Earl Rovit and Arthur Waldhorn, eds.
Hemingway and Faulkner in Their Time
Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, 2005. 200pp.

NIIZEKI Yoshitaka

     Hemingway and Faulkner in Their Time is a compilation of comments or evaluations to William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway by writers coeval with them. Though one might wonder if this book is slanted in favor of the latter because of the two editors, Earl Rovit and Arthur Waldhorn, both of whom have lavished years of academic devotion on Hemingway, and dedicate this book to two great Hemingway scholars, Michael Reynolds and Paul Smith, yet their impartial editorial policy permeates their selection of materials.    Rovit and Waldhorn extensively range over letters and (auto)biographies of wide-ranging writers, and from them, they extract contemporary impressions and evaluations in literary world about works and lives of Faulkner and Hemingway. The two extinguished scholars' effort resulted in the congeries neatly condensed from lengthy biographies and collections of letters. Snippets from those are arranged chronologically, beginning from the Paris years when both writers set their literary career and ending at their death, and short profiles and interesting episodes about writers included serve well to knit these fragmented extracts and make this book eminently readable.

       Though these anecdotal descriptions are apt to be excluded out of a textbook for literary history, they inform us of unexpected ties (or grudge) among literary figures and it is quite often in the course of reading that they steal spotlight from the two principals. Let's say, a description about William Saroyan; "A blithe Californian spirit, Saroyan wrote (often with excessive sentiment) of his love for all humanity. In fact, despite the lovable folk drawn from his native Fresno---the characters in his Pulitzer Prize play, The Time of Your Life (1939) and his novel The Human Comedy (1943)---he was himself nasty, belligerent, and cruel to family, friends, and fellow artists (134)." Those who were touched with Saroyan's My Name Is Aram might be surprised at this biographical description telling about dissociation of the author's personality, and astonished that the exposure above is followed by the fact that he had a punchout with Hemingway in Paris immediately after the liberation in 1944.

       What makes the present work distinctive among other similar books is that the editors give two interesting chapters. The one of the two "The Poets Sing: On and Off Key," is made up of excerpts from critical or emotional appraisal of the two writers made by various contemporary poets, including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost. Though almost all poets in this chapter evaluate, as a matter of course, Faulkner and Hemingway as novelists, it is interesting that Wallace Stevens reckons them as "poets." "Now, the best man I can think of for the job is Ernest Hemingway... Most people don't think of Hemingway as a poet, but obviously he is a poet and I should say, offhand, the most significant of living poets, so far as the subject of EXTRAORDINARY ACTUALITY is concerned.... But supposing that Hemingway shouldn't be available: What about Faulkner? He is my second suggestion. For all his gross realism, Faulkner is a poet." (103) In spite of the fact that Stevens had a fist fight with Hemingway six years before the letter, the poet's discerning eye for literary achievements Hemingway accomplished is not blurred with this ungrateful memory.

       Another of the two unique chapters deals with how literary figures in the South accepted works of Faulkner and Hemingway. I had a vague sense that Hemingway was underestimated by Southerners, at least much more than Faulkner, but this chapter "Sounds of the South" has made me realize that I had only a superficial understanding of the literary context of the time in the South. In a letter, for example, Allen Tate expresses an objection against a review by Donald Davidson in which Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is severely criticized; "He [Hemingway] is unquestionably one of the great stylists of English prose, and it is not his fault if a horde of damn fools have taken him up.... We must not get so lost in our vision of what novelists should do to the Southern scene that we reject the version of "reality" given us by writers who are not Southern." (83) Tate goes so far to say "...if Hemingway were a Southerner he would be just the novelist we are looking for...." In response to Tate, Davidson sent a letter in which he candidly admits that he was discreet about his remarks; "I must confess that I extended myself at Hemingway's expense... I sacrificed Hemingway... in order to make a point against science...." (84) This correspondence would bring our academic attention back to an ideological tendency of New Criticism where agrarianism should restrain "science" from pervading the South. If we reread some works by New Critics, this chapter must bear different facets.

Noble style of Rovit and Waldhorn succeed in giving a vivid portrait of each of literary figures and as often as not casting light on a tangled aspect of praise and censure among contemporary writers. And in terms of the sprucely assembled book, we could quickly review a rough outline of a literary history around the center of the two Nobel Prize-winning authors. I can really recommend Hemingway and Faulkner in Their Time as a perfect book for those who are getting fed up with enormously complicated theoretical interpretations.