I always have bittersweet experiences with Ernest Hemmingway’s writings. This collection of early short stories was no different. The sweetness comes from the way that Hemmingway draws you into the life of his characters. Often you meet them in the middle of a thought or event and yet you immediately begin to invest in them, quickly sympathizing with or being disgusted by them…or most often both. Hemmingway’s terse writing style, in particular his machine gun style dialouge which would become one of his most influential contributions to modern literature, can be seen evolving in these early works.
The bitterness sets in for me usually towards the end of the story as I realize that we (me and the characters) are either at the same place we started in, dead, or dying. The joy for Hemmingway seems to be found in the moment, not the accomplishment of reaching any sought after destination.
I walk away from a Hemmingway book with a similar feeling as walking away from a Wes Anderson movie (although Hemmingway was immeasurably more manly than a Wes Anderson movie). And I will most likely continue to read Hemmingway for similar reasons as viewing Wes Anderson’s films – for their Ecclesiastes-ish sense of irony that is so ridiculously tragic as to be humorous, the joy of great dialogue, and their delight in the mundane and absurd details. I will also lament their bleak, Christ-less, outlook on life.