Shane's Reviews > Winner Take Nothing

Winner Take Nothing by Ernest Hemingway
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it was amazing

I picked up a Hemingway book after nearly 30 years. And yet he was a formative influence on me as a writer. The book reinforced to me that "dialogue is everything", nobody wins, but everyone changes, punctuation needs to be used for rhythm, actions are harder to describe indirectly but are more powerful when done that way, word repetitions are okay if they create effect, passive voice for scene setting is okay, and sentences that run along like this one are great - all taboos with today's writing schools and editors. To his credit, Hemingway may have pleased the pundits with his technique, which is 99% show rather than tell.

Many of the scenes in this collection centre around a bar or restaurant with plenty of alcohol to oil the wheels. The time shift in a scene set in a Swiss restaurant, a scene that seems to repeat itself over and over again, is only indicated by the changing of the room's decor. Normal people are contrasted with conflicted ones,the horrors of war are described in indirect but dramatic detail (the dead always have out-turned pockets and papers scattered abouth them, in addition to flies), teenagers have sex in the woods and the reader discovers this only in the dialogue occuring around the event. Hemingway is audacious by having the characters in a story set in Wyoming run through most of their dialogue in French - however the structure and content was such that this anglophone got it!

He frequently uses a panoramic viewpoint, focussing on an entire scene before zooming down to a character's POV within it - very cinematic. And his characters sometimes do not have names, nor are we clear of their sex - all part of his minimalistic technique. But he is still able to create memorable atmoshere out of the most original situations: the shell-shocked soldier roaming the battlefront, the couple breaking-up in a Paris restaurant, the boy and his father hunting in the woods, the scavenging sailor seeking his pot of gold in a wreck just out of reach, the three whores in a railway station, the self-absorbed bullfighter, the gambler suffering from gangerene with a bullet in his belly, and the nun praying to God that her favourite baseball team wins.

I felt liberated reading this book and wanted to raise a glass with Papa Hem (if he was still alive) saying, "Damn those who try to teach us to write. Writing comes from within, let no writing instructor, editor or publisher put us under."
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Reading Progress

May 30, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 29, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Tricia (new)

Tricia Dower I enjoyed this, Shane, especially the reminder that we should allow ourselves the freedom to write our own way. Thanks.

Shane You are welcome, Tricia. I felt that I had come home after a long detour called "Learn how to write". Reading this book will make me bolder now, like I was when I was a hotheaded teenager reading Hemingway and wanting to change the world with my writing.
I also took a peek at your website and your Shakespeare-like stories intrigue me. I will put it on my list - not sure when I will get to it, but I will sometime.

message 3: by Tricia (new)

Tricia Dower That would be wonderful! Thank you so much.

message 4: by Waheed (new)

Waheed Rabbani "... Writing comes from within, let no writing instructor, editor or publisher put us under."

Hear, hear, Shane. raising a glass of red wine to you.


message 5: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie I was going to say the same thing as Waheed! :)

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