ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises - Travelling with Ernest Hemingway - and eating a meal in Paris' Latin Quarter.

Happy New Year!!

'You are all a lost generation.' Gertrude Stein

'One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever...The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down and hasteth to the place where he arose...The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually...All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.' Ecclesiastes
The above taken from the forward pages to The Sun Also Rises.

I like to travel with a novel that says something about the country I'm seeing. Last trip to Paris I used Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and followed his walks around Paris. I also learned that he always put his writing first. He claims he wrote every day from 5 am - 12 noon, when he put down his pencil (but not until he knew what would happen next), then meandered downtown to meet literary luminaries such as Gertrude Stein, Scott F Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound et al, and discussed his work/their work, helping each other's art. (Pretty cool critique partners!)  

My critique partners aren't travelling with me, but nothing suits my travels better than a Hemingway novel. Not everyone is a Hemingway fan - heck, he didn't write fantasy, sci-fiction, steampunk etc, genres that have huge followings today and are of the type many bloggers like to write. He wrote mainly chronologically, with sparse back story. He said he sweated over every sentence, every chapter, ruthlessly deleting any superfluous words. Some find his style sparse, but if you read and re-read his carefully-crafted stories you continue to find layers you previously missed. This is well expressed by the Evening News when they reviewed The Sun Also Rises -

'Hemingway captures atmosphere by reticence and breathes life into his characters by pages left unsaid...It is American; it is literature; and it is a first novel by a genius.' 

Hemingway stuck to realism with a dash of dystopian. I'm no huntin', fishin', hard drinkin' kinda person, but Hemingway's always been my favourite author for reasons I can't possibly articulate. He's real and gritty with no frills, which I'm sure he learned from his journalistic days and his passion for the short story. He wrote about the world he knew, the world in which he lived and played. It is hard to separate him from his characters. I find Jake in Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, impossible to separate from Hemingway himself. As they say, many early novels are partly autobiographical.

I decided to make this novel my current travel companion, as it stars Paris and the louche characters that moved within its bars and restaurants, planning their next big adventure. The big adventure in this novel is, of course, the 'fiesta', the bullfight, in Spain. I've taken more notice of the bullrings in Spain this trip, and listened to the bullfight history enthusiastically propounded by locals and tour guides. In my ignorance I thought bullfighting had been banned, but it turns out it's only banned in Catalonia, capital Barcelona. The 'fiesta' is alive and well in the rest of Spain and the year seems to be dictated by where/when the next fiesta takes place. Madrid, the main bullfighting city, has a whole month of fiesta. 


I've photographed many bullrings, but I don't know about you, I'm sure I couldn't stomach attending a bullfight.

To the main point of this post...in the excellent how-to writing guide - Manuscript Makeover - the author suggests as a writing exercise to find a paragraph from your favourite novel/author, and re-write it your way...

I was reminded of this exercise when I read a few paragraphs in Chapter 19, p.204, of The Sun...when the main character Jake is having dinner in Paris. I decided to re-write it using my own experience of a dinner in Paris in the Latin Quarter...with apologies to Hemingway and vegetarians...



'The restaurant was all reds and blacks. It wrapped its dark arms around me, welcomed me back after a long absence. The meal was typically French - plain peasant's food - mussels marinated in red wine which were dealt with quickly, then I was eating onion soup with soaked garlicky bread and long, stringy cheese which stuck to my chin. But what could beat the shot of sweet onion fragrance on a bitter winter's night? I wanted to live in the bowl, to be revived by the nourishing juices.

The waiter offered a free cocktail. I held the tiny jewelled glass against the light. Then I held it close to my nose, took a sip. It tasted of rose perfume, a sweet flavour that clashed with the onion. I pushed it aside and ordered a rosé  to accompany the Beef Bourguignon which was delivered to my table. The sharp aromas of tiny roasted onions, carrot, and rich, red beef...my stomach danced. The onion soup was already a distant memory. I adjusted my linen napkin on my lap and inhaled before I lifted my fork and speared a cube of tender meat. The flavour of the red wine mixed with onion and herbs revealed to me, if the mussels and onion soup hadn't already convinced me, that I was back in France.

It was pleasant beyond words to be drinking good wine and eating excellent food - a bottle of wine and a plate of comforting food is always good company.

The attentive waiter saw I was immersed in my food and drink and left me to my joys.

It was good to be back in France.'

I enjoyed writing this and it proves that I do actually write while travelling, but apologies to Papa who would have slashed and burned many of my descriptions. To give you an idea of what I tried to emulate -

'I went in and ate dinner. It was a big meal for France but it seemed very carefully apportioned after Spain. I drank a bottle of wine for company. It was a Chateau Margaux. It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company...' etc

How are you travelling? I wish you a wonderful 2014. Whether you make New Year's Resolutions or not (I don't), I invite you to join me in writing or illustrating something that could be classed as New Beginnings for Write...Edit...Publish's first challenge for the year. Sign up anytime from now until the 22nd...












37 comments:

  1. I've read both those books, Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises, Denise. I love Hemingway too, but I choose what of his works I read. I like his style, because I also like journalism, but because he had such energy in his words. I guess careful selection is key.(PS - not a bad rendition of Denise-Hemingway style)

    This post is an excellent way to tell us about your trip, a book and good travel info. I've never seen a bullring, don't think I'd stand watching a fight either. Have a great New Year, Denise!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post D.G. You have a great New Year too D.G.

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  2. Ah Paris - you're spoiled for choice, looking for books set in Paris.

    I, too, try to read books related to the country I'm visiting - and next week I'm off to Cuba. I've got Our Man in Havana, to reread. But it's not been easy, finding books in English - and my Spanish is pathetic so I need the translations. But somehow my Kindle is full of things to read (though I'm sure I've room for one more if you've got any suggestions!).

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    1. Jo, sorry to butt in here, but I believe Hemingway's To Have and Have Not is set in Cuba. I might be wrong, but it might be one to add to your list if you don't have it.

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    2. Great that you found a copy of Our Man in Havana. I think I saw the movie. And Val is right - To Have and Have Not is Hemingway's ode to Cuba. Enjoy your travels Jo!

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  3. Well, that post made me hungry and no mistake! We honeymooned in Paris, a city of extreme and bizarre contrasts. It sounds like you managed to choose a restaurant where the waiters were friendly rather than snooty. That can make or break a Parisian dining experience :)

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    1. You must return to Paris Botanist! I love snooty Parisien waiters. They always treat me nicely in the end.

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  4. With the mention of Paris in your title I knew D.G. would be here. Hemingway, as you know from his ghost visiting me on my blog, is a favorite. Bull fights are not. Knowing what I do of what they do to the poor animal BEFORE the fight saddens me.

    You did a great take as Hemingway. We must all be ourselves in our writing. Flow with your strengths. And if I am still here, I will be in your 22nd outing.

    Have a wonderful time on your trip. If I could I would wander New Zealand with DVD's of LOTR and XENA to guide me! Happy New Year, Roland

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    1. I put Paris in the title to make D.G. turn up! You'll get to NZ if you set your mind to it Roland. You'll believe you're in a set of LOTR when you get up those mountains. Have some great photos of it I should rustle up and send to you.

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  5. I was a Hemingway affecionato when I was in France back in the 70s. And I also witnessed and photographed a bullfight in Spain around the same time. Some of the best days of my life.

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    1. They would have been Richard. It's a great world/life.

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  6. Happy New Year! Great post and great writing! I would love to visit Spain but I'd have to say bullfighting would not be my thing, either...

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    1. I think maybe you need to be born to the culture.

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  7. Gosh, Denise, what a festive and sumptuous post. And this,

    'He claims he wrote every day from 5 am - 12 noon, when he put down his pencil (but not until he knew what would happen next), then meandered downtown to meet literary luminaries such as Gertrude Stein, Scott F Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound et al, and discussed his work/their work, helping each other's art.'

    What a life!

    I have to say I appreciate your humility in rewriting a passage you cherish and then assuming Hemingway would edit your words down to a nub. There remains something lush and feminine and genuine about the way you described the scene. It is uniquely Denise, and I enjoyed getting to know you more as I read it. Thank you, and Happy 2014! May it bring more joy to the senses than you can contain.

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    1. Thank you Suze. I love your New Year wishes. Right back at you. Thank you for liking my writing.

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  8. Happy New Year, Denise!

    Oh, how I love the Latin Quarter! What a great backdrop for a scene. May you continue to enjoy your travels!

    ♥ Mary Mary

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    1. I must set a story there. What a lush setting.

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  9. Lovely to be inspired by Hemingway in this trip of yours. I regret I;m not a Hemingway fan, but I can relate to your associations as I have the same feeling for Graham Greene. Interestingly, I see that Jo has got Our Man in Havana (a book I really love) as an accompaniment to her trip to Cuba. As you've been in Spain, I wonder if you know GG's Don Quixote, possibly my favourite book ever. I hope you are still enjoying this wonderful journey you are making, Denise!

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    1. Yes Val, last trip we did a 'Don Quixote' in the settings. This time we've travelled in 'Carmen' areas and will be looking forward to seeing the opera again now. Heard a lot of history of Ferdinand and Isabella and seen their palace etc. Been great.

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  10. Sorry…my blips…I meant to say Monsignor Quixote!

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  11. Wow, I was not expecting such a thoughtful, information filled post, with fresh writing of your experience while enjoying the sites. You could easily be a travel writer! This was beautiful! I don't think I've ever experienced such a sumptuous meal and while vicariously - I could taste, smell and see it all! Well done! Thank you! Although, now I'm off to the kitchen to find something to snack on - a New Year's resolution already broken! LOL

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    1. Ha Ha, Yolanda. In my other life I am a travel writer and I guess I indulge this part of me occasionally, or more than you think. I'll probably edit this for a travel mag.

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  12. I love to take books with me on my travels that take place where I am traveling because I get so excited locating the places in the book. I haven't read Hemingway in a long time, but after reading your post I am thinking of picking up one of his books. He does have a simple, to the point style and it is always fun to revisit books that I have read years before.

    Also- nice job rewriting the paragraph! I think you did a great job and you put you own touch on it. :)

    Wishing you a happy 2014.
    ~Jess

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    1. Thanks Cathy. I"m halfway through Weezie and plan to review it at the end of the month.

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  14. I could picture the scene very clearly and taste the food and wine on my tongue ~ How lucky of you to be travelling and writing about them ~ Cheers ~

    everyday amazing: Resolutions

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  15. Oooh a trip to Paris... I'm envious :)
    I've recently finished translating a Turkish novel for the readers in my country and it is also perfect to read while visiting Istanbul since the story follows the parts of the city in a very touristic way.
    Happy New Year, dear

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    1. I'll have to remember that when I go to Istanbul Dezi. Clever you!

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  16. Hi, Denise,

    That meal and atmosphere sounds perfect for a cold, winter's day in Chicago. Oh, how I wish I was in Paris now....

    I enjoyed YOUR version, Denise. Although I do love Hemingway, I LIVE for description and atmosphere. Painting word pictures is very exciting to me! LOL... Sorry, Ernest.

    I hope the rest of your travels are equally as exciting as your prose.

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    1. Yes, me too, but it's frowned on as a general rule now. Sadly, as that's the kind of writing I prefer to read.

      The last week in Spain will be wonderful and relaxing. Then to finish in Paris...hmmm. Happy!

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  17. I think you did an amazing job translating that passage to make it your own.

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  18. I enjoyed your Hemingway tribute. I've only read Old Man and the Sea. He's sort of the anti-Melville.

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    1. That's for sure! Never thought of it that way before.

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  19. Hi Denise .. I'm glad you gave us your menu and described those delicious dishes ... mussels - too good, a good beef bourgignon .. and that onion soup with garlicky cheesy bread ... Hemingway was way too brief!

    So glad you're enjoying your travels and you must be nearly on way home by now .. cheers Hilary

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