Endings, Drafts and Ernest Hemingway

5 Jul
Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway at work. (AP Photo)

I was thrilled to read this New York Times article recently about a new edition of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, which includes 47 alternate endings and rough drafts of certain sections written by hand:

“For close readers of Hemingway the endings are a fascinating glimpse into how the novel could have concluded on a different note, sometimes more blunt and sometimes more optimistic. And since modern authors tend to produce their work on computers, the new edition also serves as an artifact of a bygone craft, with handwritten notes and long passages crossed out, giving readers a sense of an author’s process. (When asked in the 1958 Paris Review interview with George Plimpton what had stumped him, Hemingway said, ‘Getting the words right.’)”

A Farewell to Arms is one of my favorites novels, and it’s one I’ve loved since I first read it in high school. I’ve always emulated Hemingway’s writing style and believe that my style has been heavily influenced by his; I still believe that the best style is a precise, clean one, no matter how long or short the sentences, or how lean or image-laden the prose.

What I’m most excited about is being able to see his writing process, particularly the drafts of certain sections of the story. As all writers know, beginnings and endings are often the hardest parts to write, of any story–short or long–and to read all the possibilities he imagined and worked on before finally hitting on the “right” ending fascinates me.

I look forward to buying this book and to heading over to the JFK Library to view the Ernest Hemingway Collection— a collection I somehow have never seen, despite living so close.

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2 Responses to “Endings, Drafts and Ernest Hemingway”

  1. Tracy Staedter July 20, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Holy cow. 47 different endings. Good gravy. And so cool to know that a rough draft of his was published. Fascinating!

    • E.M. August 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

      It makes my 10 different drafts seem like nothing. Just thirty more drafts to go!

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Tracy Staedter

Science writing, editing and workshops

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