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Peter Salwen <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Thu, 14 Sep 2006 16:09:32 -0400
text/plain (31 lines)
I've tried to steer clear of this thorny and -- to my way of thinking --
lame-brained controversy, but I've got to jump in here, because I think
Larry's on the wrong track when he accuses Hemingway of "broadcasting . . .
the name 'Nigger Jim.'"

As far as I know, the only time Hemingway put those two words together was
in the following:

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called
Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is
stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But
it's the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There
was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

To my eye, Hemingway is not referring to a character known as "Nigger Jim,"
but to this particular character, Jim, who happens to be a gentleman of
color. He might just as well have written, "you must stop where the Nigger,
Jim, is stolen," or "stop where the nigger Jim is stolen," but he didn't.
Why not?  My guess is that he rejected the first because of his well-known
allergy to punctuation, and the second for the same reason most of us prefer
"Negro" to "negro" -- i.e, he intended the capital "N" as a sign of respect.

It's his bad luck(or ours, really; Hemingway couldn't have cared less) that
some people take it to be part of his name, as in "Captain Stormfield" or
"Emperor Norton." If I'm right about this, it seems to support the position
-- popular in this group if not in the world at large -- that the people who
get hung up on the "Nigger Jim" issue probably don't understand the book
and/or never read it.

Peter Salwen