Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hemingway used this bit of descriptive prose in To Have and Have Not, set largely in Key West of the 1930s. Even today, its possible to imagine what streets he may have been writing about. It looks to me like he was filling the description with a variety of places, not some real walk on the Rocky Road, or Duval Street.

"He did not take the bicycle but walked down the street. The moon was up now and the trees were dark against it, and he passed the frame houses with their narrow yards, light coming from the shuttered windows; the unpaved alleys, with their double rows of houses; Conch town, where all was starched, well shuttered, virtue, failure, grits and boiled grunts, under-nourishment, prejudice, righteousness, interbreeding and the comforts of religion; the open-doored, lighted Cuban bolito houses; shacks whose only romance was their names; The Red House, Chicha's; the pressed stone church; its steeples sharp, ugly triangles agaisnt the moonlight; the big grounds and the long, black-domed bulk of the convent, handsome in the moonlight; a filling station and a sandwich place, bright-lighted beside a vacant lot where a miniature golf course had been taken out; past the brightly lit main street with the three drug stores, the music store, the five Jew stores, three poolrooms, two barbershops, five beer joints, three ice cream parlors, the five poor and the one good restaurant, two magazine and paper places, four second-hand joints (one of which made keys), a photographer's, an office building with four dentists' offices upstairs, the big dime store, a hotel on the corner with taxis opposite; and across, behind the hotel, to the street that led to jungle town, the big unpainted frame house with lights and the girls in the doorway, the mechanical piano going, and a sailor sitting in the street; and then on back, past the back of the brick courthouse with its clock luminous at half past ten, past the whitewashed jail building shining in the moonlight, to the embowered entrance of the Lilac Time where motor cars filled the alley. The Lilac Time was brightly lighted and full of people ........."

Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not, 1937.

And then, in the same novel, there's this:

"What they're trying to do is starve you Conchs out of here so they can burn down the shacks and put up apartments and make this a tourist town. That's what I hear. I hear they're buying up lots, and then after the poor people are starved out and gone somewhere else to starve some more they're going to come in and make it a beauty spot for tourists."

Talk about prescient!


Webmaster AKC 1 said...

Prescient of Hemingway to make the prediction, preceptive of you to bring it to our attention 70 years after he made it.

A friend of mine, whose life unwittingly mimicked Harry Morgan's (and who left Key West 10 years ago), upon reading "To Have and Have Not" was amazed at the accuracy of Hemingway's prediction. "The guy called it right!"

Contrary to the opinions of the cognoscenti and Hemingway himself, for me "To Have and Have Not" is one of his best--and most preceptive--works.

cafe selavy said...

Concerned Neighbor,

You are right about the novel. it has some great writing like the passages posted here. Hemingway's problem with the novel lay in its structure, not in his observations or his characters.

I'm glad to read those passages here. I'm going to reread the novel tonight. Thanks.

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