Author Showcase: Classic Short Story Collections
January 16, 2013
Sometimes we get so focused on long-form fiction that we forget about the gem of fiction writing: short stories.
I use the word gem with care. Short stories are writing distilled to its essence. Almost everything I have ever read on the subject has said that short stories are the purest form of fiction writing. They are a delight to readers, a challenge to writers.
In short stories, authors must capture the reader, get in and get out.
I couldn’t think of a better jumping off point for this series than the work of Ernest Hemingway.
Here is an editorial review from the product description on Amazon.
The subtitle of this monumental collection refers to the home (Lookout Farm) that Hemingway owned in Cuba from 1939 to 1959. That time frame accounts for most of the short fiction, published and unpublished, that followed the major collection issued in 1938, The First Forty-Nine. There are 60 stories in all. Of the 21 not included in the 1938 collection, the seven heretofore unpublished pieces will interest readers most. Three are especially good. “A Train Trip” and “The Porter” are self-contained excerpts from an abandoned novel that match in tone and appeal the early Hemingway work in which he explored the adolescent sensibility exposed to an adult world that is exciting but at the same time threatening and morally complex. Drawing from the author’s experiences in Europe during World War II, “Black Ass at the Crossroads” is excellent in its detailing of violent action, portraying an ambush of German soldiers from the point of view of an American infantry officer, depressed and angry over the suffering he has inflicted in the course of battle. The other previously unpublished pieces include a Spanish Civil War story reminiscent of Hemingway’s play, The Fifth Column; two quite touching stories about a father’s disappointments with a troubled son; and a long section comprising four chapters from an early version of the novel, Islands in the Stream. Intrinsically readable, the collection is also significant in drawing together much that was unavailable or difficult to access.
Readers have demonstrated their love for these stories, the writings that often paved the way for Hemingway’s novels. One anonymous reviewer give us this summary of the stories.
Hemingway’s short stories were always a bit more finely crafted than his novels. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway allows the reader to examine and even partake in the development of Hemingway as a writer; from his early Nick Adams stories, a few of which went on to become The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell To Arms, To Have And Have Not; to the mature Hemingway who wrote about his experiences as a reporter during the Spanish Civil War and later in Europe between the wars. This work contains some of the finest shorts of American literature. (Read The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber; The Snows of Kilimanjaro; A Clean Well Lighted Place; Big Two-Hearted River (parts I & II); Hills Like White Elephants–too many good ones to mention them all.) There are some poor stories as well but even these are well constructed. In short, the definitive volume of Hemingway–better than any single novel or other collection. A must have…. (I’m holding mine in my hand as I type with the other–) Little known fact: The Finca Vigia Edition contains an editorial change in the story A Clean Well Lighted Place–a moved line of dialogue–which was made by a silly editor after Hemingway’s death and which renders the text incorrect with respect to his orignal published manuscript. In fact there are no correct versions of this short story presently in print. The accurate version, though, may be found in the Library of Congress.
In future installments of this series, I will bring you some contemporary short story collections. If you know of one you would like to see featured here, please leave me a comment about it. Authors, if you have a short story collection, I would love to check it out as well. So don’t be shy about mentioning it below in the comments section.
(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author. He has written a number of short stories and still tries his hand at it.)