Saturday, December 11, 2010

Text and Subtext - what you read, what you read into what you read.

Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a very short story. Even by modern standards, this is short.

                        For Sale
            Baby Clothes
            Never Used

Look closely. Is that a story? How many characters are in that? Is there a plot? Is there subtext? 

Yes it's a story, and there's a vast amount of story in those few words. The text is tiny, the subtext is vast. Questions come at you from all over, and questions are the beginnings of story.

There's a sketch by Rembrandt that works in a similar way:

Is she sick/dying? Is she in terror? Has she awoken from a nightmare?

Note how her features are clearly defined but the world around her is left wild, almost dreamlike. There's something unsettling in the combination of the background's spareness and its boldness. Almost a violence. The visual storytelling text gives the viewer the beginning, the rest is for you to discover and interpret.

(Hemingway's typewriter at his former house in Key West, Florida, pictured with its current owner. Perhaps contemplating that 3rd rewrite and finally solving that transitional passage after the second act turning point and how to get Uncle Herbert back from Alaska in time for the climactic car chase. Either that or 'Where's the chicken?')


  1. What very large paws for such a little kitty.

  2. We visited Hemingway's house a few years back. there's a lot of cats roaming around and it seems they're sort of unique to there? They also have 6 toes - hence the big feet.
    Our guide, who used to work for the Kiwi polish company, was called Earnest.