Comments by Bob Corbett
Most of the stories for this collection were published in magazines in the 1930s. They are quite short, very macho and well-written. Hemingway uses language carefully and sparingly. He talks tough and rough, and to the point. I would have disliked virtually every situation in the set of stories, and most likely never have gotten myself into such messes, yet I enjoyed his telling of the stories very much and was much impressed with Hemingway’s writing.
As the story opens Harry is in Africa and very sick in bed. He has an infection in his leg and may well die. He is with a woman, whom he never calls by name, but we find out she is Helen. She is rich and beautiful and the two have travelled all over, she funding it all. He and this woman have used each other with little sincerity, but he tends to think that the ease of this life kills his talent.
Harry is in and out of consciousness, partly because of his infected leg and partly from drink. He constantly returns to ideas he has for things he needs to write and memories of his life in Paris, Istanbul and other places. They are waiting for a plane to come and take him to safety. All this happens within the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Harry just isn’t a nice guy. He’s self-centered, a user of rich and beautiful females, but they tend to come and pay willingly. He sees himself as a writer who just never fully finished the things he had to write.
It is difficult not to read the story as a bit of self-revelation. Much of Harry’s story sounds like what we know of Hemingway’s life!
The story opens in a café with an old man sitting alone at a table. It is quite late, well after midnight, and while the café is scheduled to stay open much later, the two waiters can leave if the old man leaves and the place is empty.
The old fellow is a bit drink, drinking cognac one after the other. He can afford it. He isn’t happy and doesn’t really want to leave. One waiter doesn’t care at all; home isn’t so pleasant for him. The other man would like to see them close up and he could go home to his wife.
The waiters talk about the man, the one feeling sorry for him, the other not. He’s rich, but very unhappy, and the one waiter can’t understand being rich yet unhappy.
Not much happens really, they just talk this out, a bit of gossip about the old fellow, who does eventually leave and they close up.
The story is well written and told. I could picture the situation with clarity and marveled at Hemingway making a story about so little.
A young boy is ill and his father informs him that he has 102 temperature. The boy is very sad and convinced he is going to die. His father assures him that’s silly, it’s a fever and he’ll get over it. But he continues to fret beyond any reasonable mode. Finally the father pushes hard on the theme he simply won’t die, this is a normal fever.
It then comes out that the boy had lived in Europe and had heard of kids dying with only 60 degrees temperature and he knows for sure he will die. His father explains to him the different measures of temperatures and that 102 in Fahrenheit is only slightly above the 98 degrees normal temperature.
This comforts the boy and he sleeps off his illness.
It’s a very short but quite cute story with this delightful twist in the ending.
A Mexican gambler is shot in a bar and taken to the hospital. He is going to live and is questioned by the police, but tells them nothing. He actually speaks a bit of English, but doesn’t tell the truth so that and all conversations with others go through a hospital administrator/translator, who never really tells the police what the fellow said.
The administrator is interested in the Mexican and talks a good deal with him. It seems to be sometime just before the depression, but after WWI. The times are good, but Fascism is on the rise in Europe.
A central entertainment for this remote western hospital centers in the radio, but the signal isn’t good and it is ruined by x-ray machines when they are used. We just hear the everyday stories of the hospital, a pious nun who wishes to be a saint and is, in fact, a sport’s fan, especially of “Catholic” teams.
A very simple and clever tale.
Nick Adams is driving in the area where he grew up. He has many memories of his father, hunting and fishing, and of the local Indian children he played with. He drives and dwells on his memories.
The narrator is in a hospital in Milan, having been wounded in the war. There is a group of American officers and they are trying out experimental machines to help heal their wounds, but they don’t seem to work.
The story emphasizes the horrors of war.
Two hoods, seemingly from Chicago, walk into a diner in a small rural town. They’re looking for a Swedish fellow whom they blurt right out, they intend to kill. The clash between the relatively polite and innocent workers and customer in the diner, and the gangster-talking killers is simply marvelous. Nothing much happens. The target Swede doesn’t show up for dinner and the hoods just leave. When Nick, the one customer in the diner, hurries over to see the Swede to warn him Nick is shocked that the Swede doesn’t plan to run or hide. He’s tired of it. He knows they will eventually catch up with him, so he just thanks Nick and stays put.
Not much in the story itself, but Hemingway’s TELLING of it is masterful. He captures the hoods, the fatalistic mark, and the nice country town guys. It’s magnificent writing.
Nick is an American soldier wounded and shell shocked in the war. He is sent to visit a forward unit somewhere in Italy. He is there for show alone, to give the appearance that the Americans are coming soon. But he has one of his spells bought on by the lasting effects of his having been gassed.
There is little to the story, but Hemingway vividly captures the sight and spirit of the front line and the horrors of war and its injuries. What an awful war!
A scam is in the making. A sort of washed up boxer is about to fight a big match in Madison Garden in New York. He’s training in New Jersey, but his heart isn’t into it. He’s over the hill, finished, but needs this money.
Two of his associates arrive to speak with him, and they sort of make it clear he should BE SURE he loses this fight, and he agrees, mainly because he knows he can’t win. So, he follows their advice to bet HUGELY against himself.
However, surprises for all come in the fight itself. This is another marvelously told story where Hemingway seems inside the heads of the boxers, the hoods, the fight manger and trainer, all of the principals of the story.
Macomber is an American on a hunting trip to Africa with his wife, Margot. They’ve hired Wilson, a tough white guide and a troupe of Africans who work for Wilson. The day the story begins they’ve killed a lion, but Macomber choked up on the kill like a complete coward and Wilson saved his life and the day. Margot is disgusted with her husband and dislikes Wilson a great deal. The feelings are mutual all round.
The second day they hunt buffalo and the story’s ending is a freak accident – maybe.
The story is well told, exciting, the pace and feeling matching the hunting scene quite well. Of course, in full Hemingway style, it is macho to the core.Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Corbett email@example.com