Letters of Note

On which Hemingway puts the beatdown on Fitzgerald in a letter.

If you are like me, then you love hearing what people have to say to each other.  Admittedly, I have on several occasions turned the music off on my headphones and listened to conversations around me.  (Really, the things people say in public are astonishing!)  I also belong to the small group that laments the downfall of good old-fashioned snail mail letter writing.

Which is probably why I fell in love immediately with Letters of Note.  From the website itself:

Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos. Scans/photos where possible. Fakes will be sneered at. Updated as often as possible; usually each weekday.

So far there are 752 letters on the website, and I’ve yet to reach 100, I’m sure.  Several letters appear by fantastic writers including JRR Tolkien in regards to being English,  Kurt Vonnegut on being a POW at Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five), and most deliciously Aldous Huxley to George Orwell on 1984(Orwell) compared to Brave New World(Huxley).

All of those are interesting reads, as well as plenty others on the site that don’t involve authors.  However, there is one letter in particular that I wish to share with fellow writers.

Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald had requested Hemingway’s opinion on his novel Tender Is the Night, and boy does Hemingway let him have it.   However it’s not all about put-downs or insults.  Hemingway gives Fitzgerald some very sound writing advice.

And if I haven’t convinced you to read this letter yet, here’s just a small excerpt:

For Christ sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.  -Ernest Hemingway

(So stop reading my blog and go read Hemingway’s letter!)


About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

18 Responses to Letters of Note

  1. This is just made of awesome. First, best title ever. Second, letters aming raging alcoholic writers. Can’t wait to read more.

  2. robincoyle says:

    How cool! And I’m off to check out Letters of Note.

  3. Amy Keeley says:

    Read the whole thing. I think that’s the best letter I’ve ever read regarding writing. Seriously.

    Actually, I think it’s good for any artist struggling with personal tragedies. Absolutely amazing. Thank you.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      That’s what I thought as well! What I love most about it is the ‘tough love’ that Hemingway writes to Fitzgerald with, and I think that’s something that writers (and artists in general) need. Even if we mess up or try to cut corners, we need someone there to call us out on it, and tell us that we’re capable of so much better. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it as I did!

      • That was great. It’s not only good to be reminded about what we’re capable of, but also that sometimes you just have to write. What’s the worst that can happen? It can suck. If so, then you throw it out and write more. I also really liked the point about characters. “Invention is the finest thing but you cannot invent anything that would not actually happen.” True dat!

  4. derekberry says:

    Hemingway has weird, but effective writing advice. “A Moveable Feast” is about his life in Paris when he knew Fitzgerald and was still married to his wife. It’s really rather good and he even manages to teach a bit about writing as well as Paris and Spain in the 1940s.
    Either way, Hemingway is such a bad ass. I hope when I’m a famous writer, I can go hunt elephants and bet horse races and live like him (minus the suicide part).

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I haven’t read A Moveable Feast yet, but I’d like to. It’s always interesting reading from writers after they’ve spent significant time overseas. One of my professors pretty much focused an entire course about James Baldwin, and we read about him and his life in France. He came shortly after Hemingway though.
      haha, that’d definitely be awesome minus the suicide part! Who says writers are hermits? We really just want to have adventures on or off the pages.

  5. I think basically, us writers are just plain nosy 😉

    Great web site, I just KNOW I will spend hours there lol


  6. rtd14 says:

    I love the idea of reading old letters. I saved a few from my grandmother. She would send them to me while I was at camp. A former high school friend and I would write each other often because I couldn’t have computers at most of my summer activities. I will read the letter from Hemingway to Fitzgerald. I think someone should write a book or movie script about their competition with each other, their secret respect, and their lives. I think it is fascinating. I wrote in one of my blogs Hemingway would take Fitzgerald down in a fist fight; but for me, I love Fitzgerald’s writing more.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I remember that post of yours! I actually thought about it when I stumbled upon the letter. It’s funny, sometimes I feel that the story of writer’s lives can be more interesting than the stories they write.
      I like that you kept those letters. I never wrote much as far as letters go, but once I went away for college my mom would write letters in the packages she sends, and I’ve kept those. My boyfriend also likes to leave lovey-dovey notes around the apartment…I don’t think he’s realized I’ve kept them! 🙂

  7. Sounds like a great website. Also, even the one-way conversations (people speaking loudly on cellphones) you hear are astounding. As a writer, sometimes what you hear can spark an idea…

    • Aly Hughes says:

      That’s very true, you have to be ready to find inspiration anywhere. A friend of mine always makes the raciest (not racist though) comments and half the time I wonder if others around us are listening and being appalled by what she says! If she wasn’t my friend, I know I would be…well sometimes I am anyways. It’s definitely interesting knowing somebody who has no filters on what she says.

    • My favorite overheard cell phone conversations are when somebody is saying, “O, yes, I’m at the corner of so-and-so and such-and-such,” and that’s nowhere near where they actually are. 🙂 I’m always tempted to go and yell nto the phone, “He’s lying! He’s on the other side of town!”

      But of course I don’t.

  8. I love Letters of Note! I first became aware of it when someone retweeted his link to a 17th(?)-century Chinese form letter, to be sent, get this: as a formal apology for the drunk and disorderly behaviour of civil servants.

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