Ernest Hemingway Quote and a Few Follow-Up Questions

“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”-Ernest Hemingway

What does this mean to  you?

Do you agree or disagree with Hemingway?

Why?

Discuss!

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16 thoughts on “Ernest Hemingway Quote and a Few Follow-Up Questions

    • It’s truly a to each their own type of thing, as a reader and a writer. Plenty of people like bare bones, others love fussy. Not to mention all of those who fall at various points in between.

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  1. I think what he’s getting at is that the writer provides a framework and the reader can – hell, must! – invest some of himself by filling in the details. It’s part of what makes the writer/reader relationship so intimate. They really do share in the act of creation.

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  2. I love Hemingway by the way. I have read all his work multiple times and taught him in college lit courses. However, let me say that perhaps for HEMINGWAY prose is architecture and by and large I agree, but not for everyone. The discovery of one’s own narrative voice or voices (I have several) comes about with time and the dedication to the writing process over time. If not, then perhaps writing is not the true vocation. But to make blanket statements about prose (what we call narrative and/or voice these days) is just not practical. Writing is not spandex–one size does not fit all. Some people marveled at Fitzgerald’s sparkling prose and others called it superficial! I think Hemingway was somewhat of a snob about himself and about literature in general. We all need to find out way through the forest here and take what previous and even contemporary writers say about the process with a grain of salt.

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    • Oh, absolutely. Hemingway’s opinion is, of course, perfect for Hemingway. Blanket statements usually best reflect the opinion of the person saying them. I think that this particular quote is great as a starting point, from the standpoint that you’ve got to have a proper foundation. Interior decoration doesn’t do any good if you don’t have a building to put it in. But, as you say, everyone is different. Anyone who takes another writer’s advice at face value without discovering it for themselves isn’t likely to be very successful or fulfilled.

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  3. I agree with Hemingway, and I think it absolutely fits his writing style. I often resort to “interior decoration”, but I think a solid framework is necessary first. Otherwise, the reader gets annoyed, and rightly so.

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    • Yes, it definitely fits his style. I agree with you. And I think a bit of “interior decoration” goes a long way. Too much, and it just seems like the writer is showboating.

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