The Pequod Review:
Ernest Hemingway remains more famous for his novels, but it is in his short stories where his extraordinary talent is most apparent. The shorter format is better suited to his strengths (spare prose and brilliant individual scenes), while minimizing his weaknesses (extended narratives and character development). This collection of stories (The Finca Vigia Edition) is one of his most comprehensive, and includes virtually all of his finest stories. At least 15 or 20 of these are exceptional, but some of my personal favorites are: “'Hills Like White Elephants” (an account of a simple conversation between a man and a woman in a train station, but one with dramatic tension as it explores all that is left unsaid), “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” (a subtle but complex story that explores a series of interactions between three very different people in a Spanish cafe), “Old Man at the Bridge” (the tragic and powerful story of an elderly man too exhausted to find refuge in the middle of the Spanish Civil War), and “Indian Camp.” In this final story, a young boy is suddenly initiated into the adult world of procreation and mortality, but at the end of the story seems to desire a return to his earlier innocence:
They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning.
In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the both with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.
These are some of the best modern American short stories, period. If like me you suffered through assigned school readings of Hemingway’s inferior novels, I highly recommend giving him a second chance with this collection.