Note: This post is part of The Hemingway Collection, an archive of essays, images, and hyperlinks to interesting articles about the great American author.
An essay on Across the River and into the Trees by David Gagne
About half-way through reading AtRaItT, I remembered to do what I had wanted to remember to do each time I read one of the Hemingway books, which is to say I remembered to take a pad of those yellow Post-It notes and mark things I found especially interesting so I would remember them later. I only had a few sheets of it, though, and by the time I was three-quarters of the way through the book, I was ripping them into little shreds because I found I liked so much of the book. Damn, he’s a good writer. What a remarkably lovely book. Well … here goes. Here are the six best:
- “Of course not,” the Colonel told her. “If he is a mediocre writer he will live forever.” p.139
- It was simply a splendid portrait painted, as they sometimes are, in our time. p.146
- What hand or eye framed that dark-ed symmetry? p.149
- The Colonel took the ten cetesini gondola across the Canal, paying the usual dirty note, and standing with the crowd of those condemned to early rising. p.184
- “Please love me true and tell me as true as you can, without hurting yourself in any way.” / “I’ll tell you true,” he said. “As true as I can tell and let it hurt who it hurts …” p.225
- We are governed by what you find in the bottom of dead beer glasses that whores have dunked their cigarettes in. p.227
The third is one of the most important to me. It confirmed something I have always suspected: at some point in his life, Hemingway had read Blake. There is something in a man’s mind, I think, that can be affected by reading too much Blake. And Hemingway had it. I also think that in his free time he must have taken up reading Shakespeare. There were more allusions, quotes, sayings, etc. from Shakespeare than I have seen in quite awhile in one work.
The fourth quote touched me (I’m so tired of hearing people say they were “struck” by something.) also, because for my whole life it seems, I have been one of those condemned to early rising. I have worked at a truck terminal in Seekonk, MA where I was awake long before the milk-carriers stared their rounds. And now I row for UF and the only ones on the road at 4:30am are donut-makers. Being condemned is exactly the best way to express that feeling. The world is run by people who have been long awake before sunrise.
And lastly, the sixth one was odd because he used almost exactly the same imagery, expression, smell, what-have-you in For Whom the Bell Tolls when Pilar was describing the smell of death. I guess when you find an absolutely perfect way to say something, there’s no shame in using it twice.
I wish he would have remembered to give the dog its sausage.