Stop Misquoting Leonard Cohen and Ernest Hemingway. Start Listening and Reading.

Consider the misquote. It lies in that same realm as citing fake news or reading only the headline. Misquoting is certainly nothing new, but the internet allows a fake quote to be retweeted a thousand times before the truth has even clicked send.

I’ve written about this before, of course. In the summer of 2015, I wrote a blog post called Six Things Hemingway Never Said, in which I listed a series of fake, inaccurate, misappropriated, or apocryphal Hemingway quotes and their origins.

leopard
“Live. Laugh. Love”

Since then, of course, it has only gotten worse. Consider the following list of quotes, provided by Google when one searches for ernest hemingway quotes:

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-12-21-40-pmI won’t catalogue all of these, but let’s say that they range from context-free to paraphrased to nonsense. The seventh is a misquote of a line he said during a famous article by Dorothy Parker in The New Yorker, while the last one on the list sounds like the social media status update of a moody teen.

Why do we misquote?

What is it about the internet and misquoting? What drives one to repeat something that someone else said without bothering to make sure that person said it?  Why would you put something on your Facebook wall, why tweet it, why make it into a cute photo for Instagram without confirming that, yes, it’s a real quote? Continue reading “Stop Misquoting Leonard Cohen and Ernest Hemingway. Start Listening and Reading.”

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In Honor of Moby-Dick’s 165th Birthday, the 10 Best Moby-Dick Homages, Adaptations, and Celebrations

Happy Birthday, Moby-Dick!

Not the whale, but the book. 165 years ago today, Herman Melville’s epic novel was published in America for the first time. (A different version of it had come out in England one month earlier, but today is accepted as the anniversary of the version the world knows).

In honor of this anniversary, I think it’s worth taking a moment to look at the books, movies, music, and more that we have as a result of Moby-Dick‘s legacy.

Leviathan ’99 by Ray Bradbury

“The doomed crew of a starship follows their blind, mad captain on a quest into deepest space to joust with destiny, eternity, and God Himself . . .”

leviathan-99

Sound familiar? This novella—collected alongside “Somewhere a Band is Playing” in Bradbury’s Now and Forever—is an unapologetic retelling of Moby-Dick. It’s also sci-fi, set in space, like one or two other works on this list.

Note that this isn’t only a book, but has also been a radio production and a playContinue reading “In Honor of Moby-Dick’s 165th Birthday, the 10 Best Moby-Dick Homages, Adaptations, and Celebrations”

Why Everyone Should Calm Down and Take Vonnegut’s Approach to Talking about Big Game Hunting

People love to shame these days. They also love to shame the shamers. And with the tendency for the internet to get hysterical about anything that seems worthy of hysteria, we have turned our outrage to the recent poaching of a beautiful and famous African lion, named Cecil.

The entire world appears to be dividing into two camps: a) those who are outraged over the recent death of this beautiful beast, and b) those who think that the people being outraged over this beautiful beast makes you evil. There is, unfortunately, like most political issues, very little middle ground being sought. On one side, you have people calling for the death-by-hanging of the wealthy and unethical suburban dentist with a history of killing animals, both legal and illegal. On the other side, you have people who think that the real problem here is that people are talking about a lion when they should actually be talking about abortion (yep, that’s something that people are saying, including presidential hopefuls. I guess you have to say whatever it takes to be heard over the screaming of Donald Trump.)

Poor Jimmy Kimmel misses his friend.
Poor Jimmy Kimmel misses his friend.

And then you have all the sane voices, on both sides of the issue and in all the places in between, being drowned out by the hysteria.

When it comes to saner voices, there is one who I wish could still be here today: Kurt Vonnegut. He died a few years ago, but during his lifetime he consistently wrote intelligent, calm, thoughtful words about the things that troubled him and the things that faced society. Continue reading “Why Everyone Should Calm Down and Take Vonnegut’s Approach to Talking about Big Game Hunting”

Six Things Hemingway Never Said

The internet loves a good quote. Trouble is, the internet rarely cares if the quote was said by the person whose name follows it. It also rarely cares if the person being quoted would have ever, under any circumstances, said anything like what they are being quoted as saying.

What troubles me about this is that the result is often that important people, who said meaningful things, are turned into completely different entities on Facebook walls and in hashtags and in the kinds of stories that get forwarded on. One good example is that college classroom story in which Einstein proves God exists. Or a lot of the content in the subreddit /r/thathappened. This is also a practice that has been thoroughly mocked by Clickhole, as evidenced by the photo below:

One of Clickhole's many brilliant moments.
One of Clickhole’s many brilliant moments.

But worst of all, in my opinion, but also very hilarious, are the stories, quotes, and misquotes attributed to none other than the alcoholic, suicidal, and apparently benevolently-inspiring Ernest Hemingway.

Here are some of those misquotes: Continue reading “Six Things Hemingway Never Said”

The Snow Also Rises 2: Jon Snows of Kilimanjaro

Note: This is a follow-up to The Snow Also Rises, the previous post on this blog.  Read that before you read this.  

During a recent Q&A, one of the two producers of HBO’s Game of Thrones stated that they set out to make the television show with “no prophecies, dreams, or flashbacks.” It’s hard to believe they ever thought the first possible, considering that the books are ripe with prophecies.  Most amount to be false leads, red herrings, etc., but there are flashbacks throughout, most involving Daenarys and those she loves.

Most, if not all, of the prophecies in A Song of Ice and Fire are opaque, dishonest, or lead to dead ends.  But most readers still hold hope for things such as Jon Snow being either The Prince Who Was Promised or the reborn Azor Ahai.  Brian, a friend and reader of this blog, pointed out that, in addition to A Song of Ice and Fire losing literary merit if Jon Snow’s parentage is revealed, Jon’s own path to being a hero loses merit as well.  He should not have his lineage exposed, but, as Brian says, there should be “no known external source… that gave him his power.”

Jon’s path, his journey, his own path along the flat circle that is a monomyth, these things are only weakened if the story falls back into the classic (and cheap) narrative of what can only be properly called “magic hero king blood.”  Jon’s story is that of a bastard boy who rose to the top of the Night’s Watch, so far, and will achieve greater things in the future.  Only we as readers should know that he is achieving the fate he could have been born into.

Regardless of how things pan out, this is pretty cool.
Regardless of how things pan out, this is pretty cool.

Next, we have further musings on the analogue between Ned Stark and Jake Barnes. Continue reading “The Snow Also Rises 2: Jon Snows of Kilimanjaro”

The Snow Also Rises: Thoughts Regarding Ned Stark, Jon Snow, and Jake Barnes

 Note: The following contains “spoilers” for the novel A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  Some of these spoilers are based on details that did not make it into the HBO television show (possible not yet, possibly not ever).  However, there are no spoilers for Martin’s subsequent novels in his A Song of Ice and Fire series.  There is also a lot of information about The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, but that book came out a long time ago.  

If you are not familiar with The Sun Also Rises, the narrator is Jake Barnes, an impotent American expatriate living in Paris in the 1920s.  Jake Barnes is, for our purposes, both the Ned Stark and Jon Snow of his story.  Like Ned Stark, he holds unfortunate secrets, and like Jon Snow, he is held back by forces beyond his power.

What Hemingway does in TSAR is something that Martin does in A Game of Thrones: he gives us unclear inner monologues, in which a truth is hinted but not revealed.  In TSAR, we get it was a rotten way to be wounded and a flashback scene in which a commanding officer assures Jake that he gave more than his life, but without ever specifying what exactly it was that he gave.  As the novel goes on, and if you read the Wikipedia page or discuss it in class (or, sometimes, if you just read the back cover), you realize that Jake suffered a wound that resulted in impotence.  The details are unclear.  Is he a eunuch?  Is he simply impotent?  What exactly happened?  This stuff is never explained, but there is one thing everyone can agree on: there is no other explanation for the novel, and a bunch of those scenes, other than Jake not being at 100% as far as his genitalia is concerned.  But that Hemingway decided to just allude to this as heavily as possible without every actually saying it.

One of many cover's for this important novel.
One of many covers for this important novel.

In AGOT, we watch Ned fever-dream about his sister dying in “a bed of blood and roses” while not explaining how she died, why, or, really, anything, other than that she repeatedly said promise me, Ned, on her way out. Continue reading “The Snow Also Rises: Thoughts Regarding Ned Stark, Jon Snow, and Jake Barnes”

Hemingway Against The Oxford Comma

There is a new meme out there (well, perhaps it’s not new, but it is all over Facebook.)  It encourages people to use the Oxford Comma. And while I don’t have particularly strong feelings about the Oxford Comma, the argument being made is that you must use it.  I disagree with this, which is why I have decided to start my own rebuttal meme: Hemingway Against the Oxford Comma.

My response is quite simple:

That’s it.  A Hemingway quote, the work from which it came and the accompanying statement “Why I don’t use the Oxford Comma.”

There are a few other good ones I am about to generate as well, at the convenient website memegenerator.net.  I encourage you to join me if you have been annoyed by this recent insistence that people are fools unless they use The Oxford Comma.  Of course, this is nothing new.  People like getting indignant about this, as evidenced by NPR and The Stranger and this website and Salon.  I believe it is about time that a legitimate argument was staged against the Oxford Comma. Continue reading “Hemingway Against The Oxford Comma”

10 Things That Would Have Ruined Midnight in Paris

Do Not Read This Unless You’ve Seen Midnight in Paris.

Why?  Because this isn’t a review of Midnight in Paris.  It’s a recap of why I liked it so much, by categorically listing all the things that would have spoiled it for me.

Continue reading “10 Things That Would Have Ruined Midnight in Paris”