Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Hemingway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hemingway. Show all posts

09 June, 2013

Ernest Hemingway, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"

This famous story tells of a man, Harry, a writer, dying of gangrene in his leg. He is in Africa on a safari accompanied by a woman, his wife, Helen. As they await rescue, Harry reviews his life and how he has squandered his time.

"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, by pride and by prejudice, by hook and by crook."

I like the idea, as well, that one incident can be the catalyst for something quite extraordinary or dreadful. "I suppose what I did was to forget to put iodine on it when I first scratched it. Then I didn't pay attention to it because I never infect. Then, later, when it got bad, it was probably using that weak carbolic solution when the other antiseptics ran out that paralyzed the minute blood vessels and started the gangrene."

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936. This story is an excellent example of a short story that jumps right into the meat without wasting words with backstory.

I love this sentence. "A fourth planed down, to run quick-legged and then waddle slowly toward the others." It combines the visual of a plane coming to the rescue and more vultures arriving.

He planned the trip to Africa to get away from the rich people he had been spending time with. He'd told himself he was going to write to expose the rich that he despised but instead had allowed himself to become complacent.

Helen had an entire life, husband and children before Harry. When one of her children was killed, she realized that she had to make another life for herself and she very calculatedly did just that. Step by step she became involved and then married him because she admired what she thought she knew about him, that he did exactly what he wanted but all he did was accept her money and security. Now two weeks into their African trip, a thorn scratch to his knee advanced into gangrene.

17 November, 2012

Ernest Hemingway, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place"

Two waiters in a bar have one remaining customer, an old, deaf man who had attempted suicide just the week before. The younger waiter is anxious for the old man to leave while the older waiter has compassion and understanding that some people need a "clean, well-lighted cafe," even if it is just because of insomnia.

 The story, for me, is about compassion and empathy, especially how it develops with age, sometimes. The younger waiter is selfish and judgmental. The story is only four pages long but shows a person isolated and lonely, waiting, waiting for death and how one man understands or thinks he understands.

At first the story seems to be about the man who attempted suicide but it is about the older waiter. We learn of his compassion by how he sees an old, deaf man who drinks too much every night.  We never learn, however, why the older waiter has insomnia.

My favorite part of the story is where Hemingway uses the Lord's Prayer but puts in the word "nada" remaking it into the older waiter's comment on religion being nothing. It becomes a song about "nothing is with thee."

Favorite Line:
"With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night."

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" was first published in 1933 in Scribner's Magazine. And, is included in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigía Edition.

Nobel Prize, Hemingway

18 December, 2011

Ernest Hemingway, "The Killers"

Over the past weekends I've watched two versions of "The Killers." The first one from 1946, black and white, directed by Robert Siodmak with screenplay by Anthony Veiller. And, the next one from 1964, starring Lee Marvin, Ronald Reagan, Angie Dickinson, Clu Gulager, and several other famous actors directed by Don Siegel and screenplay by Gene L. Coon.

Really the only thing that the movies, especially the 1964 one, have in common with the short story is that the hunted man, even when knowledgeable about being found, does not try to run away. He allows himself to be murdered. He waits for it. In the first movie, he waits in his room, lying in bed. In the second movie, he sends his auto mechanic students, blind students, out of the room and waits to be gunned down.

The short story only covers the two thugs entering the diner, tying up Nick and Sam in the kitchen with George out front. Then after the thugs leave, Nick goes to the rooming house to warn Andreson that two killers are looking for him and Andreson does not leave or try to run.

Both of the movies spend a lot of time with the back story. Hemingway's short story is mostly dialogue and no back story, only a tiny bit of speculation about the reason the two killers have arrived in town.

31 December, 2009

Stuart Dybek, "Waiting" and Ernest Hemingway

Read essay, "Waiting" by Stuart Dybek in the current issue of Zoetrope: All-Story.

It is a funny and poignant essay about "waiting" in Hemingway as well as in other writers' works, for example, Fitzgerald, Wharton, James Joyce, Chekhov, Kafka, and more. It begins with a hilarious story about when he and a poet friend attended a "gathering" and its attendant sweat lodge. It moves through relationships with women, illness, more waiting.

Quoted from the essay " seems as if the forward thrust of narrative, as if the very action of verbs, is illusory, that no matter the story, or how it's told, or by whom, the inescapable conclusion is that life--not just life on the page, but life at its core--waits."

In March, 2009, I attended a Dybek reading and waited in line for my copy of The Coast of Chicago to be signed, only to mutter something to him about a young woman who I'd recently met who was totally enamored. He was gracious and said, "my daughter's name is Ann so obviously I like that name." I was so happy to be able to attend his reading as well as the Q&A earlier in the day.

This essay is a wonderful inclusion to the journal matched with the story by Hemingway, "The Killers" which is, in the end, about waiting.

Stuart Dybek was awarded a MacArthur Award in 2007.

Ernest Hemingway, "The Killers"

Read Ernest Hemingway's short story, "The Killers," which is the classic reprint in the current issue of Zoetrope: All-Story. "The Killers" was included in the first collection of Hemingway's stories, referred to as "The First Forty-nine" written between 1921-1938. This story is also included, obviously, in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. The heavy use of the "n" word in "The Killers" situates the story in its time in history. Personally, I feel assaulted when I see that heinous word and have to steel myself when it's used.

It is amazing, still, how much power Hemingway could press into a short story. Even just two lines of dialogue between two guys can be fraught with tension, nervousness, and suspense. It's hard to believe he wasn't witnessing the event first-hand. I never tire of reading his stories.