There are worse places to spend a morning. I am at the Grand Hotel in Florence. My room looks out over the city and the Arno River. Inside it is almost more impressive. There are frescoes on three walls depicting romantic scenes from too long ago to even contemplate. The colours are faded reds, yellows and blues. The scenes unmistably Florentine. My bed has a regal structure over it which makes me feel like something out of a fairy-tale every time I look at it. There is a plush red velvet chair that is so deep, large and comfortable that I am tempted to stay in it for the rest of the week.
I am here for The 7 Arts (the head-hunters I work for) Christmas party. This is one of the advantages of having a proper job as well as writing. You get to see how people who have not spent most of their adult lives trying to be writers live.
Talking of trying to be a writer, I am reading a most brilliant and inspirational book called The Paris Review Interviews (Vol I). It is interviews with literary luminaries such as Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, Rebecca West and Dorothy Parker. I read last night that Capote was a horizontal writer. He always wrote lying down. Hemingway on the other hand preferred to stand up in his oversized slippers in front of a bookcase which he wrote on. This is obviously where I have been going wrong. Sitting down at my desk is not going to get me anywhere.
Happily as my adaptor plug doesn’t work properly I am writing this crouching on the floor with one foot pressed against the plug. Does that count do you think? Later on I may try penning a chapter or two while swinging from the wrought iron chandelier. That’s clearly what it’s there for.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007
I write sitting or leaning or standing on one leg by the window. I used to write in the pool. I once saw an opera – Les Noces de Figaro I think. The theatre stage was a bit short of space and had to use false perspectives for the decor which meant that the further the actors retreated on stage, the taller they became. And I smirked. But what did impress me was the heroine who sang a number flat on her back, in bed. That’s class.
I have no idea how Hemingway wrote, but even if he was up-side-down from a trapeze over a bath of sulphuric acid he could not be more boring.
At school we did Hemingway and I hated it. Every year, because the school was poor, we had the same set book from age 11 to 15. The Old Man of the Bloody Sea, and all I can remember about the book is hitting Colin Fannon over the head with it.
Write, my dear, upright or supine, but write….
Just as I was beginning to think you were the one voice of reason living in Geneva, you come out with these comments on Hemingway…some of his later novels may be affected and a bit dreary, but the early stories are splendid. Almost single-handedly he turned English from long-winded periodic sentences into something clean, neat and simple. And the Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber is as good an account of married life as you will find anywhere.
You should have hit Colin Fannon over the head with Death in the Afternoon!
“Cojones” said the Old One the way Old Ones do as he spat in the red dust. “Cojones, cosas de hombres”. The Old One spat again. “What does the Young One know?”. He leaned back against the wall and wiped his dirty neck with the dirty red bandana. He liked that thing with the sweat and the dust and the spit. Old Ones do. It was going to be one of those days.