michigan-sky

So here we are, finally.  The first — the very first — of the famous short, declarative sentences.  So first that, until the publication of The First Forty-nine in 1938, few people would even have read it, for it pre-dates even In Our Time; it comes from a small book entitled Three Stories and Ten Poems, which, while Hem’s first official published work, had only a private, limited run of 300 copies (and is still not available to read anywhere online).

How interesting that it’s about, more or less, an uncouth, asshole Canadian.

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pontoon-bridge

Read It Here

Well, what’s this then?  A two-page story, which actually seems to be a recounting of an actual meeting rather than a story.  And . . . there’s no sub-text!  What’s going on?

Well, this is actually Hem getting back to his roots, to those postcard-fiction days of his youth, which is only fitting given that this is the last ‘new’ story before the volume flies on back to In Our Time, his first collection, published in 1925.  But there’s not much we need to know here:

Man Is Still Capable Of Compassion In Face Of War.

That’s about it, I would think.

Once again, I could not locate the full text of this one online anywhere (which means the Hemingway’s-Estate People are either really good at such location and having it removed, or I just don’t look hard enough).  So go read it — somewhere, anywhere — then come on back for my take on it.

Hemingway himself said this was one of his better short stories, and, wouldn’t you know it, he was right.  Most other people who’ve read it since have said the same thing, so I guess I’m merely adding my own small voice to the choir, but hey, you can’t argue with everyone all the time, especially when they’re so damn right.  Basically, the reason it’s so good is because it’s almost like a ‘Hemingway’s Greatest Hits;’ you get everything you know and love about Hem — immersion story-telling, paramour-related bickering, war stories, Paris stories, Africa — all in one shot.

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hem18

Couldn’t find this one online anywhere, but it’s okay, because it’s fairly short and I’m just going to talk about it in a general way.

Sometimes writers use short stories to merely talk about general types, instead of exploring something more specific or individualistic; as far as I can tell they do this because these stories are quicker and easier to write than the latter, and, when you’re a big name like Ernest Hemingway, you can get paid a handsome sum of money by Esquire no matter what you do, so why not belt a couple out every once in a while? I recall F. Scott Fitzgerald doing much the same thing in a lot of his short stories, his subject being that which he seemed to be obsessed with — the American moneyed classes; Hemingway’s obsessions were, of course, a lot more ‘earthy,’ and so here we have a story about the general types of Madrid as he saw them in the 1930s.

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Read It Here

Here we go, the first story — except, it isn’t the first story. As Hemingway states in the preface to the The First Forty-nine:

The first four stories are the last ones I have written. The others follow in the order in which they were published.

Why? I don’t really understand the rationale for this; perhaps in 1938, at the time The First Forty-nine was released, they thought it a good idea to put the four newest stories at the beginning of the volume, to entice bookstore browsers, who may flip open the front cover and skim the first few pages, to purchase it. However, the stories were printed along with a play entitled The Fifth Column, and the play might have come first in the volume (I don’t know), so maybe that’s not the reason. In any case, I find it annoying. Call me old-fashioned, but when I read an anthology, I want it in chronological order; I want to be able to follow the writer’s thought and style progression as he/she made his/her way through his/her career.

But, alas, it’s not to be here. Instead we will read some of the last ones he wrote, followed immediately by the first sixteen, which were published thirteen to fifteen years earlier. Weird.

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Hi.

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.

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