Friday, May 21, 2010

Funny Things About Serious People: Three for Papa

"Among the last of the species was big, curly-haired, broken-nosed Lionel Moise, a brilliant reporter who was also a poet, a cop-slugger, a heartbreaker, a singer of barroom ballads, and a great teller of barroom stories. He liked to start a story by saying, 'Did I ever tell you about the time I was in jail in Pocatello [or Fresno or Savannah]? I was but a lad...'....Besides telling stories, he liked to stand with his foot on a brass rail and discuss the art of writing fiction.

"I knew him first and best in 1919, when he was working briefly for the New York American....Much as I liked and admired him, I thought he was one of the many brilliant reporters of the time who had half-baked themselves by reading Nietzche....He could be cruel to women, and one year in Chicago there were two attempted suicides because of him....He had talent enough to have become a famous writer too, if he had ever acquired the discipline of the trade. As it was, he exerted a real influence on American writing, through the cub reporters who learned their jobs under him....I learned that Moise had worked for the Kansas City Star in 1917, when Hemingway was a cub there and listened to his lectures. 'Pure objective writing,' Moise would say time and again, 'is the only true form of story-telling.'"
-from The Literary Situation, by Malcolm Cowley, 1958

"Back in August, when the 4th Division was sweeping eastward from Normandy, Hemingway ranged ahead of it in his jeep and began making contact with the French irregulars. He was an imposing figure...The French were convinced that he must be a general, but Hemingway told them he was only a captain.

"A guerrilla asked him, 'How is it that a man so old and wise as you and bearing the scars of honorable service is still a captain?'

"'Young man,' Hemingway answered...'the reason is clear and it is a painful one. I never learned to read and write.'"
-from "A Portrait of Mister Papa" in Life, by Malcolm Cowley, 1949

"Then it rained hard on the dead wet leaves. And you knew that if you said it all truly there would be enough there for a long time. Enough of the olives and Baked Alaska when the air conditioner blew at you hard in the fine little room behind the zinc of the bar at Sardi's. Nick stood up and hit the waiter hard just below the temple. The man went down. The cool red borscht flew from his hands and spilled into rivulets. Three waiters came at us and you put the empty champagne bottle to your cheek and popped them down as they moved fast coming at you with a sudden rush. Hi ho, said Mary, as you counted the saucers and left a tip although you were poor. If it were true enough it would all be there. It would all be there if you said it truly."
-from The Adventures of Mao on the Long March, by Frederic Tuten, 1971

No comments:

Post a Comment