby Liz » Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:46 am

gemini wrote:Accrochable vs. inaccrochable?
Maybe this is how Hemingway came up with his theory of omission or "iceberg principle.

I think you might be onto something here.

And I’m not offended at all. I am totally against censorship. However, I do believe in ratings or warnings for younger readers. However, I am probably more lax than most. My 14 year old has read The Lovely Bones and The Kite Runner.
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:00 am

Interesting discussion, you all have certainly given me a new insight into the passage.

From another angle, I find it interesting that Gertie seemed so mercenary about her writing (which I found unreadable). She seemed to be saying there was no value in art for art's sake, it was only worth writing if it could be sold. I am still enough of a romantic to think truly great writers would write for art's sake and the love of their craft.

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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby Liz » Thu Nov 13, 2008 4:12 pm

nebraska wrote: I am still enough of a romantic to think truly great writers would write for art's sake and the love of their craft.

Well, I’d say that is what she did..... Do as I say but not as I do?
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby Linda B. » Thu Nov 13, 2008 5:14 pm

Okay - I'm going to jump in and say that this argument of accrochable vs. inaccrochable isn't an argument of today. You can use it in historical context - but since the Vietnam war, and the airing of such incredible live violence, censorship has taken a real back seat in modern life. I don't think there is anything you cannot say or do. And while there are people who still might not hang that painting - I think there are a much larger number of people who would revel in the idea of displaying it.

Poor Gertrude Stein - she seems to be stuck very much in her time - and Hemingway (of whom I'm no big fan, by the way) seems more like a visionary.

Just my thought. Sorry if I've offended anyone.
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby Buster » Thu Nov 13, 2008 5:33 pm

There is a great deal of difference between censoring your own work and having it censored by an outside force.
Choosing to present your ideas in an accrochable manner does not necessarily rob them of impact, and may well widen the audience you reach.
Authenticity of language certainly can intensify a scene, but it is far from the only way to achieve verisimilitude.

I do not believe that external censorship is dead (think "political correctness") - it has just become more insidious. Self-censoring, on the other hand, is a tool that an artist can use in whatever way they choose.

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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby Liz » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:28 pm

You both make some interesting points.

Linda B., I’m not offended at all. I think we have all had no problem giving our opinions on Hemingway, Gertie or anyone else mentioned in AMF. Plus I agree with what you have said, that the idea of accrochable vs. inaccrochable is passé in today’s world. You just have to look at the news media and the tabloids. On the other hand, one censoring one’s work to agree could possibly open it up to a wider audience (as Buster points out) unless its inaccrochability would give it sensationalism that could possibly give it a wider audience.
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:35 pm

Think of the Danish political cartoons.

Or think of movie ratings, and the strange things that must be done to get an acceptable rating. I read an article about the new horror movie Saw V which has an appalling level of violence (IMHO--I can't even read the synopsis on IMDB :yuck:) but was edited to remove a shot of one woman's hand touching another's breast, from fear that it would earn the dreaded NC-17.

How different is that from Gertie censoring herself?

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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:16 pm

But violent mutilation doesn't get the NC-17. :banghead:
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby gemini » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:44 pm

Fansmom and DITHOT you have hit on my biggest pet peeve with cersorship. They are obsessed with sexuality and could care less about violence. Violence in these horror films has reached a point of being absurd. I find myself biting my tongue trying not to say they should be censured because I hate censorship so much. The only thing worse then horror films is violent pornography with the emphasis on violent.
I can not for the life of me understand how anyone could consider horror fit for a young audience and yet it does not seem to bother many parents. I wonder what Gertie and her era would have thought of the chain saw horrow flicks?
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Re: AMF Question #27 ~ Accrochable vs. Inaccrochable

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:50 pm

gemini wrote:Fansmom and DITHOT you have hit on my biggest pet peeve with cersorship. They are obsessed with sexuality and could care less about violence. Violence in these horror films has reached a point of being absurd. I find myself biting my tongue trying not to say they should be censured because I hate censorship so much. The only thing worse then horror films is violent pornography with the emphasis on violent.
I can not for the life of me understand how anyone could consider horror fit for a young audience and yet it does not seem to bother many parents. I wonder what Gertie and her era would have thought of the chain saw horrow flicks?
Baffling, isn't it, and saddening. But at least the ratings insanity made the news as being bizarre.


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