July 12, 2014

“The rich are different”… The real story behind the famed “exchange” between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

If you’re a quotation buff, you’ve probably heard of a legendary exchange about “rich people” that supposedly took place between the American novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) and Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961).

Fitzgerald is usually quoted as saying either “The rich are different from you and me” or “The rich are different from us.”

Hemingway is quoted as responding: “Yes, they have more money."

In fact, this quote-counterquote repartee never actually occurred. But it is based on things written by Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

Here’s how it became a legend…

In 1925, Fitzgerald wrote a short story titled “The Rich Boy.” In 1926, it was published in Red Book magazine and included what became a very popular collection of Fitzgerald's early short stories, titled All the Sad Young Men.

The third paragraph of the story says:

     "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."

Clearly, that’s not a favorable view of rich people.

But years later, Ernest Hemingway, who had a sometimes-warm, sometimes-acrimonious relationship with Fitzgerald, decided to mock those lines from “The Rich Boy” in his short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”

Hemingway’s original version of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” was printed in the August 1936 issue of Esquire magazine. In a passage in that original version, Hemingway wrote:

     “The rich were dull and they drank too much, or they played too much backgammon. They were dull and they were repetitious. He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, ‘The very rich are different from you and me.’ And how some one had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Scott. He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren't it wrecked him as much as any other thing that wrecked him.”

Understandably, Fitzgerald was shocked and offended.

He expressed his dismay to Hemingway in a letter. He also complained to Maxwell Perkins, the editor who oversaw publication of both writers’ novels and story collections at the Charles Scribner’s Sons book company.

Hemingway responded with what Fitzgerald described as a “crazy letter,” a rambling diatribe that offered no real explanation or apology.

Perkins tried to smooth things over between his two prized writers and used his editorial power to fix the source of the problem when Scribner’s reprinted “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” in the 1938 anthology of Hemingway stories, The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories.

In the version of the story in that book, the name “Scott Fitzgerald” was changed to “Julian.” It has appeared that way in most subsequent reprintings.

Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, he made the mistake of writing a cryptic entry in a personal notebook that cemented the legendary version of his “exchange” with Hemingway into literary history.

The entry said simply: “They have more money. (Ernest’s wisecrack.)”

After Fitzgerald died in 1940, his friend, the noted critic and book reviewer Edmund Wilson, compiled a collection of his essays and unpublished writings in a book titled The Crack-Up. It was published in 1945. Wilson included various entries from Fitzgerald’s notebooks in the anthology.

One of them was the brief note about “Ernest’s wisecrack.”

Wilson decided to add an explanatory footnote for that entry in the book. He wrote:

     “Fitzgerald had said, ‘The rich are different from us.’ Hemingway had replied, ‘Yes, they have more money.’”

Then, the famous literary critic Lionel Trilling repeated what he called this “famous exchange” that “everyone knows” in a review and essay about The Crack-Up, published in The Nation.

After that, many other articles and books cited this “exchange” as if it were an actual conversation between Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

And thus a famous quote-counterquote myth was born.

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July 2, 2014

“Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’…”


“When I hear ‘culture’...I unlock my Browning!.” [Also translated as “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’...I release the safety on my pistol!.”]
(“Wenn ich Kultur höre...entsichere ich meinen Browning!”)
       Hanns Johst (1890-1978)
       German playwright and Nazi SS officer  
       The commonly misquoted, misattributed line from from Johst’s 1933 play Schlageter
       This line from Schlageter, Johst’s patriotic homage to the German World War I “martyr”
Albert Leo Schlageter, is most widely-known in misquoted paraphrase form. The most common version is “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my gun.” The literal translation of the German words “Wenn ich Kultur höre...entsichere ich meinen Browning” is: “When I hear culture...I unlock my Browning.” The ellipsis in the sentence (...) is a pause written into the text by Johst, not an indication of missing text. For some reason, most English translations and variations incorrectly use the word whenever in place of when and insert the word word before culture. In German, Wenn actually means when and wann immer means whenever. Since a Browning is a pistol and the word entsichere (unlock) refers to a gun’s safety catch, the line has also been translated as: “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’ I release the safety on my pistol!” Sometimes the word revolver is used in place of Browning or pistol. Versions of Johst’s original line have been attributed to Nazi leader Hermann Göring and occasionally to other Nazi officials, such as Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels. These and other top Nazis were indeed fans of the play Schlageter and apparently did quote Johst’s line. But Johst deserves the real credit — or blame — for the origin of the saying.


“When I hear the words ‘healthy eating,’ I reach for my pork chop.”
       Dick Stein
       Midday Jazz Host on Seattle radio station KPLU
       In a post on the KPLU website in June 2014


“When I hear the word couture, I reach for my cyanide pill.”
       A quip posted
on the TechEye.com site


“When I hear the word Culture I reach for my revolver. Remember that? So, too, when I hear the word Genius.”
       Henry Miller (1891-1980)
       American novelist and painter
       In Henry Miller on Writing (1964)


“When I hear the word culture I reach for my wallet!”
       Attributed to Groucho Marx
       American comic genius
       Attributed to Groucho in Urban History: Volume 22 (1995), published by Cambridge University Press


“When I hear the word ‘postmodern’ I reach for the remote control. I want to change channels immediately, before I get instantaneously and totally bored.”
       McKenzie Wark
       Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at The New School in New York City
       In his book Virtual Geography: Living with Global Media Events (1994)


“When I hear the word nobility I reach for the puke bowl.”
       Maeve Kelly 
       Irish novelist, short-story writer and poet
       Said by a character in Kelly’s novel Necessary Treasons (1985)


“When I hear the word culture I don’t reach for an Uzi, I reach for a corkscrew and a bottle of venerable and well chilled sauterne. Viniculture. Noble rot, mutating nobler by the minute.”
       Glenn O’Brien
       American journalist
       In an article included in his book Soapbox: Essays, Diatribes, Homilies and Screeds (1997)


“It is unlikely that the government reaches for a revolver when it hears the word culture. The more likely response is to search for a dictionary.” 
David Glencross (1936-2007)
       Television executive and producer for Britain’s ITV
       Comment at the Royal Television Society conference on the future of television in November 1988
       Quoted in the Oxford Essential Quotations Dictionary (1998)


“When I hear the word love, I reach for my revolver.”
       Gore Vidal (1925-2012)
       American-born novelist, screenwriter and playwright
       Quoted in the book S and M, Studies in Sadomasochism (1983), edited by Thomas S. Weinberg and G. W. Levi Kamel


“‘Independent.’ I’m so sick of that word. I reach for my revolver when I hear the word ‘quirky.’ Or ‘edgy.’ Those words are now becoming labels that are slapped on products to sell them. Anyone who makes a film that is the film they want to make, and it is not defined by marketing analysis or a commercial enterprise, is independent.”
       Jim Jarmusch
       American movie director, producer, screenwriter and actor
       Quoted in the
“Personal Quotes” section of his bio on IMDB.com


“When I hear of Schrödinger’s cat, I reach for my pistol.”
       Stephen Hawking
       British theoretical physicist and cosmologist
       A favorite Hawking quip that’s
often mentioned in articles about him. It refers to Erwin Schrödinger’s famed “thought experiment” about a cat that is simultaneous dead and alive. The “Schrödinger’s cat” paradox highlights a problem inherent in certain aspects of quantum theory.

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