Under Kilimanjaro was a rough ride, but it’s over now. This post concludes my six-word responses to Hemingway. Be sure to read my friend’s response to our Hemingstein journey here.
My top five Hemingway novels of our read are:
1. Death in the Afternoon
2. A Movable Feast (2009 edition)
3. The Old Man and the Sea
4. Garden of Eden
5. For Whom the Bell Tolls
While fiddling with the small novels, I found that I became partially obsessed, parsing words in speech and thought. I was on a constant lookout for the six-word gems, internally and externally. Like whittling wood, I cut my own inner voice down into six word snippets. I keep coming back to this one that I gleaned near the end of Kilimanjaro:
“Breakfast feels so good in advance.”
Once noticed, they don’t stop appearing. I am currently reading Colson Whitehead’s Zone One and came across this one:
“Society manufactures the heroes it requires.”
It’s incredible how much depth and breadth we can fit into six words. I am still on the fence about the effects of minimalist language/writing forms on society as a whole through texting, Tweeting, flash fiction writing, and status updating. Do we capture the core or miss the forest for the trees? Do minimalist forms serve as evidence for the erosion of language in our society? Current events have shown that significant political action and revolution can happen in 140 characters. There is a concise overview for the new year here.
This project has taught me that purpose drives and enriches form. I think that without consciously reaching into our own reservoir of language to carefully choose our words, yes, six words or 140 characters will never be enough and will fall flat. But that point begs the question, what we are reading to fill our reservoirs? Ralph Fiennes is famously quoted for his input on this topic here, which is disputed by The Guardian here. I did not necessarily want to debate the issue at this time but wanted to include some context surrounding the issue.
While committed to the six-word frame, I feel that I am getting closer to a truthful description. Every word and punctuation mark becomes precious, which I think is a novel shift in approach in our era of limitless scrolling within the vast and endless void of the Internet. For example, I found myself not wanting to waste slots with smaller articles or verbs, though you can see I have not shunned them completely. And, I often had to swap and interchange prepositions. The apostrophe helped cheat a bit:
My ring’s in my back pocket.
I started to combine phrases to see if they were any more interesting:
Man is utterly ruined by himself. And bottles were made to help.
I don’t think I could manage to do an entire story with the sentences in this form (Michael Rosen in the aforementioned Guardian piece reveals that he only used one-syllable words to write the article). I think it would become more of a gimmick than anything else.
In the end, these were fun.
I will continue to post other lines as they work themselves out.
These are the last of the Hemingways:
(1986) The Garden of Eden
A ménage à trois is thrice the trouble.
(1932) Death in the Afternoon
A writer sketches dances with bulls.
(1935) Green Hills of Africa
Never lose kudu in the bush.
(1964) A Moveable Feast
Important: Stay hungry and keep drinking.
(2005) Under Kilimanjaro
There is death in every joke.
Thanks for reading.
Ask no questions, receive no lies.