Monday, April 13, 2009


Hemingway wrote a story titled "Hills like White Elephants" in which a man and a woman have a discussion about one thing, but are really talking about something completely different. White Elephants have had a bit of a bum rap since then. All sorts of images are used in the story, and the hills along side the Ebro river (where the story takes place), are used as a metaphor. They could be interpreted to stand for a woman's breasts, or a woman's extended belly during pregnancy. In the story the woman is pregnant, and the man is trying to talk her into getting an abortion. Children are the white elephants in question, and the man wants nothing to do with having one. Of course not a whole lot of this is made particularly clear in the text, some knuckle head of a critic had to sort all the deep meaning out for us great unwashed. Sylvia Plath wrote a poem in which she compared herself to a house, it was also about being pregnant. Once again not obvious from the text. This led me to thinking about literary critics, and their place in the world. What if just for shit and giggles, good, old Ernest did merely stop at that train station by the Ebro one day, and think "damn those hills look like white elephants." Nothing else, just a story about some hills that remind me of white elephants, and I will place them in some vapid story about abortion just to see if I can "work them in." I have experienced this a couple of times in my own "writings." Some of my more intelligent, or less drunk readers sometimes ask me about a blog post, and credit me with far too much metaphoric ability. Sometimes a blanket is just merely a blanket, nothing else. No deep philosophical meaning, no great analogy meaning I had a cold, and distant mother during my childhood, and just want to be held. It would be a great larf if Faulkner, Poe, or Flaubert somewhere in literary heaven or hell, are sitting around laughing themselves stupid about how their stories are being used to mean something entirely different from what they themselves meant when they wrote it. What if "The Fall of the House of Usher" was about some poor carpentry that Poe had to endure, and pay for while building an outhouse? Here we are generation up generation of students who have had all this "deep meaning" crap shoved down our throat, when it is possible that some of these stories mean nothing more than what they appear to mean on the surface. All those pretentious bastards who sip Merlot, and disclaim about how Hawthorne symbolises Yankee ingenuity would be shocked out of their Ann Taylor knickers. Of course an alternative theory is that the critics got it exactly wrong. Perhaps all this time white elephants stood for man's inhumanity to man, and the operation mentioned in the story was to have her tonsils removed. That would be a laugh riot as well. The author in all his earnestness meaning one specific thing, and it getting misinterpreted to mean something entirely different. What a sad fate for any author. To be forever identified with one idea when what you really meant was the exact opposite. Like being shot out of a cannon, and realizing that some goofy bastard forgot to set up the safety net. Of course this takes the piss out of all of our icons. Can we really live with the idea that Ernest was just taking the piss out of us by writing about hills? Nah, let's not knock them off the pedestal that we have carefully placed them upon. Better to put the gloss we need on them, than to know that perhaps like Anais Nin they were writing porn for a dollar a page because they just fucking needed the money.


Cynnie said...

once during a lit class of some sort the prof was wanting us to see the meaning in books and short stories..
I asked him, what if a fire was just a fire ?
he got sooo pissed and basically said then Cyn I'd be unemployed, so start seeing mans inhumanity to man in that damn fire girl ..
I started bullshitting like a mofo and was star student .tada!!

I still dont see meaning to stuff..i'm pretty black and white ..and still cant write proper for shit
And i hate hemingway for the typical chick reason..
he was a pig

Anonymous said...

...but what if it was good porn? And maybe Hemmingway thought of porn too?

The Grand Inquisitor said...

I have read some of Nin's porn. It is quiet good and she got a buck a page for it. Back then not bad coin. However, that rather misses the point.