|About the Book|
There is a story, probably apocryphal, that Hemingway once bet that he could write an entire short story in six words. He was taken up on that bet, and produced the following diminutive masterpiece: For Sale: baby shoes. Never used.I like to believe that story is true.Its not possible to review the 49 stories in this book, which range in length from dozens of pages to a single paragraph. Actually, it is possible, but Im just not the man to do it. So Ill just throw out some scattered thoughts:- The Snows of Kilimanjaro was a little disappointing. I thought it was derivative of Bierce.- The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber is still as brutally awesome as it was in high school. Hemingway at his bitter, drunken, misogynistic best.- The stories dance around sexuality a lot. Sometimes Hemingway is so discrete, you have to read the story twice to see between the lines. For instance, A Simple Inquiry involves an Italian major trying to seduce his orderly (or at least thats what I got out of it). On the other hand, theres a semi-graphic rape in Up in Michigan, and an extended conversation with three, three-hundred pound prostitutes in The Light of the World. Im not sure why I mention this, other than that Im a literalist. That is, I prefer an author who telegraphs to me that sex is occurring. So I dont miss it.- Hemingways treatment of women is uniformly shabby. At their best (Im thinking Lady Ashley in The Sun Also Rises or Maria in For Whom the Bell Tolls) they either boldly use sex as a weapon or are paragons of Mary-like purity. Most of the time, in this collection, they are prostitutes, seductresses, or objects to be discarded (speaking of discarded, The End of Something is a realistic little break-up scene). This is probably part of the reason why Ive never said this to a woman: Ive lost my underwear, can I see yours? Hey, you should read something by Hemingway.- There is some good STD humor. One story is written as a letter by a woman to a doctor. The woman is asking about her husbands syphilis, which he contracted during his time in the military. STD humor is always funny, unless you have an STD.Or this line, from A Very Short Story:The major did not marry her in the spring, or any other time. Luz never got an answer to the letter to Chicago about it. A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.What a great way to end a story!- There is a lot of dark humor, especially in An Alpine Idyll, where a husband makes odd use of his wifes corpse. But you can still enjoy this collection, even if you dont find the comic-gold in Weekend at Bernies.- A lot of these stories follows the adventures of Nick Adams, Michigan boy. These were my favorite stories, especially Big Two-Hearted River: Part 1 & 2. Here, Hemingway pulls himself away from the elitist, intellectually-disillusioned expatriate shtick (where his characters are inevitably drunk and disillusioned in Italy, Spain, or Greece) and gives us some nice, detailed stories about hiking, camping, fishing, and cooking food over an open fire. I enjoyed this. It was like reading a more misanthropic version of Norman Macleans A River Runs Through It.For example:Nick took the line in his left hand and pulled the trout, thumping tiredly against the current, to the surface. His back was mottled the clear, water-over-gravel color, his side flashing in the sun. The rod under his right arm, Nick stooped, dipping his right hand into the current. He held the trout, never still, with his moist right hand, while he unhooked the barb from his mouth, then dropped him back into the stream...Hes all right, Nick thought. He was only tired.Parting thoughts: This collection is the short story equivalent of a frat house. Its all men, all the time. The only real love shown in any of the passages are between male friends. Most of the time, its booze, shotguns, hunting, fishing, talking about women, bullfighting, and participating in revolutions. In other words, all the stuff that men use to filter their love for other men, without being thought gay.Of course, Hemingway might have disagreed. He might have insisted that this is really all about booze, shotguns, hunting, fishing, talking about women, bullfighting, and participating in revolutions. To that end, it still succeeds on a certain level.But that is just my opinion, and it should be noted that I love my male friends, but also like booze, shotguns, hunting, fishing, talking about women, bullfighting*, and participating in revolutions**. So Im sort of the target audience.* Bullfighting is when a man boxes a bull, right?** I confess, I havent actually participated in any revolutions. Oh, wait, does the sexual revolution count? Because I also did not participate in that either.