Saturday, October 10, 2015
F: 5:15 a.m. Okay, Papa, continuing.
EH: I’ve been thinking about it, and it seems to me, to understand my life you cannot view it as either objective or subjective account
F: I sort of kluged that, I think. Again?
EH: You merely left the middle term out of the statement. The statement stands, if you merely read it as, to understand my accounts of my life, you need to see that they were a mixture of objective and subjective description. I lived it, as I talked about it, partly as thing ought to have happened in fact, and partly in conformity to a pattern invisible to others, and as we have said partly as things ought to have happened, and – come to think of it – as it would be nice if it had happened that way. It is because people don’t understand this, or refuse to meet it on its own terms, that they write me off, as you were tempted to at one point, as a poseur or in fact merely a liar.
F: That irritating guy who wrote Hemingway Goes to War certainly did. Irritating, obtuse, judgmental, superior.
EH: So did you like the book?
F: Very funny. And I thought it was odd that the book was for sale in the bookstore at the Hemingway House in Key West. Charles Whiting, I think it was.
EH: All right, so focus on 1925, 1926, 1927. Before those years, I was firmly rooted – so I would have said – and although my life was ringed by economic insecurities, I was conforming to a recognizable pattern, if only in my mind. But – you see how easily we come out with statements like “only in my mind.” In my mind was where my life was being intuited, moment by moment, unbeknown to myself, like the Irishman in Lincoln’s joke.
F: I can see a source of confusion here.
EH: Yes, you can. And if you can clear it up for people. I’ll be much obliged.
F: It’s a problem with language. It seems to me we’ve expressed it more than once, but I can’t exactly remember.
EH: Try, anyway.
F: Okay. I’d say, if you weren’t such an obviously physical man, it would be easier for people to realize that you were intensely intuitive as well. And if you weren’t a writer, maybe it would be easier for them to realize the breadth of your range, so that the man who hunted and fished and went to war was the same man who knew classical music, even opera, and haunted art galleries, and – as your friend Morley said – “read everything.” I remember some guy somewhere who said you “pretended to be” an outdoorsman but had a library of 7,000 books. He didn’t get it.
EH: No, he didn’t. But what you have said here so far is more an analogy than a description of what we’re trying to get at.
F: Don’t think I don’t know it
EH: Keep trying.
F: You were a mass of contradictions.
EH: Not exactly. More like, I was a bundle of contradictory elements, and none of them remained submerged or defeated or ignored for long. As soon as one element or another became dominant, contradictory or complementary elements began accumulating steam to emerge in their turn.
F: You not realizing it, of course.
EH: Not recognizing the pattern’s cause, but certainly recognizing the pattern’s existence, after a while. And after a while concocting my own story about myself to make it all look consistent.
F: Damn, this is hard. I hear you and I know what you’re expressing and still the words mislead.
EH: I don’t know anything to do but keep trying. Why do you think I wrote so slowly? It wasn’t that I didn’t know words, it was that I had to wrestle with them to make them say only so much and no more, only so much and no less. Ultimately, it isn’t possible, but trying for the impossible is how you do your best work. Even if people misunderstood, I had done enough work on it that people who did get the sense of it got more than they would have if I hadn’t worked so hard at it.
F: So, keep trying.
EH: Of course keep trying. And, in case you don’t recognize the process, this is what you have to do, from the non-physical, if you are going to give a sense of something complicated to people in the 3D who can’t get it directly in the way you and I are linked at the moment – you wind up going at it from this angle, then going back and going at it from another angle, and then from a third, and a fourth, and as many as necessary or until time and patience run out.
F: I told the guys, or somebody on your side, once, that I could hear people misinterpreting something I was saying, and they said, “try it from our side!”
EH: Very true. True enough in your ordinary lives, too, but less noticed because you have so many things to bridge the gaps. Person-to-person contact, physical clues, association of ideas if it is something familiar – it all helps. Operating without these cues to bridge the gap is merely the same process a little more sketchily. So – try some more.
F: You lived an intensely physical life that extended beyond the range of most people, though the friends you gathered were more able than most to stretch toward both your extremes. I suppose that’s why you kept attaching new ones and losing old ones – as your life kept moving, you kept moving, kept changing. But the immediate point is, you lived not an intellectual or a non-intellectual or even an anti-intellectual life, but all three, alternately or simultaneously.
EH: So far so good. And –?
F: Hmm. Within your mental world, you lived partly by analysis and partly by – no, that’s over-generalizing.
EH: It is over-abstraction, rather.
F: Okay. Oh, and that’s why we’re going through your life looking at one or another situation, isn’t it? To provide specific examples of something not easily said or seen.
EH: Yes. Take any given thing, and in my case it is usually easier to tie things to something I wrote, but it could be just as easily done with something I lived, and best done by looking at something I lived, and wrote about, and changed by the alchemy of living its aftermath. In other words, it isn’t just a matter of my rearranging my stories to meet the requirements of my art, though that is there., and it isn’t a matter of trying to make my life look better to myself and others by prettying it up after the fact, though people think they see that there, and it isn’t even my expressing the way it should have been, so much as expressing ways it could have been – and all that wasn’t the limit either. Beyond all of these things, and folded into them, was a sense of something beyond our conscious knowledge but real, and having to be taken into account, even if we couldn’t see it very clearly.
F: It occurs to me, other things crept in, too. Taking shots at people like Gertrude Stein or Scott Fitzgerald as a way of carrying on an argument. In your writing, I mean.
EH: Yes only don’t be too sure at any given time that I’m doing only that. Take the parts of Death in the Afternoon that you objected to as being out of place. They were out of place if you compared them to your model of what the book should be doing, and how it should be aimed, and even who it should be aimed at. But that isn’t what I was limiting it to. I was stitching bullfighting as an aspect of life with other aspects of life that would be more familiar to the people who would be likely to read the book. It was solidly based in bullfighting fact; it was also
F: Oh! I got it! Like Moby-Dick!
EH: Correct. It wasn’t merely writing about the subject; it was bringing you into the mind of those who cared about it. It was stretching a long net from you to them, when you yourself were already a net stretched as far as you could be between your own background and this new world you had discovered and, in one sense of the world, colonized.
F: But there is our hour.
EH: Yes, but look how far we have come, even if we haven’t come anywhere as far as you can see. We are getting people the underlying ideas they need if they are going to understand first how living with Pauline changed my life, and then how breaking with her changed it again – and how, in both cases, the break was result, as well as cause. So, next time, we’ll get a little closer to the turtle we are pursuing.
F: Okay. Till then. Thanks as always.
Saturday, October 10, 2015