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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hemingway Was 'Completely Ashamed' When He Read Her Book

Owen Wilson's character meets Hemingway in Woody Allen's new flick.

Recently, while watching Midnight in Paris - Woody Allan's new smart and satisfying rom-com - I was reminded of Hemingway's spare and forceful style of prose.

Every evening, Owen Wilson's character is transported from modern day wanderings with his fiance in Paris, to the 1920's nightlife of the city, meeting a succession of artists and writers from that era.

Thinking about the scene where Owen Wilson meets Hemingway, I was reminded that as great as Papa was, there was a book he read by female pilot Beryl Markham that made him feel "completely inadequate."

Those words are never uttered in the movie, but he did admit as much in a letter to Maxwell Perkins - and the words speak for themselves.

"Did you read Beryl Markham's book, West with the Night? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would have put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers. The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people's stories, are absolutely true....I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book."

I had the good fortune to read West with the Night years ago. If you're looking for a good summer read, download it from Amazon or find it at your local bookstore. And if you're looking for a clever romantic comedy that pleases the eyes and intellect, check out Midnight in Paris.

As you know, the smart movies often don't last long.

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