From the archives:

Three Hemingway letters

To F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I wonder what your idea of heaven would be— beautiful vacuum filled with wealthy monogamists, all powerful and members of the best families all drinking themselves to death. And hell would probably [be] an ugly vacuum full of poor polygamists unable to obtain booze or with chronic stomach disorders that they called secret sorrows.”

To a friend – on bullfighting: "It isnt just brutal like they always told us. It’s a great tragedy—and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and takes more guts and skill and guts again than anything possibly could. It’s just like having a ringside seat at the war with nothing going to happen to you.” To a friend – on learning to write: “God knows you’re in the most depressing and discouraging surroundings–but that’s what makes a writer. You have to catch hell. You’ve got to take punishment … Write a lot–but see a lot more. Keep your ears and eyes going and try all the time to get your conversations right.”

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2, 1923-25, eds Sandra Spanier, Albert J DeFazio III and Robert W Trogden, Cambridge, RRP £30


Wit and wisdom:

In an essay on Flann O’Brien in the London Review of Books, Jonathan Coe compiles some of his favourite jokes from the Irish novelist’s time as a journalist with the Irish Times. Here is O’Brien’s attacking clichés:

“When things are few, what also are they?

Far between.

What are stocks of fuel doing when they are low?


How low are they running?


What does one do with a suggestion?

One throws it out. For what does one throw a suggestion out?

For what it may be worth.”

From Jonathan Coe’s review in the London Review of Books, Vol 35 No 20

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