So you can read my books

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Two early works by later-famous novelists were published on this day —  

Ernest Hemingway’s Torrents of Spring (1926) and

John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat(1935).

 Both concern returned WWI veterans who, being at a loss for meaningful alternatives, seek wine, women and other diversions. 

Steinbeck's novel was an honest attempt to portray a generation of bruised men,

seeking some small measure of peace in a world that no longer made sense after the war.

Hemingway's first book, the story collection In Our Time, had been published by Boni Liveright the previous autumn, 

under a contract that granted them an option on his next three books. 

 Hemingway was a rising star with the finished first draft of The Sun Also Rises in his pocket, 

along with tempting offers from other publishers -- Scribners, Knopf and Harcourt, Brace.

 His only way around Horace Liveright was to get him to reject his next manuscript.

Hemingway's solution was to submit The Torrents of Spring, a ninety-page satire which he knocked off in eleven days. 

This aimed at a variety of targets, but chief among them was Sherwood Anderson and the writing style of the "Chicago School".

 Anderson was a leading author for Boni & Liveright, and Hemingway knew that they wouldn't dare publish his slap at him.

That would have been cruel enough to do to a stranger, but it was worse.

Anderson had been a friend and mentor to Hemingway, 

a guest at his wedding, and 

writer of a generous dust-jacket blurb for In Our Time and 

of letters of introduction allowing Hemingway entry to the Parisian literary scene.

John Dos Passos told him that the book was "heartless" and unfunny, and Gertrude Stein was outraged. 

Eventually, Hemingway would trash all of them too, even Fitzgerald who urged him on. 

Hemingway's wife, Hadley, thought the idea "detestable," but she too was being double-dealed at this stage, and by summer would also be dumped.

Honor, it seems, has been dying for a very long time.  

How important is it for your writing to succeed?  

Would you pay Hemingway's price?


  1. Enjoyed hearing Orson discuss Hemingway. I've always liked them both.

    Honor means different things to many people, and especially in different countries. A touchy subject, Roland.

  2. I'm sure Hemingway thought the price reasonable. He was obviously fired up when he wrote his satire.

    Just letting you know I wrote a tribute to Maya Angelou today on my blog. Hope you can come by.


  3. D.G.:
    Mocking and betraying a friend who introduced you into the world of your literary dreams to get ahead seems dishonorable no matter what part of the world you find yourself.

    I've always enjoyed Orson Welles. He had a great voice.

    Headed there now. Hemingway wrote a scathing mockery of a friend to get out of a publishing contract.

    He got ahead -- and only had to betray a friend who helped him to do it.

    But Hemingway is famous so I guess that makes it all right.

    I am a dinosaur. :-(

  4. Some of Hemingway's work was admirable. Quite a lot of the way he behaved to other people was the opposite. And sometimes his bad behaviour was (to me at least) inexplicable. I don't think this particular example was just for success - but it was deplorable anyway.

  5. Not sure I'd be willing to go to such lengths to get out of my contract. Did it work for him?

  6. Elephant's Child:

    He didn't do it just for success. He did it for more money from three larger publishers -- which in my mind is worse.

    In effect, he betrayed a friend who had helped him when he had been in need merely for more money.

    Just imagine if I would write a novel mocking Alex Cavanaugh's style of writing (which is grand by the way) just to get out of my contract with the publisher we shared. It would be shabby, wouldn't it?

    I always look forward to your comments.

    Sadly, it worked for him.

    Hemingway submitted the manuscript early in December 1925

    and it was rejected by the end of the month.

    In January Max Perkins at Scribner's agreed to publish "The Torrents of Spring" in addition to Hemingway's future work.

    Hemingway knew that Sherwood was known for subjective and self-revealing works. So to mock his prose was to mock him.

    Hemingway also knew that Sherwwood had a nervous breakdown some years earlier.

    Though his books sold reasonably well, Dark Laughter (1925), a novel inspired by Anderson's time in New Orleans during the 1920s, was the only bestseller of his career.

    He may be most remembered for his influential effect on the next generation of young writers,

    as he inspired William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Thomas Wolfe.

    He helped gain publication for Faulkner and Hemingway.

    In New Orleans, he and his wife entertained William Faulkner, Carl Sandburg, Edmund Wilson and other writers, for whom Anderson was a major influence.

    He was a kind, gentle man who deserved better.

  7. How heinous! Nothing Hemingway did shocks me at all, but this is just plane unacceptable.

    How can anyone person with ANY degree of conscious do such a thing to someone who has helped them launch their career.

    I know I would never do it...

  8. I've never been a Hemingway fan. Success isn't that important to me. I know how to own my failure.