Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I can write like Hemingway!

Hemingway often spends a long time describing the orientation of the physical objects in his fiction. It may sound funny, but trees often "line roads" in Hemingway's works.

You know, it’s funny. As a writer, it’s very hard to turn off your writing brain. Even when you’re just reading for pleasure. For example, I’m currently rereading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and every time I pick it up, I can’t help but notice Hemingway’s writerly mannerisms. I mean, these mannerisms (if that’s what you want to call them; I almost think of them as tricks) are great. They're what make Hemingway Hemingway.

But they are very noticeable. For example, we all know that Hemingway’s sentences are often terse. But he also has a tendency to mention the things that are not there: “When I woke in the morning I went to the window and looked out. It had cleared and there were no clouds on the mountains.” He also often makes these sweeping generalizations using very simple words: “Bayonne is a nice town. It’s like a very clean Spanish town."And my favorite, he has these sentences in which a thing or feature of a thing being described leads into the description of another thing: “It was good to get out of the sun and under the shade of the arcade that runs all the way around the square.”

I decided to have some fun and write about an actual experience from my life as if I were Hemingway. The experience: on a recent trip to France, my girlfriend and I decided to drive the back roads to our destination instead of taking the highway because we wanted to avoid tolls. Now, just so you know, in this little exercise of mine, I'm going to embellish a little -- especially with parts where I mention alcohol. I hardly ever drink alcohol and I certainly wouldn't drink in a car! 

But let's see if we can pull this off. A real-life experience of mine, as told by "Hemingway." 
We decided to take the back roads to Annecy because we didn’t want to pay for tolls. Maya turned off the highway and started onto a road that had fields on either side. The day was warm and I had my window down. I looked out at the fields. In the distance was a small house and beyond the house were a few trees that gave shade to a barn that belonged to the house. I asked my girlfriend if I could turn the radio on but she said that she would prefer if it was left off because she had a headache from the beers we had had at the bar the night before and besides, she wanted to concentrate on the countryside.  
We kept on driving. At one point the road dipped down and then rose up before quickly dipping down again, but when we arrived at the small village that had been announced by the signs flanking the road, the road leveled. 
The village was very charming and it was very small and there were flower baskets hanging from the the street lamps along the main thoroughfare. After driving a little more we came to a fork in the road and there was a small stone church near the fork. Only a few people were in the streets and they were old or at least middle-aged or older. 
We didn’t know which road to choose so we took the one that led right and the moment we did I had the feeling that we had made the wrong decision and that we should have gone down the road that led left. But we took the road that led right. We drove down it slowly and on either side when you looked out the car windows were two-story houses like the kind you might see on the immediate outskirts of an industrial American city. The houses had stoops in front of them and a group of young kids were hanging around one of the stoops but they weren't looking at us. At the end of the road were large hedges and I think there were train tracks beyond the hedges but I’m not sure. I told my girlfriend to turn around and she did.
By this point the day had become very hot and I asked my girlfriend if she had packed the drinks and did she pack the ice in the cooler like I had requested and she told me that she had, so I got the ice out of the cooler and put it into a cup that I had with me in the front seat. As she drove back up the road I poured some soda and a little scotch into the cup with the ice and I mixed it and I waited for it to all settle before I took a sip. The drink was nice because the day had become so hot and I had been thinking for a pretty long while about how good it would be to have a drink, but not a drink with too much scotch. My girlfriend looked at me and asked why I had to have alcohol, but it is legal in France for the passenger of a car to drink alcohol and I told her that we weren’t breaking the law.