Many of the secrets tucked behind some of Ernest Hemingway’s best known short stories lay hidden until this summer, with the release of Scriber’s “The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Edition.”
It is an important book because the author’s grandson Sean Hemingway cherry-picked 26 of Papa’s stories from 1916 to 1938. More importantly, Sean Hemingway peels back the curtain of Hemingway’s writing process by including multiple drafts of manuscripts replete with Hemingway’s pencil edits, line notes, false starts, alternate titles and multiple denouements.
For example, in an early draft of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” Hemingway wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald into a passage: “The very rich are very different from you and me. And how he had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money.” But in the final version, Scott’s name is replaced with the neutral Julian.
And in “Soldier’s Home,” Hemingway changed a multisentence lead to one declarative sentence. An early draft reads, “Krebs was born in a small town in Kansas. He had grown up ... Krebs had gone through high school and three years of college in a Methodist college when the United States declared war in April 1917”; the final draft’s lead sentence, in typical Hemingway fashion, states “Krebs went to the war from a Methodist College in Kansas.”
In addition, this edition includes two rare early stories: “Judgment of Manitou,” which first appeared in the Oak Park High School literary magazine “Tabula” in 1916, and an untitled story written in 1918, on American Red Cross Hospital stationery.
Sean Hemingway explains the criteria for story selection: “First, the stories with the best manuscript material to illuminate Hemingway’s writing methods. ... Second, the selection focuses squarely on his finished body of work so that the reader may see how a consummate short story writer honed his craft from first draft to final publication.”
This means that readers discover Hemingway’s “Iceberg Theory” in his work — how he discloses 20 percent of the facts in each story by omitting details, leaving it up to the reader to infer the true meaning of his creations. For instance, he writes about the trauma of war in “Big Two-Hearted River” without mentioning war.
Subsequently, all three of Hemingway’s story collections are well represented in “The Hemingway Library Edition.” Popular stories that were originally released in 1925’s “In Our Time” include “Indian Camp,” a story that features life (childbirth) and death (suicide), “Soldier’s Home” and “Big Two-Hearted River.”
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the short story collection “Men Without Women,” and readers will revisit classics such as “Fifty Grand,” “The Killers,” and “Hills Like White Elephants.” In “Fifty Grand” fans will identify boxer Jack Brennan as a Hemingway code hero (i.e., a person who is imperturbable, courageous and performs gracefully under pressure). And according to Sean Hemingway, “ ‘The Killers’ is the first great American gangster story.”
One of the most popular Hemingway stories taught in high schools and universities worldwide, “Hills Like White Elephants,” a paradigm of the Iceberg Theory, is a featured story in this volume. Additionally, the neglected “Banal Story,” a two-pager that pokes fun at American intellect, is a “Men Without Women” story plucked for this compendium.
Several stories from Hemingway’s 1933’s “Winner Take Nothing” are included here, such as “The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio,” a piece that Hemingway was inspired to write while infirmed in Montana for two months in 1930. The most popular story from “Winner Take Nothing” included in “The Hemingway Library Edition” is “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” in which Hemingway employs, masterfully, third-person omniscient point-of-view allowing the reader to observe two waiters discuss a patron’s botched suicide.
Also included in this book are old reliables “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and the madcap “The Art of the Short Story,” first published in “The Paris Review” in 1981. In the essay, Hemingway barbs Faulkner “when he hits the sauce toward the end of a book, it shows bad” and apologizes to Sherwood Anderson for lampooning him with “The Torrents of Spring”: “I am sorry I threw at Anderson. It was cruel and I was a son of a bitch to do it.”
Because Ernest Hemingway captured the true essence of the human condition in all of his short stories, he will forever be relevant, and that is why this new edition, which features his notes and multiple drafts, is an essential book for consumers and aesthetes. Poet Ezra Pound, a Hemingway friend, once said being a modernist means “Make it New,” and here is a new book from the author who made every story new, technically and lyrically, each time he wrote one.
Wayne Catan teaches English literature at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix.
“The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Edition” by Ernest Hemingway; Scribner ($35)