Sunday, 18 January 2015

Short Stories In Six Words

It is claimed Ernest Hemingway once wrote a six-word short story that could make people cry for a bet. The wager was ten dollars, which Hemingway won with the following: "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." However, there's no hard evidence that this ever happened...
...Here’s how Mr. Hemingway described the author’s role in his Nobel Prize winning speech in 1954: "Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

I'm sure Dave is well aware of this anecdote. I'm just wondering what were/are thoughts on the story itself, the question of its validity, AND the quote discussing authors lives. Could you forward this to him?

Cerebus #251 (February 2000)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Hey Tim. I remember hearing about that anecdote. Wired magazine got a lot of authors (including Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Stan Lee (insert joke about the 'Marvel Method') to do their own version (of the long list, I think I like Alan's the best)

Not sure what Dave would make of it, but my first instinct was to laugh, since I recalled Dave's notes in "To Ham and Ham Not" in the back of Form & Void where he said that Hemingway was trying to come up with a way to create more by doing less, and basically just type type typing. What better way to do that than to basically write classified ads (albeit very clever ones)?

I'm kind of surprised it moved Arthur C. Clarke to tears, but I guess that ties in with the old idea of "an infinite number of drunk typists type type typing away 6 word short stories as an expression of primitivism will sooner rather than later come up with something that will make the creator of 2001: A Space Odyssey and that scene with all the apes at the beginning cry."

Ahhh, I shouldn't be cruel; Hemingway DID write The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, which I thought was very good. It's just too bad they didn't know about fractal mathematical equations back then; otherwise he could have just used one of those as the world's shortest "choose your own adventure" story generator by having people plug in their own numbers.

Hemingway's speech about what it takes to be writer sounds like good advice to me; I'm just not enough of a Hemingway scholar to know for sure how much of it he actually followed it himself. My guess would be, probably not very much.

Hey maybe you could post that email as an Aardvark Comment, or with excerpts from the Wired article as an AMOC blog post? And if Dave has any inclination or time, he could respond to it if he wishes? 

(from Wired Magazine, November 2006)
We'll be brief: Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") and is said to have called it his best work. So we asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves. Dozens of our favorite auteurs put their words to paper, and five master graphic designers took them to the drawing board. Sure, Arthur C. Clarke refused to trim his ("God said, 'Cancel Program GENESIS.' The universe ceased to exist."), but the rest are concise masterpieces.

Automobile warranty expires. So does engine.
- Stan Lee

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
- Alan Moore

With bloody hands, I say good-bye.
- Frank Miller

I’m dead. I’ve missed you. Kiss … ?
- Neil Gaiman

“I couldn’t believe she’d shoot me.”
- Howard Chaykin

Broken heart, 45, WLTM disabled man.
- Mark Millar 


Travis Pelkie said...

Like Eddie says, it's a clever classified ad. It does stick with you and suggest a lot, though, but I don't know that it'd make someone cry, per se. I'll have to look at that Wired article another time.

Asimov edited (at least one, maybe more) a book called Microcosmic Tales, and while virtually none were this short, it was a batch of short short SF stories, and it was very cool, and I need to check a book site and see if I can find a copy because it's no longer in the library. They straddle the ol' "clever vs stupid" line, like the one at the end entitled "If Eve Had Failed to Conceive", which had the rest of the page all blank. HA HA! But I liked 'em back in the day....

I always enjoyed the fact that Dave didn't find Hemingway anywhere near as talented as Fitzgerald, as that was the same opinion shared by my favorite high school English teacher. So Dave's not completely solo on that view!

Paul Slade said...

Here's mine:

“Plenty of time,” he thought. Wrongly.

Sandeep Atwal said...

Suicide bomber wanted. No experience necessary.

Jeff Seiler said...

Independent comics genius. Thought to be insane.


Anonymous said...

"Sophia. Sophia. Bouncy. Bouncy. Bouncy. Squirt."

- Reginald P. (quoting Sim)

Tony Dunlop said...

I don't know if they teach Hemingway in Canadian high schools, but if they do, that's one thing Dave missed by dropping out. I've known Hemingway is overrated since 11th grade.

Ad in first century Jerusalem: "Tomb for sale. Only used once."

Unknown said...

Scroll down a little bit for a 9 word short story from Charles M Schultz

Unknown said...

"Your Loving Wife". Too late. Too...