Jaynes Your Way

Here are my thoughts about films, life, and what not. If you don't like them I'll give your money back.

Ernest Hemingway

23 March, 2010

Mice: What books should a writer have to read?
Y.C.: He should have read everything so he knows what he
has to beat.
Mice: He can't have read everything.
Y.C.: I don't say what he can. I say what he should. Of course
he can't.
Mice: Well what books are necessary?
Y.C.:He should have read War and Peace and Anna Karenina
by Tolstoi, Midshipman Easy, Frank Mildmay and Peter Simple,
by Captain Marryat, Madame Bovary and L' Education Sentimentale
by Flaubert, Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, Joyce's
Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses, Tom Jones and
Joseph Andrews by Fielding, Le Rouge et Ie Noir and La Chartreuse
de Parme by Stendhal, The Brothers Karamazov and any
two other Dostoevskis, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The
Open Boat and The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane, Hail and
Farewell by George Moore, Yeats's Autobiographies, all the
good De Maupassant, all the good Kipling, all of Turgenev, Far
Away and Long Ago by W. H. Hudson, Henry James's short
stories, especially Madame de Mauves, and The Turn of the
Screw, The Portrait of a Lady, The American-
Mice: I can't write them down that fast. How many more are
Y.C.: I'll give you the rest another day. There are about three
times that many.
Mice: Should a writer have read all of those?
Y.C.: All of those and plenty more. Otherwise he doesn't
know what he has to beat.
Mice: What do you mean "has to beat"?
Y.C.: Listen. There is no use writing anything that has been
written before unless you can beat it. What a writer in our time
has to do is write what hasn't been written before or beat dead
men at what they have done. The only way he can tell how he
is going is to compete with dead men. Most live writers do not
exist. Their fame is created by critics who always need a genius
of the season, someone they understand completely and feel safe
in praising, but when these fabricated geniuses are dead they
will not exist. The only people for a serious writer to compete
with are the dead that he knows are good. It is like a miler
running against the clock rather than simply trying to beat who-
ever is in the race with him. Unless he runs against time he will
never know what he is capable of attaining.
Mice: But reading all the good writers might discourage you.
Y.C.: Then you ought to be discouraged.


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