Someone asked me recently about my favorite quote, and although a whole bunch came to mind–mostly ones about persevering and holding fast to your dreams–one floated to the top of the heap, so here it is:
There’s always more to it than we know about.
It’s a line from Hemingway’s short story “The Three Day Blow,” and it’s not one of Papa’s most famous quotes. “The Three Day Blow”– one of the Nick Adams stories–is about two teenage boys, Nick and his friend Bill, who hang out at Bill’s cottage one stormy weekend and get drunk, talking about life, writers, and girls.
At one point, the conversation also turns to baseball, and the two semi-inebriated boys discuss players long dead and pretty much forgotten. But when Bill speculates on why a particular player was recently traded, Nick tells him, “There’s always more to it than we know about.”
Now when I first read the story in college, I paid no attention to the line. It seems like a throwaway remark, a way for Nick to dismiss the subject and move on to something else. But because I happened to be taking a tutorial with a Hemingway expert, I discovered that the sentence had real significance to the evolution of the Hemingway Hero. The way the professor explained it, it was Hemingway’s way of informing readers that young Nick (the earliest version of the Hemingway Hero) was growing up and learning that people can’t make judgements based on what they see on the surface. (Actually, he said a lot more too, but that’s what I recall most clearly after all these years.)
Of course, I wrote the teacher’s remarks down in a spiral notebook and made sure to regurgitate them in my final paper. But the line stuck in my head too, and the older I get, the more often I find myself reciting it, either to myself or to my kids.
Oddly enough, it helps me through a lot of complex and/or potentially infuriating situations. When a car cuts me off in traffic; when I get the sense that someone’s lying; when someone close to me gets confused or upset over social politics, “There’s always more to it than we know about,” tends to find its way out of my mouth. And usually, I feel a little better afterwards.
The three day blow is one of Hemingway’s best works of fiction. I have a literary blog myself, and it is so wonderful to meet another writer who loves Hemingway’s work as much as I do. You’re description and analysis of the quote is more beautiful than I can say.
Thank you, Courtney! It’s great to meet you as well, and your blog is wonderful. I just started following it and look forward to reading more.