My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (1987) by Ernest Hemingway is a journey through one man’s life and one writer’s career. Granted most of the stories are not exceptional, many stories belonging to the time before Hemingway would become an international success, and long after that appeal had died away.I first read this collection in my early twenties, and now in my early thirties I find this book is just as rewarding as the first time I read it. It is the movement of the emotions ebbing through each story that captivates me, watching a man and writer unfold before my eyes, and by the book’s end one wonders at the talent of Ernest Hemingway.
“The End of Something” is one of those Nick Adams stories that takes place in Michigan and makes a vivid impression on my mind of what a young Hemingway would have been like.
Nick in the story is conflicted about his feelings for a young girl named Marjorie as they lie on a blanket beneath the stars. At the end of the story, the reader gets a bit of what will one day make Hemingway a legend, that emotional angst so easily described that the feelings churn inside the heart of the reader.
Hemingway writes, “He was afraid to look at Marjorie. Then he looked at her. She sat there with her back toward him. He looked at her back. ‘It isn’t fun any more. Not any of it.’ She didn’t say anything. He went on. ‘I feel as though everything was gone to hell inside of me. I don’t know, Marge. I don’t know what to say.’ He looked on at her back. ‘Isn’t love any fun?’ Marjorie said. ‘No,’ Nick said” (p 81).
And there he is.
“A Way You’ll Never Be” is one of those stories that draws the reader into a world that haunts him long after the book has been closed. This is another Nick Adams story, but it is fairly safe to say that Nick is a representation of Hemingway, and here Nick is caught in a war as he is demonstrating the American uniform for the Italian army.
As Nick tries to speak of grasshoppers an Italian soldier keeps focusing on why Nick is even at the war and the underlining tension eventually drives Nick out of the battalion. The story is fairly simple, but it is the essence lying beneath the surface, which one can see Hemingway flirting with his iceberg theory here, is what compels the story forward.
In “Fathers and Sons” Hemingway writes of the loss of his father. Nick in the story is caught in the past with the death of his father (which would haunt Hemingway until his own suicide at the age of 61 on July 2, 1961, which is eerily portrayed in detail in Hemingway’s novel To Have and Have Not, published in 1937).
As Nick is out hunting, later making love to Trudy, a young girl from the nearby Indian camp. Nick recalls his father at the undertaker’s:
“There was nothing to do about his father, and he had thought it all through many times. The handsome job the undertaker had done on his father’s face had not blurred in his mind and all the rest of it was quite clear, including the responsibilities. He had complimented the undertaker. The undertaker had been both proud and smugly pleased. But it was not the undertaker that had given him that last face. The undertaker had only made certain dashingly executed repairs of doubtful artistic merit. The face had been making itself and being made for a long time. It had modelled fast in the last three years. It was a good story but there were still too many people alive for him to write it” (p 371).
Yes. Writers often have stories inside themselves that are too fresh and raw, and too many people are still alive to be exposing such wounds. And to read of these thoughts by a young Hemingway is to dive deeper into his thoughts and soul.
The last story I would like to comment on is the very last story in the collection and it is called “The Strange Country,” which was originally written as four chapters that were to be in a novel Hemingway was working on; the work was later published posthumously in 1970 as Islands in the Stream.
What is interesting is the fact that Hemingway, or the main character at least, tells of when he was in his early twenties and he had lost all of his writing materials.
Hemingway lost his unpublished manuscripts in 1922 when his wife Hadley boarded a train from Paris and lost a suitcase with Hemingway’s manuscripts.
Roger, the main character in the story, tells to a young lover of how he had been at the Lausanne Conference (which was very important in establishing modern day Turkey in 1922-23).
Roger’s wife packs all of his writing materials (which included a book manuscript, poems and several short stories) and she takes a train to meet him in Switzerland, but at one of the stops she steps off the train to buy some Evian water and when she returns to her seat the suitcase is gone.
What is also interesting to note is the similarity of this story with the 2012 movie The Words, which tells of a young writer who also lost his manuscript in a similar manner at roughly the same point in history, but in the movie another American writer far into the future stumbles upon the manuscript in Paris and publishes the book as though he had written it himself.
I recommend taking the journey through Hemingway’s complete collection of short stories because one never knows what one may find when exploring the depths of another man’s character and memories and stories.
I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection after waking from a nap in the afternoon and lying in bed discovering worlds long dead but ever living in the hearts and minds of modern men and women.
The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s a been member of the Hemingway Society, Americans for the Arts, PEN America, Club Med, & the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also a been Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), Little Hometown, America (2020); A Time to Forget in East Berlin (2022), and Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being (2023).
Forthcoming: The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
You can follow the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 470,000+ followers
“A spellbinding tale of love and espionage set under the looming shadow of the Berlin Wall in 1975… A mesmerising read full of charged eroticism.”
“There is no better way for readers interested in Germany’s history and the dilemma and cultures of the two Berlins to absorb this information than in a novel such as this, which captures the microcosm of two individuals’ love, relationship, and options and expands them against the blossoming dilemmas of a nation divided.”
~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“Readers of The Catcher in the Rye and similar stories will relish the astute, critical inspection of life that makes Little Hometown, America a compelling snapshot of contemporary American life and culture.”
“Fewston employs a literary device called a ‘frame narrative’ which may be less familiar to some, but allows for a picture-in-picture result (to use a photographic term). Snapshots of stories appear as parts of other stories, with the introductory story serving as a backdrop for a series of shorter stories that lead readers into each, dovetailing and connecting in intricate ways.”
“The American novelist CG FEWSTON tells a satisfying tale, bolstered by psychology and far-ranging philosophy, calling upon Joseph Campbell, J. D. Salinger, the King James Bible, and Othello.”
“In this way, the author lends intellectual heft to a family story, exploring the ‘purity’ of art, the ‘corrupting’ influences of publishing, the solitary artist, and the messy interconnectedness of human relationships.”
GOLD Winner in the 2020 Human Relations Indie Book Awards for Contemporary Realistic Fiction
FINALIST in the SOUTHWEST REGIONAL FICTION category of the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence 2020 Awards (NIEA)
“Fewston’s lyrical, nostalgia-steeped story is told from the perspective of a 40-year-old man gazing back on events from his 1980s Texas childhood…. the narrator movingly conveys and interprets the greater meanings behind childhood memories.”
“The novel’s focus on formative childhood moments is familiar… the narrator’s lived experiences come across as wholly personal, deeply felt, and visceral.”
American Novelist CG FEWSTON
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Stay safe & stay happy. God bless.
Nico Murillo Bio ~ Americans & Texans for Safe Access ~ Medical Cannabis