Thursday, January 16, 2014

"All bad writers are in love with the epic."

A well-read friend sent this quote from Earnest Hemingway during an email conversation about so-called Mystical Journalism. I'm chuckling—I'm afraid I can't write that phrase with a straight face.

This too to remember. If a man writes clearly enough any one can see if he fakes. If he mystifies to avoid a straight statement, which is very different from breaking so-called rules of syntax or grammar to make an effect which can be obtained in no other way, the writer takes a longer time to be known as a fake and other writers who are afflicted by the same necessity will praise him in their own defense. True mysticism should not be confused with incompetence in writing which seeks to mystify where there is no mystery but is really only the necessity to fake to cover lack of knowledge or the inability to state clearly. Mysticism implies a mystery and there are many mysteries; but incompetence is not one of them; nor is overwritten journalism made literature by the injection of a false epic quality. Remember this too: all bad writers are in love with the epic.

OK, the friend was Pikkumatti. The quote is from Death in the Afternoon. With regard to false epic quality, Hemingway could have exhibited that by titling his famous book about Spanish bullfighting Death in the Afternoon and Me.


  1. Not that we were thinking of anyone in particular when this passage came to mind . . . but we sure didn't have to wait long for Exhibit A.

    How many items of what Papa H. is talking about can you find in that one? I see "seeking to mystify where there is no mystery", "injection of a false epic quality", and being "in love with the epic" for starters.

  2. As Mark Levin said once in reference to Dreher "...oh, the pain of it all...."