MASCULINITY AND ERNEST HEMINGWAY

The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (Scribner)

BOOKS-HEMINGWAY

 

SHORT STORIES

 

“The masters of the short story come to no good end,” wrote Ernest Hemingway, in a bitterly prescient moment. He was, of course, a master of the short story who came to his own no good end with a shotgun.

But now is not the time to speak of endings. This week marks the 118th anniversary of Hemingway’s birth.Today, no living fiction writer towers over American culture the way Papa once did. His cultivated blend of machismo and existential stoicism captivated a lost generation shattered by war. His elliptical style mesmerized readers for decades – and remains so highly contagious that students still fall prey to its impassive tone and declarative simplicity. The International Imitation Hemingway Competition ran for nearly three decades, ending in 2005, but the number and quality of entries that poured in over the years suggest it could have gone on forever.

Isn’t it pretty to think so?

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with this Nobel Prize winner. I got to know the young woman who would eventually be my wife in a seminar on Hemingway. The earth moved, though not at first. If she was attracted to the testosteronic writer, I don’t know what attracted her to me. Hemingway and I were both raised by Christian Science mothers in the Midwest, but beyond that, the similarities end. He had more wives than I’ve had dates. He rushed into danger to get material for his writing; I rushed into writing to get away from danger.

But as I studied his life, all that boxing and boasting and bingeing struck me as symptoms of deep insecurity. Surely, a real man wouldn’t be quite so self-conscious about being a real man, right?

Those tensions are richly explored in a new biography by Mary V. Dearborn, but I can’t help feeling that, for most of us, the secret to appreciating Hemingway’s work lies in staying away from Hemingway’s life. His bravado, his pomposity and, frankly, his inconsolable sadness risk overshadowing his art. What the New Critics called “the biographical fallacy” is always irresistible, but it’s especially tempting when dealing with a writer who aggressively encouraged it. Trying to match up every event in a story to the author’s life is a swell way of reducing a great work of fiction to a flawed autobiography.

Consider that Hemingway’s best novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” tells the story of an impotent man. That’s rich material for a biographical critic, but most of us should just look at the masterpiece on the page. More than 90 years after it was published, it’s still an astonishingly powerful work largely because of its ferocious restraint. When I taught “The Sun Also Rises,” most of my students had no idea what was keeping Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley from jumping into bed, and who can blame them? Jake’s affliction is rarely alluded to and is never described. Thou may differ, but where Hemingway’s later novels seem, to me, freighted with melodrama and distracting verbal tics, “The Sun Also Rises” whispers its chilly despair with unruffled grace.

You can see how he perfected that style in an illuminating new edition of his short stories. This is the fourth volume in the Hemingway Library series, and to read it is to be shocked again by the fecundity of his genius. Writing one story that takes root in literary history is remarkable, but here is classic after classic, including “Indian Camp,” “Big Two-Hearted River,” “The Killers,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

Some of the stories, such as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” appear with alternate endings and notes showing additions and deletions. This material has long been available to scholars, but it’s presented here in a thoroughly accessible way by Seán Hemingway, the author’s grandson, who edited the volume and provides a helpful introduction.

There was a time when it seemed Hemingway, like so many other once indispensable writers, might fade away. (Quick show of hands: Who’s still reading John Dos Passos?) As the decades passed, the parodies seemed to preempt him. More enlightened attitudes about women threatened to render Papa irrelevant. And, really, who thinks hunting is heroic anymore?

But like the handsome bullfighter in “The Sun Also Rises,” Hemingway’s work just keeps getting up no matter how many times it’s beaten down.

Advertisements

TODAY IS FRIDAY

By Ernest Hemingway

“Read anything I write for the pleasure of reading it. Whatever else you find will be the measure of what you brought to the reading.”  -Ernest Hemingway

ffd1e8f0-a0e8-40c7-9fe2-971576945eed http://genius.com/Ernest-hemingway-today-is-friday-annotated

Hemingway’s “Today Is Friday” is about three Roman soldiers at eleven o’clock in the evening still drinking after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In his Paris Review interview Hemingway claimed to have written it and two other of his best stories in one day:

INTERVIEWER You once wrote me that the simple circumstances under which various pieces of fiction were written could be instructive. Could you apply this to The Killers—you said that you had written it, Ten Indians, and Today Is Friday in one day…?” HEMINGWAY The stories you mention I wrote in one day in Madrid on May 16 when it snowed out the San Isidro bullfights. First I wrote The Killers, which I’d tried to write before and failed. Then after lunch I got in bed to keep warm and wrote Today Is Friday. I had so much juice I thought maybe I was going crazy and I had about six other stories to write. So I got dressed and walked to Fornos, the old bullfighters’ café, and drank coffee and then came back and wrote Ten Indians. This made me very sad and I drank some brandy and went to sleep. I’d forgotten to eat and one of the waiters brought me up some bacalao and a small steak and fried potatoes and a bottle of Valdepeñas.”

INTERVIEWER

You once wrote me that the simple circumstances under which various pieces of fiction were written could be instructive. Could you apply this to The Killers—you said that you had written it, Ten Indians, and Today Is Friday in one day…?”

HEMINGWAY

The stories you mention I wrote in one day in Madrid on May 16 when it snowed out the San Isidro bullfights. First I wrote The Killers, which I’d tried to write before and failed. Then after lunch I got in bed to keep warm and wrote Today Is Friday. I had so much juice I thought maybe I was going crazy and I had about six other stories to write. So I got dressed and walked to Fornos, the old bullfighters’ café, and drank coffee and then came back and wrote Ten Indians. This made me very sad and I drank some brandy and went to sleep. I’d forgotten to eat and one of the waiters brought me up some bacalao and a small steak and fried potatoes and a bottle of Valdepeñas.”

TODAY IS FRIDAY 

Three Roman soldiers are in a drinking-place at eleven o’clock at

night. There are barrels around the wall. Behind the wooden counter is

a Hebrew wine-seller. The three Roman soldiers are a little cockeyed.

IST SOLDIER You tried the red?

2ND SOLDIER No, I ain’t tried it.

IST SOLDIER You better try it.

2ND SOLDIER All right, George, we’ll have a round of the

red.

HEBREW WINE-SELLER Here you are, gentlemen. You’ll

like that. (He sets down an earthenware pitcher that he has filled

from one of the casks) That’s a nice little wine.

IST SOLDIER Have a drink of it yourself. (He turns to the

third Roman soldier who is leaning on a barrel) What’s the matter

with you?

3RD SOLDIER I got a gut-ache.

2ND SOLDIER You’ve been drinking water.

IST SOLDIER Try some of the red.

3RD SOLDIER I can’t drink the damn stuff. It makes my

gut sour.

IST SOLDIER You been out here too long.

3RD SOLDIER Hell, don’t I know it?

IST SOLDIER Say, George, can’t you give this gentleman

something to fix up his stomach?

HEBREW WINE-SELLER I got it right here.

( The third Roman soldier tastes the cup that the wine-seller has

mixed for him)

3RD SOLDIER Hey, what you put in that, camel chips?

WINE-SELLER You drink that right down, Lootenant.

That’ll fix you up right.

3RD SOLDIER Well, I couldn’t feel any worse.

IST SOLDIER Take a chance on it. George fixed me up fine

the other day.

330 TO-DAY IS FRIDAY

WINE-SELLER You were in bad shape, Lootenant. I know

what fixes up a bad stomach.

( The third Roman soldier drinks the cup down)

3RD SOLDIER Jesus Christ. (He makes a face)

2ND SOLDIER That false alarm!

IST SOLDIER Oh, I don’t know. He was pretty good in

there to-day.

2ND SOLDIER ‘Why didn’t he come down off the cross?

IST SOLDIER He didn’t want to come down off the cross.

That’s not his play.

2ND SOLDIER Show me a guy that doesn’t want to come

down off the cross.

IST SOLDIER Aw, hell, you don’t know anything about it.

Ask George there. Did he want to come down off the cross,

George?

WINE-SELLER I’ll tell you, gentlemen, I wasn’t out there.

It’s a thing I haven’t taken any interest in.

2ND SOLDIER Listen, I seen a lot of them here and

plenty of other places. Any time you show me one that

doesn’t want to get down off the cross when the time comes

when the time comes, I mean I’ll climb right up with him.

IST SOLDIER I thought he was pretty good in there to-day.

3RD SOLDIER He was all right.

2ND SOLDIER You guys don’t know what I’m talking

about. I’m not saying whether he was good or not. What

I mean is, when the times comes. When they first start

nailing him, there isn’t none of them wouldn’t stop it if

they could.

IST SOLDIER Didn’t you follow it, George?

WINE-SELLER No, I didn’t take any interest in it, Loo-

tenant.

IST SOLDIER I was surprised how he acted.

3RD SOLDIER The part I don’t like is the nailing them on.

You kpow, that must get to you pretty bad.

2ND SOLDIER It isn’t that that’s so bad, as when they first

TO-DAY IS FRIDAY 33*

lift ’em up. (He makes a lifting gesture with his two palms

together) When the weight starts to pull on ’em. That’s when

it get’s ’em.

3RD SOLDIER It take some of them pretty bad.

IST SOLDIER Ain’t I seen ’em? I seen plenty of them. I tell

you, he was pretty good in there to-day.

( The second Roman soldier smiles at the Hebrew wine-seller)

2ND SOLDIER You’re a regular Christer, big boy.

IST SOLDIER Sure, go on and kid him. But listen while I

tell you something. He was pretty good in there to-day.

2ND SOLDIER What about some more wine?

( The wine-seller looks up expectantly. The third Roman soldier

is sitting with his head down. He does not look well)

3RD SOLDIER I don’t want any more.

2ND SOLDIER Just for two, George.

( The wine-seller puts out a pitcher of wine, a size smaller than

the last one. He leans forward on the wooden counter)

IST SOLDIER You see his girl?

2ND SOLDIER Wasn’t I standing right by her?

IST SOLDIER She’s a nice-looker.

2ND SOLDIER I knew her before he did. (He winks at the

wine-seller)

IST SOLDIER I used to see her around the town.

2ND SOLDIER She used to have a lot of stuff. He never

brought her no good luck.

IST SOLDIER Oh, he ain’t lucky. But he looked pretty good

to me in there to-day.

2ND SOLDIER What become of his gang?

IST SOLDIER Oh, they faded out. Just the women stuck by

him.

2ND SOLDIER They were a pretty yellow crowd. When

they seen him go up there they didn’t want any of it.

IST SOLDIER The women stuck all right.

332 TO-DAY IS FRIDAY

2ND SOLDIER Sure, they stuck all right.

IST SOLDIER You see me slip the old spear into him?

2ND SOLDIER You’ll get into trouble doing that some day.

IST SOLDIER It was the least I could do for him. I’ll tell

you he looked pretty good to me in there to-day.

HEBREW WINE-SELLER Gentlemen, you know I got to close.

IST SOLDIER We’ll have one more round.

2ND SOLDIER What’s the use? This stuff don’t get you

anywhere. Come on, let’s go.

IST SOLDIER Just another round.

3RD SOLDIER (getting up from the barrel) No, come on. Let’s

go. I feel like hell to-night.

IST SOLDIER Just one more.

2ND SOLDIER No, come on. We’re going to go. Goodnight,

George. Put it on the bill.

WINE-SELLER Good night, gentlemen. (He looks a little

worried) You couldn’t let me have a little something on

account, Lootenant?

2ND SOLDIER What the hell, George ! Wednesday’s pay-day.

WINE-SELLER It’s all right, Lootenant. Good night,

gentlemen.

(The three Roman soldiers go out the door into the street.

Outside in the street)

2ND SOLDIER George is a kike just like all the rest of them.

IST SOLDIER Oh, George is a nice fella.

2ND SOLDIER Everybody’s a nice fella to you to-night.

3RD SOLDIER Come on, let’s go up to the barracks. I feel

like hell to-night.

2ND SOLDIER You been out here too long.

3RD SOLDIER No, it ain’t just that. I feel like hell.

2ND SOLDIER You been out here too long. That’s all.

CURTAIN