Welcome to the latest Culturatti Project; seems that once a ball is rolling it tends to keep on going, and here I now find myself on my fifth blog. Wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it though.
This one sets up perfectly for this sort of thing — all the short stories Mr. Ernest Miller Hemingway, contained in a somewhat thick and heavy volume which has been sitting on my bookshelf for years and I’ve never really cracked, and so of course it found its way to Taipei with me. I have read some of these before, specifically all the stories which appeared in his first (significant) collection In Our Time, published 1925; those stories which first introduced his spare yet prolific style to the world, and helped to solidify the ‘Lost Generation’ idea in Ms. Gertrude Stein’s head (when she wasn’t thinking of new ways to castigate the comma, that is).
Now, of course, there’s no need for me to go on about his biography, as that’s already been sufficiently taken care of by Wikipedia. I encourage you to read it, obviously, especially if you are going to be so kind as to follow my semi-regular pontifications on this blog; I say semi-regular because I don’t know how often I’m going be updating this. I hope to do one every two weeks or so, but who knows — the schedule could accelerate or decelerate depending on my mood and workload.
Also, I know that these stories have already been analyzed to death by thousands upon thousands of academics, critics and students over the years, and you may be asking yourself why I’m bothering to follow that already very beaten path; well, I’m figuring that none of you have read any of those other academics, critics, or students, and, how many of those others is being presented to you (for free!) in this handy weblog format? Exactly. The only unfortunate thing is that I don’t know how many, if any, of these stories are available to read online (they are still copyrighted until 2018); I’ll search for each one before I post my review and hopefully you’ll be able to read it first and know what I’m talking about. If not, well, read my review anyway.
So, the bio is good background information for delving into Hemingway’s writing, though there’s one other important thing you should know as well. You may have already heard of his ‘Iceberg Theory,’ but, in case you haven’t, here it is, as articulated in his 1932 non-fiction treatise on bull-fighting Death in the Afternoon:
If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A good writer does not need to reveal every detail of a character or action.
The main thing you always have to keep in mind with Hemingway, especially in his short stories, is subtext — the things going on below the surface, the things you’re not being told. It was kind of the beginning of ‘immersion’ story-telling.
Hope you enjoy it.