Take Hemingway. People always think that the reason he’s easy to read is that he is concise. He isn’t. I hate conciseness — it’s too difficult. The reason Hemingway is easy to read is that he repeats himself all the time, using ‘and’ for padding.
As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.
I’m pointing out a couple of the common insults flung at Hemingway not to say they’re false – they’re true to a point – but to illustrate what one is up against when one tries to defend Hemingway and make a case for his writing. The author has become so polarizing that American readers have basically split into two camps:
1) Those who agree that Hemingway, along with his ex-pat pals like Fitzgerald, had in the 20s, 30s, and 40s brought about a refreshing change to literature, exchanging the over-wrought and ungainly prose of turn-of-the-century America, Britain, and France (looking at you Proust, Henry James) for a modern, precise, descriptive and quietly poetic style that has carried us forward into the current era of literature.
2) Those who believe as Wolfe and Nabokov do, that Hemingway was basically a chauvinist with a conjunction fetish. Once he was six feet under the Sawtooth Mountains, in 1961, it seems this second group dominated Hemingway discussions; that is, everybody just seems to make fun of him now. Between mocking his declarative style and bemoaning his macho pursuits (“bells, balls, and bulls” as Nabokov so awesomely put it), it seems a Hemingway appreciator – or one totally new to the man’s language – has a hard mountain to climb, and may just prefer to sit it out in the end.