Hemingway on the sun also rising

Monday, May 2, 2011

11:30 AM. So, Papa, the thought that came to me a few minutes ago, did you inspire it, or if not where did it come from? The thought is, you named the book “The Sun Also Rises” – and I don’t know that I ever really absorbed the implications of the title.

Thank you. It certainly has taken long enough for that to penetrate. I would have thought it so obvious as to need no comment, but 90 years on – or nearly enough – apparently it still isn’t obvious to people.

I feel like you want me to say “none of the critics ever noticed,” and it makes me nervous lest Hemingway scholars might be able to say, “not only did they notice, but the real Hemingway knew they noticed.”

Well, it’s understandable, but I don’t see what you can do about it. If you’re going to go exploring, you’re going to have to take some risks.

I suppose so. And so –?

I don’t remember anybody ever, anywhere, seeing the title in its proper light. They all saw Gertrude’s comments, and somehow they read right by the quotation beneath hers, reading it as “vanity of vanities” rather than as, “this too shall pass away.”

It also rises, meaning the war was the end of something but something else was going to take its place?

You can’t confine symbols to one meaning, you should know that. It also contrasted Spain’s continuity with France’s dis-continuity, and with the West in general. Nobody would have to tell the Spanish that the sun also rises; it’s only the degenerate sophisticates who get stuck in a moment as though the world was created that morning and would go on in that condition forever.

So you were painting a moment. Shooting a photograph.

All my work was photographs.

Whose idea was it, then, this morning? Mine? Mine by way of you? Or what?

You don’t have the right definitions to talk about it. Ask your guys, some time. They do good theory.

All right. Tell me, is there any reason I couldn’t do the book on you and the myth? Starting now, I mean?

You’d need to give some thought to the predominant emotion, or feeling, you want to convey. Get that firmly in mind and the rest is exposition.

And I need to do that.

It’s the only way it will be yours and not borrowed.



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