BOOK REVIEW: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other StoriesThe Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This book collects ten pieces of short fiction penned by Hemingway. Each of them is a stand-alone short story; though there’s indication that they all take place in the same universe. Notably, the character Nick Adams recurs in four of the stories (“Fathers and Sons,” “In Another Country,” “The Killers,” and “A Way You’ll Never Be.”)

The first and last stories present intriguing similarities that make them interesting bookends to the collection. The first, and eponymous, story—“The Snows of Kilimanjaro”—follows the last hours of a man who is dying of gangrene from an infected wound he sustained on Mount Kilimanjaro. The dialogue pits a wife in denial against the man who seems resigned to the inevitability of his death. The last story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is also set in Africa and features a man and wife whose adventure goes awry. In this case the story begins with the man having been emasculated when he bolted in the face of a charging lion, and all in front of his harpy-esque wife. Francis Macomber manages to redeem himself only in the last seconds of his life.

Besides the aforementioned book-ending stories, among the most substantial and well-developed stories in the book include: “The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio,” “The Killers,” and “Fifty Grand.” The first of these is about a gambler put in the hospital by a disgruntled competitor and the happenings in the hospital while he is on the ward. “The Killers” is about two hitmen who venture into a small town diner looking for a boxer who apparently owes someone money or decided not to take a dive. “Fifty Grand” is about an aging boxer who bets against himself (and will probably soon be in the same boat as the boxer in “The Killers.”)

There are a couple of stories that feel fragmentary, including: “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and “A Day’s Wait.”

This collection features the usual elements of Hemingway fiction, e.g. punchy and spare prose, artfully constructed dialogue, tales of manliness and inadequacy. It’s a short readable book of only about 150 pages.

The stories included are:

1.) The Snows of Kilimanjaro
2.) A Clean, Well-lighted Place
3.) A Day’s Weight
4.) The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio
5.) Fathers and Sons
6.) In Another Country
7.) The Killers
8.) A Way You’ll Never Be
9.) Fifty Grand
10.) The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

I’d recommend this for readers of short fiction who haven’t gotten around to it yet.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway

The Sun Also RisesThe Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whatever the blurbs or critics might say, this book is about the raft of men left in the friend-zone after brief dalliances with Lady Brett Ashley. One may have been led to believe it’s about the life of Jake Barnes. Barnes is the lead character, but he’s not the most influential character.

Besides Barnes, the list of men who fall hard for Lady Brett Ashley include, boxer Robert Cohn, the bankrupt Michael Campbell, and the bullfighter Pedro Romero. Oddly enough, the physically toughest, Cohn, is the one who falls the hardest. Barnes may be the strongest in this sense; perhaps because his relationship with Ashley is over before the novel begins. Barnes comes off as likable with a pragmatic “live and let live” nature. (He can maintain a friendship with a woman that he loves, a feat that seems beyond Cohn’s ability. Campbell is used to having lost everything, and so seems to bob comfortably in Ashley’s wake. We don’t reliably learn about how Romero takes it.)

As the blurb says, The Sun Also Rises is about a journey from Paris to Pamplona. In Paris, the cast of Lost Generation friends hang out in cafés. In Pamplona they attend bullfights. In between, Barnes goes fishing with friends.

In a broader sense, the book is about dissatisfaction and restlessness, and not only within Ashley. This is summed up nicely by Cohn’s words to Jake, “Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it?”

Of course, the book shines in its language. Hemingway’s lean buy meaty prose is readable and engrossing. The minimalist dialogue beautifully conveys the interaction of a group of intimate friends.

Here’s a great line that captures the character of Hemingway’s writing in this book, “The beer was not good and I had a worse cognac to take the taste out of my mouth.”

The book rises to crescendo with the Pamplona bullfights and Hemingway adeptly ends on a sad note apropos of the morning after a great party.

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10 of My Favorite Quotes on Writing

Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. –Kurt Vonnegut


Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for. –Mark Twain


The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are.  –Ray Bradbury


Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. –Elmore Leonard


The first draft of anything is shit.—Ernest Hemingway.


Omit needless words. –William Strunk


The only rule for writing I have is to leave it while I’m still hot… –William Faulkner


Whoever wants to tell a story of a sainted grandmother, unless you can find some old love letters, and get a new grandfather?  –Robert Penn Warren


When you write the thing through once, you find out what the end is. Then you can go back to the first chapter and put in a lot of those foreshadowings. –Flannery O’Connor


As far as I’m concerned the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning.  –Neil Gaiman