So you can read my books

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


{"We are all losers,

defeated in the end by death.

But in the long run, defeat is as revealing

and fundamental as victory."

- Ernest Hemingway.}

I am Hemingway.

Who are you?

Can you answer in one sentence? If not, how then will you write a fictional character well?

What is the basic truth of life? Do you know? You need to in order to write a good novel.

The basic truth of life is to be found in the human soul:

the will to live, the will to persevere, to endure, to defy.

It is the frontier mentality -

the individual is on his own, like a Pilgrim walking into the unknown with neither shelter nor guidance, thrown upon his own resources, his strength and his judgment.

My truth shapes my style which is the style of understatement since my hero is a hero of action, which is the human condition.

And it is that human condition that your characters will take with them no matter where your pen leads them. A weakling will always draw the bullies no matter which town he runs to. He will have to face his flaws himself, refine his own nature, and then face the exterior dangers.

All my life I was obsessed with death. I was seriously wounded at midnight on July 18, 1918 at Fossalta, Italy. I nearly died.

I was the first American to be wounded in Italy during World War I.

I felt my soul go out of my body. In the blackness of midnight, I died and felt my soul go out of me, go off, and then come back.

Perhaps that near-death experience is why I am now a ghost. I do not know.

I do know that I became obsessed with death :

Deep sea fishing, bull-fighting, boxing, big-game hunting, war, -

all are means of ritualizing the death struggle in my mind -

it is very explicit in my books such as A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon, which were based on my own experiences.

And again, briefly, in In Our Time in the lines on the death of Maera.

It reappears, in another setting and form, in the image of immortality in my African story The Snows of Kilimanjaro,

where the dying Harry knows he is going to the peak called "Ngàje Ngài",

which means, as I explained in the introductory note, "the House of God."

Yet, it takes more than being haunted by your inner demons to write well.

It takes imagination.

Imagination is the one thing besides honesty that a good writer must have.

The more he learns from experience, the more truly he can imagine.

If he gets so he can truly imagine, people will think that the things he relates all really happened -- and that he is just reporting.

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things.

What is the truth of the heroes in my novels? They are so much their own agents that they do not hesitate to jeopardize life itself to be true to their own nature, their own code.

If you can't have a near-death experience, the next best training for being a good writer is an unhappy childhood.

And thanks to parents being all too flawed, most people have had that.

But forget your personal tragedy. We are all damned from the start so join the club.

It is a sad fact that you have to be especially hurt like hell before you can write seriously.

It's a law of nature. Human nature. And like most laws, you don't have to like it. You just have to live with it.

Dostoevsky was made by being sent to Siberia. Writers are forged in injustice as a sword is forged in the furnace.

Perhaps that is why I suffer like a bastard when I don't write. And why I feel empty and f____ out afterwards. And why I feel so good while writing.

Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done.

It is a perpetual challenge, and it is more difficult than anything else I have ever done -- which is why I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.

And after each novel, I feared I would never write as well again.

That is why I loved to cover war as a journalist. Every day and each night, there was a strong possibility that I would get killed and not have to write.

Writing is like a disease. I have to write to be happy whether I get paid for it or not. And that makes it worse.

That changes it from a disease to a vice.

And then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. Even though I am dead, I still write. Look at me here in this blog.

How is it for you out there?

Anybody miss Roland? I don't.
For those of you who were struck by Jesse Cook's talent, here is another snippet from one of his concerts :


  1. That was totally Hemingway in my mind. Cool post.

  2. Very Hemingway-esque (I'm sure that's a real word...) Nicely done.

  3. I've had some bad experiences in my life, and if it weren't for those experiences, and all that I'm living right now, my book would be powerless.

  4. Thanks everyone for your support of my experimental serial here.

    My interludes are almost over :
    one more by Hemingway,
    then a surprise visit by Raymond Chandler,
    followed by Mark Twain's post,
    "And only I am left to tell the tale."
    Late for work. Gotta run. Roland

  5. Hemingway, that was touching. And rousing. And beautifully crafted. I felt your soul. That soul would not hurt Roland. You love him too much. And, yes. We miss him.

    ~that rebel, Olivia

  6. Very touching post, Roland. There was the ghost of Hemingway hovering all over it.

    You captured some essential truths.


  7. I think you're right, Ernest, tragedy helps us write better. It doesn't make up for the tragedy but, as you said, you don't have to like it, just live with it.

    I miss Roland, but I'm enjoying you. Just don't kill him, OK?

  8. I'm not so sure about this, Ernest, at least not this part: A hero will have to "to face his flaws."

    What flaws? I didn't know I had any?

  9. Thanks everyone for coming to my defense. Things are starting to look bad for me out here in the Shadowlands what with Ernest letting me take the blame for his murder.

    Lucky Meilori's had internet access. Wish me luck. Roland

  10. Wishing you muchos luck, amigo!!! :)

  11. Mr. H. In my junior high school year, my English teacher was a huge fan-we spent a whole semester on some of your works. I fell in love with your 'code' hero and I measure all heroes by that code. When (not if) I get my MS completed, I hope it will be the best thing ever written *wry grin*...we will see.

    Who am I? I am Endurance....

  12. I don't put much stock in rules, but I agree with Papa. If there's one rule which knows no exception, it's that a writer must live life in order to write about it. This doesn't mean one must experience everything first hand, but it certainly requires the writer to have the maturity, ability and willingness to understand and empathize with the human condition.

  13. Thanks Roland, for a wonderful post!

    I agree that tragedy is instrumental in making us write well.

    "Writing is like a disease. I have to write to be happy whether I get paid for it or not. And that makes it worse.
    That changes it from a disease to a vice."

    I am in sync with that thought. We are all addicted to our writing. If we didn't write, we would probably die.


  14. Mr H! You are such a hard taskmaster!!!

    Of course we miss Roland!! But I'm glad you are giving him a little holiday so he can continue ghost walking with the Divine Ms Dietrich and friends !

    Take care