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Thursday, September 21, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

THE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY: THE HEMINGWAY LIBRARY EDITION

By Ernest Hemingway


Edited by Sean Hemingway

Scribner, $35, 576 pages

I’ve been an Ernest Hemingway aficionado since I was a teenager and read all of his novels, but it was not until a few years later that I discovered his short stories, which were even more powerful than his great novels.

In the mid-1970s I was in my early 20s and serving on a U.S. Navy tugboat at the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland when I came across several paperback collections of his short stories in a Glasgow book store. Like his novels, the interesting and insightful stories were about crime, hunting, fishing, boxing, bull-fighting, rugged individualism, grace under pressure, and love and war. To use a simile that Hemingway, a boxing aficionado, might approve of, his short stories deliver like a right cross.

While traveling throughout the United Kingdom and Europe during those years, visiting Italy, France and Spain, the settings of many of Hemingway’s stories, I always carried one or two of the books and read and reread the stories.

With the publication of “The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Edition,” I was able to reread many of his short stories once again.

This collection, edited by Hemingway’s grandson, Sean Hemingway, with a foreword by Hemingway’s son Patrick, is the fourth in a series of annotated editions of his work. The book offers some of his best known stories, such as “The Killers,” “Fifty Grand,” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” (three of my favorites), as well as a few unpublished stories and his early drafts and notes.

Ernest Hemingway is widely recognized as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His writing, with its powerful, understated prose and economy of words, has influenced countless writers,” Sean Hemingway writes in his introduction to the collection. “More than any other writer of his time, Hemingway changed the course of literature and furthered the written expression of the human condition. His novels, such as ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ have entered into the canon of world literature, but it is arguably his contributions to the art of the short story that are his greatest literary achievement.”

Sean Hemingway goes on to explain that this volume offers a selection of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories from 1916 to 1938, the period that the late writer mastered the short story.

The short stories are paired with Hemingway’s drafts and notes. This material originates for the most part from the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, where most of Hemingway’s manuscripts are held.

Sean Hemingway notes that journalism was an early and important influence on his grandfather’s short stories. As an 18-year-old cub reporter at the Kansas City Star, Ernest Hemingway said he learned to write simple, declarative sentences and avoid superfluous words. Later, as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, Hemingway cabled his dispatches to the newspaper and he had to pay by the word. Another trade discipline, Sean Hemingway tells us, that reinforced his belief that every word counted.

As a newspaper reporter, Hemingway visited Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and Spain. His experiences in those countries weave throughout his stories.

In the book is an early draft of “Fifty Grand.” The story has a beginning that Hemingway removed prior to publication based on a recommendation from fellow novelist and friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway later regretted the cut.

“Up at the gym over the Garden one-time somebody says to Jack, “Say, Jack, how did you happen to beat Leonard anyway?” and Jack says, “Well, you see Benny’s an awful smart boxer. All the time he’s in there he’s thinking and all the time he’s thinking I was hitting him.”

And in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” the early draft offered this:

“The rich were dull and they drank too much, or they were repetitious. He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, The very rich are very different from you and me. And how he had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Scott. He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found out they weren’t it wrecked him just as much as any other thing that wrecked him.”

This was a dig at his former mentor and early supporter. After Fitzgerald asked his friend to lay off him in print, Mr. Hemingway removed Mr. Fitzgerald’s name from the story, but kept the put down.

This book offers a behind the curtain look at the development of a great writer and serves as a fine introduction to readers unfamiliar with Hemingway. The book also makes a fine addition to the libraries of Ernest Hemingway’s many admirers.

• Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism.


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