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Bugger Hemingway and his phoney machismo - the football season has started! Rejoice.

To Bodmin last night with sister-in-law and brother-in-law Julie and Denis and Denis’s friend Leo to the folk club. Folk really isn’t my thing, but I do like good guitar playing, and these two guys, Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith with guitar, banjo and squeezebox between them, play well. In fact, the music was excellent, it’s just the kind of singing and to a less extent the lyrics which leave me a tad cold.

Denis and Leo are both Irish, though they first met when after they had moved to England to work. Leo likes his James Joyce and last night presented me with, in two volumes, Ulysses in German (I am half-German, speak German and went to German schools for four years). He’s already given me Portrait Of The Artist in German - which I have not yet read - so I had better get on with them.

For some odd reason I suspect all three will be more readable in German than English, although I really couldn’t tell you why. I can honestly say that - strictly speaking - I have read every word of Ulysses, but each just once and quite apart from not understanding a word, I didn’t enjoy it. But that was in my last year at college when I was 22 so perhaps I’ll have more luck this time. Or perhaps not.

The Hemingway thing is progressing - now on to a book (an a ‘Critical Lives’ series) by a Verna Kale on Hemingway. It’s good reading. Although I am by now quite familiar with the course of that dick’s life, each such book adds more colour and nuance to my picture of him.

I have also, reluctantly, but from a sense of duty, ordered his short story collections In Our Time and Men Without Women. And I stress ‘from a sense of duty’. Hemingway did have a gift of sorts, though I still can’t see how he was ‘a genius’, but in other respects he couldn’t bloody write and much of what he writes - a Moveable Feast which I also recently read being a good case in point as well as his Art Of The Short Story - are so bloody jejeune that you really have to wonder why the myth persists. There is, of course, the other possibility - and this does worry me - that it is I who is simply to dense, insensitive, untutored, I don’t know what, to see what ‘makes Hemingway great’.

I’ve decided that if I’m going to do this thing properly, I’m pretty much obliged to read some of his stories, even though the piece began simply as a gasp of astonishment that anyone could think The Sun Also Rises is ‘a masterpiece’ and Hemingway ‘a writer of genius’.

Add to that now - and I realised this after finishing Leonard Leff’s book about how Hemingway’s reputation was the result of the growth in the 1920s of Hollywood, magazines and the cult of the celebrity (about which Hemingway was pretty schizophrenic: part of him hated it or so he said, but that didn’t stop him from subscribing to a news clipping service) - that the ‘lost generation’ angle was, at best, not picked up at the time judging by reviews of the novel and, at worst, was grafter on later by the academic industry.

A while ago, while reading Kale’s book, there occurred to me an image which for me sums up what it is like reading Hemingway: if you have ever walked across a field that has been occupied by cattle for several months in all weathers from which they have now been removed and the earth has now dried out, you will know that what
superficially looks reasonably smooth is anything but. You stumble and trip from tussock to tussock, each of which hides quite a deep hole into which you plunge your foot and often lose your balance. It is not easy to walk across and certainly no pleasure. That’s what bloody Hemingway’s ‘prose’ is like. OK, you might attempt to justify it by insisting ‘but that’a his style’, but to that I respond: ‘Well, it’s a fucking awful, fucking juvenile, fucking often unreadable style.’

For this long whatever its called - critique, monograph, whatever, but which I think of as ‘the Hemingway bollocks I’m doing at the moment’ - I have tracked down various pieces and posted them on the net so that I can give links in the piece when finished and posted to act as appendices. You can find Hemingways’ Art Of The Short Story here. Were you told it had been written by an undergraduate, you wouldn’t doubt that for a minute.

. . .

I was going to post on Facebook, but have left it too late so I shall do so here, the following:

A long sigh of relief could be heard last night even as most of Britain was plunged into darkness because of two power supply failures when a whistle was blown, a ball was kicked and the 2019/20 English Premier League season got underway.

Last night it was Liverpool v Norwich, which, predictably, Norwich lost. Tomorrow, it’s Manchester United - my team - against Chelsea, a match which might indicate what kind of season both can look forward to.

United will have Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in charge for his first full season as manager - and the bizarre brilliant start and disappointing end to his short tenure as manager at the end of last season after taking over from Jose Mourhino and wondering how he will fair will focus attention on his side. Solskjaer is a former United player and hero, and Chelsea have their own former player and hero in charge: Frank Lampard, who did bloody well for Derby. So that game will be interesting.


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