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So as before I decided to continue to listen to Ernest Hemingway’s short stories (which as a writer have taught me a lot). The fact that Stacey Keach does an amazing job reading them made my decision easy. As per usual this is an audio from from Audible.
As before I will take the time to talk about each story. I probably won’t do this every short-story collection I read but since these are short, I’ll do it once more.
“An Alpine Idyll”
Really enjoyed it. This is a story about some American friends, one of them being the recurring character Nick Adams, who have come down form the mountains after a month long skiing trip. Even though it’s depressing I have to say this was well written. Soon we get into a discussion about death, funerals and the beastly things people are capable of doing. Ernest say some terrible things in his life, so I have no doubt someone using a corpse to hold up a lantern could certainly be true.
“A pursuit race”
I like this story but didn’t like the ending. It’s a very simple one, basically a drunk/high man talking to the owner of the hotel. There are some funny moments but ultimately it’s depressing. I would have liked it more if there had been some kind of resolution but as Hemingway often does, the story just ends. As Hemingway was a long time drinker himself, he can write a drunk man well.
“Today is Friday”
Loved this story. It has some dark humor and a lot of dark moments but I like it when a writer does something controversial. I’m sure at the time this came out, 1926, it must have ruffled a few feathers. It is a story of Roman soldiers, who had crucified Jesus earlier in the day, are drinking to let off some steam. I was surprised to find Hemingway did an anti-religious, I would call it, story and one set so far in the past. It was a welcome change from the ones I’ve read so far. Sure it has the usual no resolution ending but I forgive it here.
I liked this one too. It’s always good to hear Hemingway’s thoughts on life, death and romance. I know the story is meant to poke fun at a magazine and ultimately picks realism over romance but still it was enjoyable.
“Now I Lay Me”
Good story, Hemingway draws on his military experience to show what happens to a solider after he is shell-shocked (what we would now call PTSD). It’s just two guys chatting until one of them falls asleep, as usual he does great, realistic dialogue. While he never uses the name Nick, it is believed this is about the Nick Adams character which is basically Hemingway.
“After the Storm”
Loved this story. Starts off with action and a bar fight. Then ends up with a guy trying to get into a ship for sunken treasure. He later gets arrested, released and laments how when he got back to the ship it was cleaned out. Depressing sure but with such great description and an actual conclusion (along with an imagining of how the ship went down), very satisfying.
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
Good story, I’m not sure if it’s the best Hemingway has every done but as usual realistic dialogue and characters. It made me feel good to be more like the younger waiter, who had a wife to go home to, than the older one who will go home alone to his insomnia. It also made me think I hope I’ve never the old man getting drunk in a cafe by himself with nowhere else to go.
“The Light of the World”
Didn’t like this one. The homosexual remarks are offensive, as if the way he talks about Native people. I know Hemingway lived in a different time but even he knew this was wrong. Then there is the long conversation with two prostitutes and two young men. I can see it has to do with them seeing what the world is really like (and small loss of their innocence) but it’s just dull.
“God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen”
Not very fond of this one either. It’s such a weird story about a boy who wants to be castrated, is refused by two doctors and then tries to do it himself (with obviously bad results). At least Hemingway doesn’t show anti-antisemitism here and brings up notions of what a Christian nature really means.
“The Sea Change”
Loved this one. We see Hemingway’s ideas on homosexuality and bisexuality. He also always does a great job when it comes to a couple arguing or having a discussion. Ultimately the main character is saddened by his wife leaving him for a woman but has grown as a person and is wiser.
“A Way You’ll Never Be”
Another excellent story. Again we get Nick Adams, this time he is suffering from shell-shock and traveling through Italy. Despite his troubles Nick is still trying to follow orders. Hemingway does, what we would call PTSD, so well. I’ve never had it but from movies I’ve seen it is spot-on. You feel bad for Nick, you feel good about the care the Italian officer shows Nick and of course you get the both terrible and haunting image of the thousands of corpses in the field along with all the scattered papers.
“The Mother of a Queen”
An ok story. I know this has all sorts of references to homosexuality but mostly it’s just a story about a bullfighter and his manager. The bullfight won’t pay for his mother’s burial and she is exhumed. He also won’t pay the manager back any money. Hemingway certainly describes annoyance and (later) hatred well but I just couldn’t make myself care for either character.
“One Reader Writes”
Crappy story. It’s just about a woman who is worried about staying (and sleeping) with her husband after he contracts syphilis. I just couldn’t make myself care about her.
“Homage to Switzerland”
An ok story. I know it has deeper meaning (as all 3 characters are Hemingway at different stages in his life) but mainly it just shows how you can be a decent person with a waitress, a total asshole or someone in between. The dialogue is well done as if the description but the repetition involved was a surprise and, for me, made the story a little boring.
“A Day’s Wait”
Another ok story. I know this gets into the misunderstanding and lack of connection between father and son but on the surface it’s just about a son who’s sick, thinks he will die and (thankfully) doesn’t. At least it had a happy ending, which is rare for Hemingway.
“A Natural History of the Dead”
Loved this story. It is a scientific paper where Hemingway examines dead bodies from a completely detached and scientific point of view. I know that doesn’t sound entertaining but it is full of dark humor, which I love and highlights just how intelligent an thoughtful Hemingway could be in his writing.
“Wine of Wyoming”
Ok story that I mostly liked. I found the French to be very distracting (as I don’t speak it) but I loved the characters. It is a tale of the differences between American’s and French (at the time in the 1930’s at least). I didn’t like the ending as I felt it was greatly exaggerated, just because they couldn’t give this American couple one last drink they are ruined? Again I know it has deeper meaning but sometimes that gets frustrating.
“The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio”
Didn’t like this much. The Nun is so incredibly annoying that I almost stopped listening. It’s fine to make you hate a character but the way she talked just grated on my nerves. The talk about radio waves and hospitals was better but still a disappointing story.
“Fathers and Sons”
Final story in the collection. I liked this one, though as is the case I really don’t like the terribly racist way he talks about Native people. I’m lucky to have a good relationship with my dad but I have heard that it is a difficult thing for many people. Good dialogue (this is a Nick Adams story by the way) and interesting characters. It stays true to the less is more Hemingway style, as we are left to wonder if Nick will have a better relationship with his son, than he had with his own father.
Phew! Every story reviewed. I’ll state here now that I don’t plan on ever doing that again, it’s too time consuming. Out of the 20 stories I really enjoyed 10 of them and found 5 more to be ok. So as usual a mixed bag (but mostly good stuff) from me. Please don’t let children listen to this, ages 16+ please. As I predicted I did enjoy this volume the most out the three. So I give this a medium recommendation if you’re a shorty story fan and of course If you’re Hemingway fan it’s a must listen, though I would do yourself a favor and just skip the 5 I didn’t like.
Another fantastic set of classic Hemingway short stories. The stories themselves remove you from this world and engross you in them, in the best possible way. Outstanding performance again from the narrator!
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