Yesterday I wrote that the reason I didn’t take any Hem to Thailand with me was because it made me into a rank imitator. Perhaps I should have re-read some more before I left:
You know what’s the trouble with you? You’re an expatriate. One of the worst type. Haven’t you heard that? Nobody that ever left their own country ever wrote anything worth printing. Not even in the newspapers … you’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes.”
Maybe if I’d re-read that, from The Sun Also Rises, instead of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, I’d have reconsidered my trip, which ultimately lasted five and a half years. Well – now safely ensconced back in America’s cold embrace and thus free of the danger of detriorating into a dithering expat – seems to me that the equivalent of the Paris cafes of the 20s are the lit blogs. To wit, from Hem’s “A Paris Letter”:
“… loafers expending the energy that an artist puts into his creative work in talking about what they are going to do and condemning the work of all artists who have gained any degree of recognition. By talking about art they obtain the same satisfaction that the real artist does in his work.”
Except on many a lit blog, they don’t condemn, they praise to ridiculous excess. Daisy chains of unearned affirmations. Writers writing about writers writing about writing. Hem would not approve. Hem also spent many an hour in the cafes of Paris. Anyone care to sort out the moral of the story?