Letters & Essays: G-I

Letters & Essays of the Day

Revising One Sentence

By Lydia Davis

This morning I walk around the house feeling happy and I’m struck by what I’m doing. Actually, I’m struck by only one gesture I happen to make, but that one gesture inspires me to write a sentence describing what I have just been doing. This is usually an effective approach in writing because one striking element can be the culmination of a series of more ordinary elements that would not stand on their own.


By Anthony Hecht

Dear Reynolds,

That day in New York, when you asked me whether I could recite any limericks of my own, I was momentarily at a total loss, and couldn't recall a single one; though in the course of years I've composed quite a few. So I thought I would send you some. I record them in a pretty good book called The Lure of the Limerick, by W.S. Baring-Gould. But before I offer any works of my own, I should mention one reputedly by Kingsley Amis.

The fellow who screwed Brigid Brophy
Was awarded the Kraft-Ebbing trophy;
            He was paid eighty quid
            For the thing that he did.
Which many declared was a low fee.
And now, some modest efforts of my own.


The Art of the Short Story

By Ernest Hemingway

In March, 1959, Ernest Hemingway’s publisher Charles Scribner, Jr. suggested putting together a student’s edition of Hemingway short stories. He listed the twelve stories which were most in demand for anthologies, but thought that the collection could include Hemingway’s favorites, and that Hemingway could write a preface for classroom use. Hemingway responded favorably. He would write the preface in the form of a lecture on the art of the short story.

Titres Manques

By Ernest Hemingway

  When asked in his 1958 Paris Review interview with George Plimpton about choosing titles, Hemingway said, “I make a list of titles after I’ve finished the story or the book — sometimes as many as one hundred. Then I start eliminating them, sometimes all of them.” Three years later he struggled with the list you see below—possible titles for a book about his early Paris days, a book which he said probably should not be published because of potential libel suits.