Ernest Hemingway’s Short Stories a Mixed Bag

So, I spent a lot of time with Hemingway’s Short Stories this summer. I really didn’t care for a lot of them, so it was quite a slog. I initially thought that it was just me. After all this was Hemingway and all.

I finally gave myself permission to skip the ones I didn’t like. I was annoyed because some of them seemed more like character sketches or vignettes than actual stories.  Eventually when I picked up a compilation of several of his novels,  the preface indicated  that I was not far off in my assessment.

Honestly I think some of these pieces were published just because Hemingway’s name was attached to them.

Here are my reviews of a handful of his pieces:

Up in Michigan was interesting, especially in the age of Shades of Grey.

It’s hard to review such a very short story without spoiling it. This was Hemingway’s first story, according to the preface and was no doubt scandalous at the time.

I guess my best summary is that the character Liz Coates got both more and less than she was expecting.

On the Quai at Smyrna  is a brief glimpse into the horrors of war and it’s effect on the smallest of people.

Many of Hemingway’s stories reflect how he had been affected by the war. In particular Soldier’s Home describes the ennui that can beset a returning soldier. After all when one has been through combat, how does he then live a “normal” life?

Even today I wonder how servicemen and women are impacted by their experiences. How do you spend months in the desert armed to the teeth, bored yet hyper-alert and then come home to dropping the kids off at daycare or picking up dog food at Target? The disconnect must be overwhelming. I don’t imagine it to be possible to explain to someone who had not been there what it was like.

In Soldier’s Home  veteran Krebs suffers what would probably  be diagnosed as depression today. He returns when everyone back home is just over it. They have had enough of the war stories so he must embellish his own stories past the point of recognition just to make them significant enough to be heard.

Then he is disgusted with himself.

He has no interest in anything. He sleeps, he eats, he reads. He doesn’t work or sincerely look for work, much to the chagrin of his family. He takes pleasure in nothing. Even when he sees attractive young women in town, he can’t be bothered to pursue them.

Soldier’s Home is definitely worth reading, just for the tone. You can really just get inside Krebs’ skin.


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