Don't Curse the Nurse!

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Where is my Hemingway?

on July 18, 2018


Feeling a twinge of guilt for my Saturday visits to Starbucks for mocha lattes, I developed the habit of perusing the newspapers while waiting for my drink. My thought was, well, this is kind of an intellectual outing, I mean, why look, there’s the Wall Street Journal. So, on my last visit, as I always do, I rifled through the papers in the rack. A column in the opinion section caught my eye.

A Lost Love Gave Us Hemingway’s Spare Prose

 Even better, in larger font after the second paragraph:


A mortar burst and a              

Nurse transferred an ambulance driver

into a great author.


Professor Robert Garnett of Gettysburg College does a great job of giving a well-articulated head nod to Hemingway and summarizing his humble beginnings as an ambulance driver in Italy during WWI.

What drew me in was the explanation of Hemingway’s unrequited love for nurse Agnes von Kurowsky and how his hopeless affection is braided into his first two novels.

Where was this columnist’s essay going? I wasn’t sure I cared.

I’d love to be given credit for inspiring great writing. My patients recognize my sincerity. Leadership sends me warm fuzzies via certificate of appreciation. (They call them Applause Certificates). A world renowned writer inspired by me — now I’d be close to sitting on my laurels after that. Any nurse would!

I read on.

Alas, the essay tapers to the true point in the last paragraph.

“But the taught restraint style of his early fiction still influences writers today – or it should. To get started, Hemingway told himself, ‘write one true sentence.’ In an era of massive ubiquitous verbiage, from a single year’s 96,000 pages Federal Register to the daily inundation of tweeted banality, the principle still tolls like a deep voiced bell over a million shrilling cicadas. For that we can thank the fortuitous conjunction, 100 years ago, of a mortar burst and a pretty nurse.”

One true sentence.

The need for this in media is strong right now, very strong.

15 responses to “Where is my Hemingway?

  1. Emdagny says:

    Terrific post.

  2. Great read.
    And yes, less words can be more powerful than more, thankfully most writers have adopted a ‘lessism’ – No more Ulysses and War & Peace type breeze blocks.
    Never understood verbiage when writing, such a drag lol

  3. Beth says:

    I don’t have a reference or a link to prove what I am saying, but I remember an article about search and rescue dogs who labor all day for bodies or survivors of disasters.

    Their trainers have found these dogs have to end the day with some kind of success to keep them from ‘quitting,’ laying down on the job and destroying themselves. The men will switch places and give the animals one more ‘end-of-the-day’ exercise. They have to find their trainers or some other dogs trainer before they go to sleep.

    We tend to believe that only humans need encouragement, success to end the day, but even dogs need some end-of-the-day-success to keep trying.

    Maybe someone who reads this can share the link about the dogs for me to bookmark for another day. I feel the need of a good nurse to make my days brighter. 😉

  4. Susan says:

    What you have shared is both sweet and educational – mans’ best friend, encouragement, and success – we should keep working to take the title away from our four-legged friends 🙂

  5. DM says:

    Susan, thank you for your comment on my latest post about parenting and anarchy. I decided to keep mum after the post (rather than comment after each interaction) and see where the comments took things….you were the first person to really validate why the whole thing creeped (ticked me off) as much as it did. I appreciate it. DM

  6. Eli Pacheco says:

    A Mortar Burst and a Pretty Nurse would be a stellar blog title. Wouldn’t it?

    The thing is, you might never know how you’ve inspired someone. Could be with words or actions or even a smile on a busy night at a Chipotle in the uptown of a southern town. I kind of love that.

  7. I actually think generations after him have produced better writers, but he turned out some classics, and I love your closing thought.

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