For today, I read a collection of Hemingway’s short stories. The paperback is called “Hemingway The First Forty-Nine Stories”. I figured that I had enjoyed the other Hemingway I had read for the blog, so I’d hit his short stories too. (Hemingway is an area where Dave has read extensively, and alas, I have not. But, that means I get to read Hemingway, so I guess I can’t be too disappointed in myself).
Melissa Bank, Clyde Edgerton, Kent Haruf and Susan Minot all listed Hemingway’s short stories in their top ten book lists.
Collections of short stories can be both hard and amazing at the same time. It’s hard reading short stories to blog about because there’s so much to talk about. And, also, I feel a bit of pressure to not skip any (Truth time: I will sometimes still skip one here or there). Also, when it’s short stories all by the same author, the tone and feel of them are similar (this holds true for almost eveyr author I’ve read their short stories), so it can feel a bit like plowing towards the end even when I am loving all of them. At the same time, I do love short stories, especially ones written well. Or beyond well. And Hemingway fits the bill of beyond well. I also am not completely sure if I entirely agree with people who think him spare with his words. He really isn’t. His dialogue can be a bit short and snappy, but sometimes his dialogue sounds more natural and more like true conversations between people. When I read Hemingway, I truly get a good sense of place from his works. Like, I can see where the setting is, I can see the people there. So, to me, even if he doesn’t use as many words as other authors, he uses the right amount of words for -him-.
Hemingway’s short stories have a lot of death. And coming of age. And in The Short Happy Life of Frances Macomber and The Capital of the World, death is mingled closely with the coming of age, in The Capital of The World, death itself is the “coming of age”. A lot of his “common” themes are here. Soldiers in war time. Bullfighting. Women and booze. Fishing. But, each story is unique, even when it has one of his common subject matters. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is also in this collection. And at first, I just felt a little eh about it. But, as it went on, I got more absorbed into it and at the end understood why it’s one of the titles everyone associates with him.
But, my favorite story in the book is also one of the shorter ones. is Hills With White Elephants. In it, Hemingway mainly tells the entire plot of the story through the dialogue between the two main characters. I looked it up online because I wanted to see more about it (it’s actually a story that you think about when you’re done), and of course, some people have gone through and ascribed symbolism to every tiny, tiny thing Hemingway put in there. Like the beaded curtain separating the bar from the tables outside the train station. And that is a reason why I tend to avoid most literary analysis. I love seeing symbolism and archetypes and all of that. I love talking about it. But, I hate when some people take an author who is a “classic” like Hemingway and make them into these symbolism Gods, who craft their words so that everything is a huge symbol. And ot me, I doubt that they are, any more than any contemporary author today is. Hemingway probably wrote about the beaded curtain because it a) added depth to the scene by providing surrounding detail and b) gave the 2 characters something else to speak about. Or! It’s possible he sat next to a beaded curtain like that more than once in his life while drinking at train stations, and like the woman, sat and ran a couple of the beads through his fingers. I think people who read “literary classics” with a fine toothed comb looking for every symbol or what could be a symbol are actually being assholes to the original author. I bet the original author partly wanted people to hear his or her story and to be entertained by it. So, when you dissect it to every word and every punctuation mark, you’re destroying the story. And, for most literature by most authors, it’s the story they want you to hear. Not the thought that two beads possibly meant her and the man, or the consequences of two different decisions she had to make. /end rant
So, read this. Or at the very least, read the stories I’ve mentioned here.