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Editor's Choice: The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

"The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Edition" with a personal forward by Patrick Hemingway and a new introduction by Sean Hemingway

Scribner

576 pages, $30

Very few American publishers have a legacy as valuable and important as Scribner in its stewardship of Ernest Hemingway’s work. More than a half century after a depressed Hemingway put his shotgun into his mouth and killed himself, there are those who would argue that Hemingway’s purest and most important influence on American literature may be found in these pages. It is the Hemingway of the stories who, as Anthony Burgess once put it, changed completely “the tune” of American prose. Along with Scribner’s guardianship of the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, one could, I suppose, call this work part of the Max Perkins estate at Scribner (i.e., the classic American prose Perkins edited that helped shape American prose for the next five generations of American writers).

So what are we to make of this “Hemingway Library Edition” from Scribner that can’t help but raise the question of where a publisher’s stewardship of a bedrock literary legacy drifts from scholarship into outright exploitation?

No one would argue that the stories included here helped change the way all American writers would subsequently write afterward –"Up in Michigan,” “Big Two-Hearted River,” “Fifty Grand,” “The Killers,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” “The Gambler, the Nun and the Radio,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” the author’s revealing personal favorite “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” with its astonishing peroration that the story’s title was needed against life’s prevalent “nada.” A first in a Hemingway book is the essay “The Art of the Short Story” from 1959, which grandson Sean Hemingway explains “was originally intended as an introduction for students to his short stories and it reads like an informal lecture from a master. Mary Hemingway thought it was too condescending and smug and perhaps "too personal a presentation.” Read, for instance, what it says about how Fitzgerald changed “Fifty Grand” to read how right Fitzgerald was and how wrong Hemingway was.

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