Hemingway For Better & Worse

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some deep-sea-fish cakes
for an iconic author’s birthday.
** Linger to peruse
my list of his best short stories.
** Savor a last ½ cup
tallying up a serious bar tab.
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First Sip:

Since I had started to
break all my writing down…
and try to
make instead of describe,
writing had been wonderful to do.
it was very difficult
and I did not know how I would ever write anything as long as a novel.
It often took me a full morning of work to write a paragraph.

– from A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway
Chapter 17: ‘Scott Fitzgerald’


Slice of Cake:

What is the best of Ernest Hemingway’s writing?

Number one for me is Hemingway’s dialog.
Honestly, I’m not sure a) why he wasn’t a playwright, and
b) why we don’t see stage versions of his short stories.

Here are 4 examples
where I took Hemingway prose that’s mostly dialog
and transcribed it into the form of short scripts.

First is an example of men talking to men.
(Let’s call it Exhibit A.)

Bill –
So long as it’s over
that’s all that matters… I understand her mother is
sore as hell.
She told a lot of people you were engaged.
Nick –
We weren’t engaged.
Bill –
It was all around that you were.
Nick –
I can’t help it. We weren’t.
Bill –
Weren’t you going to get married?
Nick –
Yes. But we weren’t engaged
Bill (judicially) –
What’s the difference?
Nick –
I don’t know. There’s a difference.
Bill –
I don’t see it.
Nick –
All right. Let’s get drunk.
Bill –
All right.

– from The Three-Day Blow
Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway in Cuba
Photo by Tore Johnson
Life Images Collection, Getty

Next are two examples of
men talking to children.
(Let’s call them Exhibits B & C.)

Bumby –
Should we go home by Silver Beach’s book store?
Papa –
Sure. Do you like her?
Bumby –
She is always very nice to me.
Papa –
Me too.
Bumby –
She has a beautiful name. Silver Beach.
Papa –
We will go by and then I must get you home in time for lunch.

– from A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway
in a chapter called “The Education of Mr Bumby”

The joke here is that her name is actually Sylvia Beach.
(Her bookstore is Shakespeare & Company.)

A father checks in on his son who is running a fever.
He finds him

“staring still, as he had stared, at the foot of the bed.”
He takes the child’s temperature.

Schatz –
What is it?
Papa –
Something like a hundred.
Schatz –
It was a hundred and two.
Papa –
Who said so?
Schatz –
The doctor.
Papa –
Your temperature is all right. It’s nothing to worry about.
Schatz –
I don’t worry, but I can’t keep from thinking.
Papa –
Don’t think. Just take it easy…
Schatz –
About what time do you think I’m going to die?
Papa –
Schatz –
About how long will it be before I die?
Papa –
You aren’t going to die. What’s the matter with you?
Schatz –
Oh, yes, I am. I heard him say a hundred and two….
At school in France the boys told me you can’t live

with forty-four degrees. I’ve got a hundred and two.
Papa –
You poor Schatz. Poor old Schatz…
You aren’t going to die. That’s a different thermometer.
On that thermometer thirty-seven is normal. On this kind it’s ninety-eight.

Schatz –
Are you sure?
Papa –
Absolutely. It’s like miles and kilometers…
Schatz –

(His gaze at the foot of the bed relaxed slowly.
The hold over himself relaxed too, finally, and the
next day it was very slack
and he cried very easily at little things
that were of no importance.

– from A Day’s Wait
Ernest Hemingway

Here’s an example of men talking at women.
(Let’s call it Exhibit D for Dreadful.)

He –
I don’t want to move. There is no sense in moving now
except to make it easier for you.

She –
That’s cowardly.
He –
Can’t you let a man die comfortably as he can
without calling him names?…

She –
You’re not going to die.
He –
I’m dying now.

He –
Where did we stay in Paris?
She –
At the Crillon. You know that…That’s where we always stayed…
You said you loved it there.

He –
Love is a dunghill. And I’m the cock that
gets on it to crow.
She –
If you have to go away, is it absolutely necessary to
kill off everything you leave behind? I mean do you have to
take away everything? Do you have to kill your horse, and your wife and
burn your saddle and your armour?

He –
Yes. Your damned money was my armour…
She –
He –
All right. I’ll stop that. I don’t want to hurt you.
She –
It’s a little bit late now.
He –
All right then. I’ll go on hurting you. It’s more amusing…
(he looked at her and saw her crying)
Listen… I don’t know why I’m doing it. It’s trying to
kill to keep yourself alive, I imagine.
…Don’t pay any attention, darling, to what I say. I love you, really…
You know I love you…

She –
You’re sweet to me.
He –
You bitch. You rich bitch. That’s poetry. I’m full of
poetry now. Rot and poetry. Rotten poetry.

She –
Stop it. Harry, why do you have to turn into a devil now?
He –
I don’t like to leave anything. I don’t like to leave things behind.

– from The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Ernest Hemingway

It isn’t always that bad, of course.
But I can’t think of any examples
where Hemingway wrote dialog where a man and a woman
really listen and respond to each other.
Instead, couples talk past each other.
One or the other always seems to be realizing that they want out.

The big exception to this
is his memoir about his first wife, Hadley.1

Here’s a passage that starts with him telling Hadley about a new lending library where he’d borrowed some books on credit.
It ends with him calling himself a fool for leaving Hadley.
(Let’s call this Exhibit G for guilty conscience.)

Hadley –
But you must go by this afternoon and pay.
Hem –
Sure I will. We’ll both go. And then
we’ll walk down by the river and along the quays.

Hadley –
Let’s walk down the rue de Seine and look in all the galleries
and in the windows of the shops.

Hem –
Sure. We can walk anywhere and we can
stop at some new café…and have a drink.

Hadley –
We can have two drinks.
Hem –
Then we can eat somewhere.
Hadley –
No. Don’t forget we have to pay the library.
Hem –
We’ll come home and eat here and we’ll have a lovely meal
and drink Beaune from the co-operative…

Hadley –
And we’ll never love anyone else but each other.
Hem –
No. Never.
Hadley –
What a lovely afternoon and evening. Now we’d better have lunch…
Hem –
And we’re going to have all the books in the world
to read and when we go on trips we can take them.

Hadley –
Would that be honest?
Hem –
Hadley –
Does she have Henry James too?
Hem –
Hadley –
My, we’re lucky that you found the place.
Hem –
We’re always lucky.

– from A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway
Chapter 3: ‘Shakespeare and Company’


** Happy 120th Birthday **
Ernest Hemingway

– born July 21, 1899
in Oak Park,
a suburb of Chicago, Illinois


Linger Awhile:

I’ve been thinking this week about what value reading Hemingway has for a woman in the 21st century.

Hemingway defines a certain kind of male loutishness
by personifying it—

His public persona is full of big-game shooting, submarine hunting, repeated wife-divorcing, heavy-drinking macho swagger.

Hemingway defines a certain kind of male loutishness
by describing it—

His writing is full of clear and concise observations of men, both weak and strong, and of women, both weak and strong.

We can (and I believe should) argue with his definitions of weak, strong, women, men, and everything else.
But we can (and I believe should) acknowledge that our arguments are aided by having all those examples so readily accessible in his writing.

(Let’s call them Exhibits, if not A-Z, at least maybe Exhibits A-M.)

Okay. Here we go.
My list (in chronological order) of…

The 9 Most-Worth-Reading Short Stories
by Ernest Hemingway

The Three-Day Blow (1925)
I like this one just for the dialog and the slice of life. And how the apple that’s in Nick’s pocket in the first paragraph resonates with his idea in the last line.

Cat in the Rain (1925)
The woman in this story seems written to be simultaneously petty and sympathetic.  Hemingway also contrasts the behavior of the hotel-keeper with that of the husband. On a scale of attention and courtesy, the husband is the loser. 

Ten Indians (1927)
Without ever being forbidden from, or punished for, his crush on a Native American girl, a white boy is subtly discouraged and then tricked into abandoning his interest in her. It feels to me like a perfect case study of how racism is taught and passed down from one generation to the next.

A Canary for One (1927)
Another portrait of racism, this is a well-crafted story with a last line that reverberates backwards and makes you want to go back and read it over again. It was only on my second read-through that I noticed the disaster metaphors out their train window: a farmhouse on fire, a three-way car wreck.

Hills Like White Elephants (1927)
This is a brilliant story—done almost entirely in dialog—where little is said, the main subject is never mentioned, and yet a picture of this couple’s past, present, and future are somehow all tangibly conveyed.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (1933)
A study in what public places can mean to lonely, otherwise isolated people.

A Day’s Wait (1933)
Hem does a nice job of creating good daddy characters.

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (1936)
This disturbing story is all about a manly code that Hemingway seems to be endorsing. One man strictly lives by it; another man appears unable to understand it, despite living with a woman who blames him for not abiding by it. The plot twist is shocking, but it’s those last couple of lines that really chill me.

Soldier’s Home (1943)
I don’t have to like the character Harold Krebs to appreciate this intimate look into the way his mind works.

perhaps Nick would find some trout here


“Half Cup More”

No one ever seems to talk about how funny Hemingway is.

In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway describes one day
(one day, mind you) of a road trip (yes, one of them was driving) that he and F. Scott Fitzgerald took between Lyon and Paris in 1924.

I tallied up their bar tab for the day:

1- When he arrived that morning, Scott had “obviously been drinking” already.
2- Whisky and Perrier after breakfast.
3- White wine with lunch.
4- Something called white maconnais—at each of “possibly ten” stops.
5- Four more bottles of wine.
6- Double whiskies with lemonade.
At this point, Hem notes that Scotty “was affected by such small quantities of alcohol”!
7- Another stop for drinks.
8- A couple more whisky sours.
9- A carafe of Fleurie with dinner.
(But Hem drank ¾ of that.)
10- A bottle of wine after dinner. Scott had one glass of this and passed out.


Take-Away Box

Now if this was how it ended, and he knew it was,
he must not
turn like some snake

biting itself because its back was broken.
It wasn’t this woman’s fault…
He heard a shot beyond the hill.
She shot very well this good, this rich bitch,
this kindly caretaker and destroyer of his talent.

He had destroyed his talent himself.
Why should he blame this woman because she kept him well?
He had destroyed his talent
by not using it, by betrayals of himself
and what he believed in,
by drinking so much that he blunted the edge of his perceptions,
by laziness, by sloth, and by snobbery…
What was his talent anyway?
It was a talent all right but instead of using it,

he had traded on it. It was never what he had done,
but always what he could do.

– from The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Ernest Hemingway


I have never tried
apportion the blame, except my own part,
and that was clearer all my life…
The only one, Hadley, who had no possible blame, ever,
came well out of it finally and married a much
finer man that I ever was or could hope to be
and is happy and deserves it and that was one
good and lasting thing that came of that year.

– from A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway
Chapter 16: ‘Winter in Schruns’ 2


Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me a note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…


notes & footnotes:

A Moveable Feast was essentially
a love letter to his first wife, Hadley.
It was published in 1964,
which was after Hemingway’s death—and only after being
heavily edited by his fourth wife (who perhaps resented the reminder
that she was neither his first nor his favorite).

It was revised, re-edited, restored,
then published in 2009 by his grandson, Seán Hemingway

Chapter 16: ‘Winter in Schruns’
This chapter of A Moveable Feast describes Hemingway and
his first wife, Hadley, living cheaply in Austria, where
they climb mountains carrying packs and skis,
ski down, then turn around, pick up their skis, climb back up, and ski down again.
…It also contains a disturbing description of them leaving their infant son
to be babysat by a cat.
(The cat’s name is F. Puss.)

Hemingway is everywhere!
Even here in Salt Lake City
(photo of me, taken by my son)


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© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

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