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Being Earnest: 3 of 3 Riffs on Hemingway
February 11, 2007 - 11:05pm

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In the last post, I wrote about Ernest Hemingway’s “Paris 1922” writing exercise, which helped him find his mature style. “All you have to do is write one true sentence,” he said. “Write the truest sentence that you know.”

In the spirit of the thing, I’ve written six modest sentences about college life. (They’re quite true but could use more discipline.) Please post your own true sentence as a comment here, on any topic at all. Start with “I have seen,” “I have heard,” or the like. Write more than one if you like. The best entry, to be determined by Mrs. Churm, will earn its author a complete set of six different Oronte Churm business cards and a certified marker drawing of Batman defeating the Strawberry Bars, by our four-year old, Starbuck.

1) I have sat at a long dinner table as two young titans of American fiction spoke together so softly with heads nearly touching that it made it hard for me to eavesdrop on the secret knowledge they possessed of being wildly, unimaginably successful, so I tucked into the beef tenderloin that was really awfully very good after all.

2) I have walked under open windows of a dorm on a Friday afternoon and heard voices and laughter and a girl shouting, “She wants your body!” and realized I had lost my invitation somewhere to the party that is Youth—maybe it fell out of my bag when I slipped in the slush pile by the gas station.

3) I have seen the ruby lips of a secretary make a perfect O when the new Dean, hired from a country that evidently has no unions, said, “I don’t know why that woman cannot understand I don’t like my coffee this hot.”

4) I have laughed so hard that everyone looked to see what was wrong with me when an assistant professor with wide eyes and a blue bandanna on his head said, “The clerk in the bookstore told me he was in the U.S. Air Force in Germany. His job was to destroy top-secret documents if The Enemy came, and then his friends were to shoot him as an extra security precaution. So his wife thought he should look for a new job.”

5) I have seen a mime painting his face in the faculty club men’s room as the head of the English Department stood at the urinal, looking over his shoulder uncomfortably.

6) I have heard a Ph.D. a little out of her field tell 160 undergrads in a lecture hall, "Do you remember the fairy tale The Old Man and the Sea? The old man catches a magical fish and brings it home, and the wife keeps wanting more and more and more until she wants to be queen."

 

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