The Old Man and the Sentence

Posted on August 20, 2007 by Steve

One can hardly overstate the influence Hemingway had on modern style. Condensed to an extreme in his six-word story, his terse prose is immediately recognizable. Isn't it? Here are eight excerpts from eight well-known authors; see if you can match them up.

Ernest Hemingway
Franz Kafka
George Orwell
Edgar Allan Poe
Ayn Rand
Gertrude Stein
Mark Twain
Kurt Vonnegut

(1) a child one really knew too much about Spain and China, and France was interesting while Spain and China were familiar, and daily. France was not daily it just came up again and again.
It came up first in such different books, Jules Verne and Alfred de Vigny and it came up in my mother's clothes and the gloves and the sealskin caps and muffs and the boxes they came in.
There was the smell of Paris in that.

"I cannot stand this life here. If you want to hold on to me, we must leave and go somewhere else, to southern France, or to Spain." "I cannot go abroad... I came here in order to stay here. I will stay here." And in a contradiction he didn't bother to explain, he added as if speaking to himself: "Now what could have attracted me to this desolate land other than the desire to stay?"

It felt comfortable to be in a country where it is so simple to make people happy. You can never tell whether a Spanish waiter will thank you. Everything is on such a clear financial basis in France. It is the simplest country to live in. No one makes things complicated by becoming your friend for any obscure reason. If you want people to like you you have only to spend a little money. I spent a little money and the waiter liked me. He appreciated my valuable qualities. He would be glad to see me back. I would dine there again some time and he would be glad to see me, and would want me at his table. It would be a sincere liking because it would have a sound basis. I was back in France.

No one in his senses supposed that there was any hope of democracy, even as we understand it in England or France, in a country so divided and exhausted as Spain would be when the war was over. It would have to be a dictatorship, and it was clear that the chance of a working-class dictatorship had passed.

The Rome of two thousand years ago rose on the shores of Lake Michigan, a Rome improved by pieces of France, Spain, Athens and every style that followed it. It was a "Dream City" of columns, triumphal arches, blue lagoons, crystal fountains and popcorn. Its architects competed on who could steal best, from the oldest source and from the most sources at once.

To the westward, the northward, and the southward, as far as I could see, lay a boundless sheet of apparently unruffled ocean, which every moment gained a deeper and deeper tint of blue. At a vast distance to the eastward, although perfectly discernable, extended the islands of Great Britain, the entire Atlantic coasts of France and Spain, with a small portion of the northern part of the continent of Africa. Of individual edifices not a trace could be discovered, and the proudest cities of mankind had utterly faded away from the face of the earth.

We shall remember something of pleasant France; and something also of Paris, though it flashed upon us a splendid meteor, and was gone again, we hardly knew how or where. We shall remember, always, how we saw majestic Gibraltar glorified with the rich coloring of a Spanish sunset and swimming in a sea of rainbows.

When the war ended, the young rakehell of the Rumfoord family, Remington Rumfoord, IV, proposed to sail his steam yacht, the Scheherazade, around the world, visiting Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, India, China, and Japan. He invited Johnson to accompany him as first mate, and Johnson agreed.
Johnson saw many wonders of the world on the voyage.

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Posted by RWH | August 20, 2007 | 16:32:48

I recognize none of the excerpts explicitly, nor can I really place the styles (those that I know), so I'm relying on textual clues and seat-of-my-ass guessing. In order of excerpts:

1) Stein
2) Kafka
3) Hemingway
4) Orwell
5) Rand
6) Poe
7) Vonnegut
8) Twain

Posted by gareth | August 25, 2007 | 01:45:01

1 stein
2 raynd
3 hemingway
4 orwell
5 twain
6 kafka
7 poe
8. Vonnegut

this is a total (cheat) groupwork effort. noelle and i have pieced this together, with a bit of discussion, but no consultation of sources. only 8 was a gimme.

Posted by Eric Phillips | August 27, 2007 | 10:39:41

I've never read anything by Stein or Rand, but I'm confident of enough others that maybe I've managed to piece together a respectable effort:

1. Stein
2. Kafka
3. Hemingway
4. Orwell
5. Twain
6. Poe
7. Rand
8. Vonnegut

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