the steps, or the finish line?

I saw an interesting article in the New York Times called, "To Use and Use Not." It's about a new edition of Hemingways A Farewell to Arms. In addition to some other material, it will include the fifty-seven different endings Hemingway wrote before he got to the one he wanted.

The actual ending ("It was like saying goodbye to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.") is famous. Probably not as famous as the beginning of Moby Dick or the ending of The Great Gatsby, but still quite well known.

I can't think, however, that reading all the failed attempts is really going to be that informative, except perhaps to give more evidence that writing can be difficult but worth the effort. Watching deleted scened on DVDs can be fun (and sometimes you can second-guess the decisions that went into the final cut), but if you're really studying film you'd be better off watching the actual film a few more times. That's where the most important lessons are.

(Also, typing the last two sentences up there, specifically "I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain," reminded me that when I write a sentence that has "aaaaaa and bbbbbbb and cccccc" rather than "aaaaaa, bbbbbbb and cccccc" (or, of course, "aaaaaa, bbbbbbb, and cccccc")...

Where was I?

Oh, yes, when I do the "and and and" thing, which I do despite the occasional disapproving email, I got it from Hemingway. Oh, well. That was one lesson I learned, and I didn't have to read fifty-seven other versions of the ending to learn it.


Speaking of Hemingway, he used to dislike semicolons, and for years I avoided them as well, though I've now become more flexible in that area. I do use them sparingly, however.

I just read an article about them at the New York Times blog called Drafts, which also posted the articles about commas that I linked to here. I'm definitely going to follow that blog from now on, in addition to "After Deadline," which I've read for years.

Also, in terms of Vonnegut's put down of semicolons, comparing them to transvestite hermaphrodites, I do have to wonder what he had against transvestite hermaphrodites. What had they ever done to him, to be compared to semicolons?

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