Friday, March 16, 2012

Wilder Words: Hemingway on Love

In the spirit of the great writer himself, I won't say much about the quotation above. But I do have one story about Islands in the Stream to share with you.

I first read Islands in the Stream in June of 2009. It was a dreary month up in Maine; three weeks of constant fog and rain. The book opens with the main character, Thomas Hudson, sitting in his house by a great driftwood fire. “The house,” Heminway writes, “felt almost as much like a ship as a house.” I loved this description; my family’s house in Maine feels like a ship, too. It’s on the smaller side and has many sneaky cabinets and details. But it was this description of a storm, as a storm raged outside my own window, that really got me (after the jump):

“He had a big pile of driftwood stacked against the south wall of the house. It was whitened by the sun and sand-scoured by the wind and he would become fond of different pieces so that he would hate to burn them. But there was always more driftwood along the beach after the big storms and he knew the sea would sculpt more and on a cold night he would sit in the big chair in front of the fire, reading by the lamp that stood on the heavy plant table and look up while he was reading to hear the norwester blowing outside and the crashing of the surf and watch the great, bleached piece of driftwood burning.”

The above is one of the loneliest and yet most comforting paragraphs I had ever read. It just reached right into me and I just…I don’t know, sitting there in my bed as the rain lashed against the windows, I just got it. It was one of those moments when great writing connected directly to my life. Walt Whitman writes of this experience in his poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry:

“And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.”

He means that he’s thinking of the reader as he writes; he’s thinking of you, of me. It’s a little spooky, because I, at least, believe that in some supernatural way Walt could see into the future and know that I, Charlotte Wilder, would someday be reading his poem. 

And that’s how I feel about the passage above, and about the quotation I wrote out as well. It feels like Hemingway wrote them to me. And I guess in a way he did—he wrote them to whomever reads them, and I, in June of 2009, was that whomever.

And shit, who ever does understand somebody that loves them?


  1. If love was meant to be completely understood it would cease to be interesting.

    1. I absolutely agree, Sabina. No one ever has a clue. And that's why it happens.

  2. I love the passage about the storm and reading too, its quite wonderful and reached into me as well.


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