Good writers are so rare that if I were a critic, I would only try to point out what I think makes them reliable and enjoyable. For how can anyone explain the mystery of creation?
Hemingway can take any amount of criticism – from himself; he is his own severest critic, but, like all his fellow-writers, he is hypersensitive to the criticism of others. It’s true that some critics are terribly expert in sticking the sharp penpoint into the victim and are delighted when he squirms. Wyndham Lewis succeeded in making Joyce squirm. And his article on Hemingway entitled ‘The Dumb Ox’, which the subject of it picked up in my bookshop, I regret to say, roused him to such anger that he punched the heads off three dozen tulips, a birthday gift. As a result, the vase upset its contents over the books, after which Hemingway sat down at my desk and wrote a check payable to Sylvia Beach for a sum that covered the damage twice over.
– Sylvia Beach,
Shakespeare and Company (1956) p. 83.
Hemingway referred to himself as Shakespeare and Company’s ‘best customer’ – and, indeed, seems to be the only author mentioned in Beach’s book who actually purchased anything. Curious.