papa takes a piss|
About the James book: It is not great no matter what they tell you. It has fine qualities and greater faults. It is much too long and much too bitching and his one fight, against the planes, at Pearl Harbour day is almost musical comedy. He has a genius for respecting the terms of a kitchen and he is a K.P. boy for keeps and for always. Things will catch up with him and he will probably commit suicide. Who could announce in his publicity in this year 1951 that “he went over the hill” in 1944. That was a year in which many people were very busy doing their duty and in which many people died. To me he is an enormously skilled fuck-up and his book will do great damage to our country. Probably I should re-read it again to give you a truer answer. But I do not have to eat an entire bowl of scabs to know they are scabs; nor suck a boil to know it is a boil; nor swim through a river of snot to know it is snot. I hope he kills himself as soon as it does not damage his or your sales. If you give him a literary tea you might ask him to drain a bucket of snot and then suck the pus out of a dead nigger’s ear. Then present him with one of those women he is asking for and let him show her his portrait and his clippings. How did they ever get a picture of a wide-eared jerk (un-damaged ears) to look that screaming tough. I am glad he makes you money and I would never laugh him off. I would just give him a bigger bucket on the snot detail. He has the psycho’s urge to kill himself and he will do it.
Make all the money you can out of him as quickly as you can and hold out enough for Christian Burial.
Wouldn’t have brought him up if you hadn’t asked me. Now I feel as unclean as when I read his fuck-off book. It has all the charm and true-ness of the real and imitation fuck-off. I give you James Jones, Gentlemen, and please take him away before he falls apart or starts screaming.
— Ernest Hemingway, letter to Charles Scribner, 5 March 1951, Selected Letters 1917-1961
, edited by Carlos Baker, Scribner, 2003, p. 721
Ernest Hemingway, late spring 1952, John F. Kennedy Library
Jones made another remark that I had difficulty dealing with. When Hemingway’s name came up, he proclaimed that, “The problem with Papa was he always wanted to suck a cock. But when he found one that fit, it had a double barrel.”
Tags: america, citationalism, criticism, exceptionalism, literature, persiflage