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Hemingway's Impressions: Learning to Voice the Classics in the Early Journalism

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Allen, Edward 


Forget the Lakers, forget the Sparks, forget the Chargers and the Rams; you can even give the Dodgers a miss. No, if you truly want to say you’ve sampled the sports scene in Los Angeles, you need to have played Ernest Hemingway. And by played, as seasoned competitors will know, I mean mimicked. The game has struggled for sponsorship in recent years, but for a little under three decades, commencing in 1977 in a restaurant ten miles or so west of Downtown LA, the International Imitation Hemingway Competition was the thing to enter if you had a ‘really good page of really bad Hemingway’ in you (Smith 1993). As well as attesting to the range of entries over the years, a meaty anthology, carved into two volumes, speaks to the challenge identified by one of the competition’s judges, Ray Bradbury – that it’s always hard to tell the difference between ‘“the good bad Hemingway”’ and ‘“the bad bad Hemingway”’ (Plimpton 1989: xx). One suspects Hemingway was too irritable, even paranoid, to be wise himself to this distinction, though he could see that ugly feelings had something to do with it. ‘“The parody is the last refuge of the frustrated writer”’, he is said to have carped: ‘“Parodies are what you write when you are the associate editor of the Harvard Lampoon. The greater the work of literature, the easier the parody. The step up from writing parodies is writing on the wall above the urinal”’ (Hotchner [1966] 2005: 70). Puerile, hastily done, forged under the influence – in more ways than one – this notorious take on parody hardly suggests a sporting humour. But then again, couldn’t this be the classic boxer’s feint? When you think about it, it does sound like a parody of parody.



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Symbiosis: a journal of anglo-american literary relations

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