Book: The Nick Adams Stories, by Ernest Hemingway, arranged and foreword by Philip Young
Before the young writer’s Paris reflected in A Moveable Feast, or the Spanish Civil War and the love of bull fighting, Hemingway had Northern Michigan.
I recently read Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories in paperback arranged chronologically.Prior to this book, published in 1972,the stories had been sorted by subject matter, or scattered among many collections. Reading them in this book’s order made the collection look even more like an autobiography of Hemingway, as some suggest the stories are. The Philip Young arrangement lets you follow Nick Adams from childhood, through WWI, as a returning veteran and then as a writer and even a parent. Hemingway did not write the stories in this order, although the first,an early story, differs in style from the last.
I have no question that the character Nick is Hemingway’s alter-ego. Ernest Hemingway’s family vacationed in northern Micigan and he learned there to love fishing and hunting and life in the woods. He spent 20 summers there between 1899 and 1921, more time than he spent in any other single place. He mined that formative time for stories and characters throughout his life. His love of the Man’s life–backwoods survival, knowing the secrets of the fish and the wildlife in order to outsmart them–started in his adolescence, when only Nick’s mother, a girlfriend and occasionally his sister infringe on the life of men in the wild. In a previously unpublished story Nick says when entering a virgin forest says, “I always feel strange. Like the way I ought to feel in church.” That holiness of the outdoors and the natural and the wild pervades Hemingway’s life and literature.
The editor of this collection includes eight previously unpublished stories, that show some experimentation with style.
His interest in boxing also developed early, as seen in the story “The Light of the World” and “The Battler”. Both are early stories told in a more traditional style instead of his later sparse prose. Some show influences–a gangster story that sounds like it was written after seeing an Edward G. Robinson movie. “Summer People”, perhaps the first he wrote with Nick Adams, seems to be playing with fire –asking for censorship. This was about the time of D. H. Lawrence and the scandals over Lady Chatterly’s Lover. “A Way You’ll Never Be” flirts with stream of conciousness.
He tells it like it is, although we have to remember that he did not choose to publish all of these stories, and his attitude and style changed as he aged. At times the prejudices of the characters jolt today’s politically correct reader. A cabin smelled like the Indians who had rented it earlier, so white’s would not rent it. A character says, “I could tell he was Negro by the way he walked.”
Finally, of course I like the writing about writing. Again, it is Nick that is the writer. It is Nick that is thinking about writing. ”Everything good was what you made up; what you imagined. That made everything true.” Reading that made me feel that Hemingway was chastising me for finding his own life in Nick. He obviously did not like this autobiographical investigation, but most writer’s don’t. Two writers I will be presenting in a few days agree. Steinbeck grabbed characters and places from real life and denied it. Flaubert really hated having his life dissected.
“He, Nick, wanted to write about country so it would be there in the way Cezanne had done for painting. You had to do it from inside yourself–Nobody had ever writen about country like that. He felt almost holy about it.” What more could a traveler ask of literature? Hemingway, by the way, spent hours studying Cezanne’s paintings when he lived in Paris. But, that, of course, has nothing to do with Nick.
Like the photo? I found it on Flickr. Gilberto Viciedo, a Cuban, composes photo mosaics. For Hemingway, he appropriately selected animals and birds. Click on the photo for other examples of his work. Creative Commons license.
I liked the parallels between author and character revealed in this arrangement of the Nick Adams stories. Do you seek out information about authors and try to match it to their literary work?