The Big Read Blog (Archive)



"La Bodeguita Ernest Hemingway" by ahisgett from Flick'r

A recurring theme on the blog is hearing from The Big Read authors about other writers and artists who have influenced their work. From an interview with the NEA, here's Tobias Wolff  (author of Old School) on some of the writers whom he admires---and has cast as characters in his novels---and the tension between the public and private selves of these authors.

[T]he greatest pleasure in writing [Old School] was to try to bring [Robert] Frost and Ayn Rand and even [Ernest] Hemingway to life in this novel. I was very much affected by all these writers when I was young, and they were truly, all of them, legendary in different ways. And, for that reason, I felt justified in creating them as characters because all of them, quite consciously, made of themselves public characters that were a little different from their private selves. They did this no doubt for protection. You craft a kind of public persona and you can kind of hide behind that and add a bit of privacy behind it. But also that was the way they wanted to be seen for good or ill. In Hemingway?s case as we all know, that public persona kind of got the better of him and wrestled him to the ground. Because his early work is very tender and not at all concerned with trumpeting the virtues of stoicism and masculine strength and warrior values, all that kind of thing. But as that kind of bristling masculinity of his that was so much a part of his public persona leaked into his work, it damaged it, no question about it.


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