faulkner vs. hemingway
you all need to keep in mind that i am absolutely and completely braindead right now. i’ve just flown across canada to come home to my one love (love = toronto) for thanksgiving, and while it’s amazing being in a queen sized bed and in my cherished city and seeing my family, i was up at 4:30 this morning. so excuse this if it’s totally insane. not like that differs from my other blog posts. one day psychologists will chart this blog as my descent into the madness. whatever.
anyway, something that i have been thinking about lately is FAULKNER vs. HEMINGWAY.
let me give you a little background:
“IN ONE CORNER, weighing in at TEN-DOLLAR-POUNDS, we have FAULKNER – interested in general incest, the ins and outs of Yoknapatawpha County, extramarital affairs, binge drinking, and the idea of carrying around coffins in the backs of wagons: here’s WILLIAM —
“Hemingway has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” – Faulkner
“IN THE OTHER CORNER, weighing in at DOUBLE-BARRELLED-SHOTGUN-POUNDS, we have HEMINGWAY – interested in five-fingered cats, brandy, cognac, committing suicide in the messiest of messy manners, and general malaise: here’s ERNEST —
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.” – Ernest Hemingway
right okay. i bring these two up because they tend to generally represent the two different ways of writing, at least for me. i used them as references in my lecture. (the thing is, i think they had high opinions of each other despite the sassy words.
they do write differently. and i like them both. when it comes down to it, i’m a faulkner girl through and through. it’s partly because i had a professor that i adored, and he introduced me to faulkner, and it all went downhill (uphill?) from there. i love faulkner’s ten dollar words, his disjointed and jerky narratives, his glow. (i’d quote them, but all of my faulkner is in vancouver except i lost as i lay dying (shitshit) and absalom absalom is NOT to be opened at 12 30 AM). faulkner makes you work for it, baby. that’s just the way it is. i despise when people say they don’t understand faulkner. no, that’s not it. we all don’t understand faulkner. you actually have to get up off yer ass and get to a dictionary to look up the word you just read, the phrase you just read, the slang. faulkner is going to make it hard for you, but he also writes in such a way that you feel rewarded, wonderful when you finally figure out what is going on. his books are for the dedicated readers. that’s not a slight against people who don’t read his work. some readers don’t want or need to dedicate time to books and would prefer to focus on the emotion behind the words.
and that is where hemingway comes in. his writing has a taste to it. if faulkner tastes like sulfur and flesh and the muddy waters and the salt of sex skin, hemingway is port and fish and bile and dust and guts. those are their tastes. i do get a taste in my mouth when i read hemingway, somewhat like when i read attwood. there is such a deep inherent sadness in his writing, and the writing is so clean, so concise that he doesn’t send readers to dictionaries. is this good? is this bad? who knows, but it does suggest that readers have more time to focus on the heart-breaking interactions between his characters, the subtle breakdown of relationships. no dramatic river-soaked incestuous scenes here. instead, hemingway gives you everything you need in order to understand the delicate nuanced character interactions. it’s sparse, it’s straightforward, it’s masculine in an odd way.
can we go into who is better? NO DON’T BE RIDICULOUS. everyone has their preference. i love faulkner. i’m addicted to adverbs, and adjectives, and lush ten dollar words. i will choose to alienate my readership (sorry imaginary readership!) in order to cull from that readership the readers that will truly work toward the odd language and words that i have in my writing. that’s a choice i make, and i am aware of it, and not trying to make the choice in a conceited or arrogant way. i just want to write a way i want to write.
it’s an age-old discussion, yes? no? thoughts?
this post was actually remarkably clear for the number of brainwaves moving through my skull right now. actually, it’s probably the clearest of them all. ridiculous! faulkner just gets me all fired up. what a dirty dirty liar he was. what a great great writer he was.