Random Carver, Hemingway & Faulkner

From two interviews with Raymond Carver:

CG: What writers interest you?

RC: When I was teaching, I chose writers I liked and who were useful to me as a young writer. Flaubert, his Tales and his letters, Maupassant (about whom I’ve written a poem, “Ask Him”), Chekhov, Flannery O’Connor, a novel by William Gass and his critical essays, Eudora Welty . . . .

CG: And Hemingway, with whom you’re so often compared?

RC: I’ve read a lot of him. When I was 19 or 20 years old I read a lot, and Hemingway was part of what I read. Hemingway interested me more than, for instance, Faulkner, whom I was reading at the same time. I’m sure I learned from Hemingway, no doubt about it, and especially from his early work. I like his work. If I’m compared with him, I feel honored. For me, Hemingway’s sentences are poetry. There’s a rhythm, a cadence. I can reread his early stories and I find them as extraordinary as ever. They fire me up as much as ever. It’s marvelous writing. He said prose is architecture and the Baroque age is over. That suits me. Flaubert said close to the same thing, that words are like stones with which one builds a wall. I believe that completely. I don’t like careless writers whose words have no moorings, are too slippery….

SDP: … many people see traces of “minimalism” in the style of the younger writers.

RC: Critics often use the term “minimalist” when discussing my prose. But it’s a label that bothers me: it suggests the idea of a narrow vision of life, low ambitions, and limited cultural horizons. And, frankly, I don’t believe that’s my case. Sure, my writing is lean and tends to avoid any excess. There’s a saying of Hemingway’s that I could take for my motto: “Prose is architecture. And this isn’t the Baroque age.”

Atlantic Unbound: “Tracking Hemingway.” Photographs of Hemingway and his homes in Key West and Cuba. Hemingway’s “old man” dead in Cuba at age 104, in 2002.

An excerpt from Robert Manning’s “Hemingway in Cuba“:

By the time I got the opportunity to meet him, he was savoring the highest moment of his fame — he had just won the Nobel Prize for Literature — but he was moving into the twilight of his life. He was fifty-five but looked older, and was trying to mend a ruptured kidney, a cracked skull, two compressed and one cracked vertebra, and bad burns suffered in the crash of his airplane in the Uganda bush the previous winter. Those injuries, added to half a dozen head wounds, more than 200 shrapnel scars, a shot-off kneecap, wounds in the feet, hands, and groin, had slowed him down. The casually comfortable Cuban villa had become more home than any place he’d had, and days aboard the Pilarwere his substitute for high adventure abroad.

In a telephone conversation between San Francisco de Paula and New York, Hemingway had agreed to be interviewed on the occasion of his Nobel award, but he resisted at first because one of the magazines I worked with had recently published a penetrating article on William Faulkner. “You guys cut him to pieces, to pieces,” Hemingway said. “No, it was a good piece,” I said, “and it would have been even better if Faulkner had seen the writer.”

“Give me a better excuse,” Hemingway said, and then thought of one himself. He saw the arrival of a visitor as an opportunity to fish on the Pilarafter many weeks of enforced idleness. “Bring a heavy sweater, and we’ll go out on the boat,” he said. “I’ll explain to Mary that you’re coming down to cut me up and feed me to William Faulkner.”

From William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1950):

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again.

An apology letter from William Faulkner to Ernest Hemingway. Faulkner audio files. A photograph of Faulkner.

An excerpt from Jean Stein’s 1956 interview with Faulkner for the Paris Review:

Beginning with Sartoris I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it, and by sublimating the actual into apocryphal I would have complete liberty to use whatever talent I might have to its absolute top.

My grandfather attended the University of Mississippi at Oxford. Faulkner lived in the town. Grandpa said Faulkner sat out in his yard every day, drinking and challenging the college boys to a game of tennis. Here are some photos of Faulkner’s home in Oxford.


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