A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

This amazing short story by Earnest Hemmingway, first published in 1926, is a lightning-fast, brutal left hook to the ribs which power is realized only after struggling up from the canvas knowing that your sensibilities have been so shaken that you now know new lessons. The story is so good that the great James Joyce said that Hemmingway has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do. He then asks if you have read "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" for it is masterly... one of the best short stories ever written.




green lamp hanging


floral lamp


lamp with hanging bulbs

The story (which I will not reveal here because I insist you read it for yourself) is about three or four pages long and is so tightly compressed and so economical of language that when one's understanding of his craft and his sparse method are apprehended, the meaning explodes upon us like a cluster bomb with the shrapnel of innumerable connotations. It draws distinctions between darkness and light , chaos and order, something and nothing, someone and no one, nihilism and faith, youth (clean and fresh), and old age (decrepit, stale { "a nasty thing" }, dignity and shame, meaningful and meaningless, loneliness and companionship, suicide and purposeful existence, those who have someone to go home to, and those who not only have no one at home but who can't erase the pain of somber reality even with alcohol and even escape this darkness through attempted sleep , even through a failed suicide attempt. So the "Well-lighted " cafe is a temporary escape from the darkness and nothing, from the darkness of death and isolation. This poor old man is even deaf which further separates him from the rest of the society of caring people as well as the cold and uncaring people especially those who still have the gift of youth. (In conjunction with these matters please read my earlier blog, "Crossing the Bar").


decorative chandelier




vintage lamp

I hope you read "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place". It might make you perceive Bobby Byrne's in a different light (yes, it is intended). The story even has made me think intensely about the effect of lighting, especially the psychological and spiritual values of a well-lit bar. The lighting in our places is there not only to produce candlepower, but also to enhance the ambience and to support the theme and the mood and the setting of the pubs and restaurants. These fixtures are what Aristotle might call "pleasurable accessories". They are what music might be to a movie, or what dancing might be to a musical, or what light itself might be to a film-noir. All these accessories enhance and augment and amplify the important sense of place so along with a rather famous personage let me say: Let there be light.

1. This fixture was formerly a gas lamp as most old fixtures are, they are ordinarily converted to electrical lamps. This one came from a place on Blue Hill Avenue in the Mattapan section of Boston called "From Old Mansions" which specialized in supplying old furniture and fixtures and various other architectural components.

2. This one is of course a reproduction of those world famous stained glass lamp shades from Louis Comfort Tiffany (February 18, 1848 - January 17, 1933 ) {I was born two days later} I got it from Leonard's of Seekonk, MA

3. Another Tiffany reproduction I acquired from a lamp shop on the docks of New London, CT

4. I forget what type of fixture this is called. I bought it years ago in Falmouth, MA in a place called "Sophisticated Junk".

5. I bought about a dozen of these fixtures at an auction in Boston. It was a gay bar that had failed and was going out of business. The more interesting thing though is that this place was originally the famous Boston landmark restaurant Dinty Moore's and these were the original ceiling fixtures.

6. This Hanging Garden Lamp was also formerly a gas fixture that had been converted to electricity. I believe that I bought it from Leonard's of Seekonk, MA

7. Lillian Boyd of Taunton who was a relative of mine died many years ago at the age of 94. I got this lampshade from her estate inasmuch as I was her executor.