Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

The Background

Hemingway is a somewhat notorious literary figure from the first half of the 20th century. He lived the life of an adventurer as he travelled through World War I, to Africa to Key West, with time spent in Paris, hanging out with the literati of the day.

He is known for his spare, blunt prose that was revolutionary for its time. In addition to twenty novels like The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls, he also wrote over sixty short stories. The best in this particular collection are "Up in Michigan", "The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", but everyone has their favourites. You'll have to read a few to see what appeals to you.

Why You Should Read Them

You may remember some of these stories from your English class days; they were probably included as examples of the short story. Comparing Hemingway's stories with contemporary ones found in literary mags, you can see how his "plain, bald, language" continues to influence writers today. "Up in Michigan" for example, written in 1923, uses the same blunt, crude language in describing an unwanted sexual encounter that you might find in a similarly themed contemporary story.

Contrary to the stereotype of the writer holed away in his home office on the computer, plot lines coming from unfulfilled dreams, Hemingway is a unique example of a man whose writing directly came from his rich life experiences. Putting the drinking problems aside, he is an example we could follow today.

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