Faulkner: Hemingway … and Willie Morris

Somewhere in the recent past I came across a comment saying that, in effect, when we read Faulkner we need a dictionary close at hand. When we read Hemingway, we understand every word.  

Faulkner:  A Fable                                                                 Willie Morris and the Witch of Yazoo

“Now turn and look at it,” the old general said. But he already had, was—down the declivity’s black pitch to where the city lay trembling and myriad with lights in its bowl of night like a scatter of smoldering autumn leaves in the windy darkness, thicker and denser than the stars in its concentration of anguish and unrepose, as if all darkness and terror had poured down in one wash, one wave, to lie palpatant and unassuageable in the Place de Ville.

 Hemingway: The Dangerous Summer

“The food is quite good here.”

After the second large pitcher of Valdepenas he said,” So is the wine.”

I was eating a delicate order of fried baby eels in garlic that resembled bamboo sprouts slightly crisped at the tips but  had a more lubricious texture. They filled a large deep dish and were heavenly to eat and hell on anyone you met afterwards in a closed room or even in the open air.

“Eels are excellent,” I said, “Can’t really tell about the wine yet. Care for any eels?”

“Perhaps a single order,” Bill said. “Try the wine. You may like it.”

“Another large pitcher please,” I said to the waiter.

“Yes, Don Ernesto. Here it is. I had it waiting.”


 I am currently reading, for the third or fourth time, Willie Morris: The Last of the  Southern Girls.     A great book. If you haven’t read it, do: put it on your list. The writing itself is the most beautiful use of words that I can at the moment put my finger on. You can understand every word; but, oh! the way they are put together.

It was a lovely spring morning, Washington at it’s best, all green and cool from the rains, the air fragrant with the smell of growing things, the marbles and domes and columns gleaming in the sun, the little yellow buds glimmering in the oaks and elms of the plazas and squares. Soon the foliage would burst overnight into flaming springtime colors, first the forsythia and cherries and then the azaleas and dogwoods, the promise of an early spring matched her mood, for she had never felt happier than on the drive up Pennsylvania Avenue, and in her bright red sweater and bronze necklace and flaring white skirt she herself was touched ineffably with the season. 

“Any chance I can steal you for my office?”  the senator asked her.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about _____ I’d hate to throw it away.”

“But getting constituents across wooden bridges isn’t my idea of power,” he said.

“I’m afraid I made that up.” Her laughter wafted through the capacious hallway, and several passersby turned to look. 

 Three of my heroes.  And then there is, of course, Elmore Leonard.

Whose dialogue is just the best!


About Tom Honea

the south mississippi i grew up in did not yet have paved roads or telephones or televisions. it did have great story tellers, on front porches in the summer or around the fire place in the winter. we were poverty stricken, financially but not culturally. we didn't know it. everybody up and down the road was in the same boat. . after forty years of day jobs i am approaching my "fishing years." i plan to spend them writing. i have a finished and edited deep south novel in the "marketing" stages. currently i'm deep into a WW II home front piece set in the Hampton Roads, VA area. notes and character sketches are already underway for "From Hiroshima to Elvis" ( the ten years after the war ) on the coastal areas of South Carolina. . visit asheville ... come and see me.
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One Response to Faulkner: Hemingway … and Willie Morris

  1. Lynne Bryant says:

    Definitely need a dictionary – or an interpreter – for Faulkner: declivity…palpatant…unassuageable. I’ve read him, respectfully, but with much effort! I am most impressed with those authors that can make simple language sing.

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