The Short Story: Why we love them. C

The Glorious Intensity of a Great Short Story


Karl Lagerfeld’s Library
Karl Lagerfeld’s Library

“They mightn’t sell as much as a blockbuster novel, but our desire for an extraordinary short story that takes you to dark places prevails,” writes Ana Kinsella in her latest books column

JULY 05, 2019TEXTAna Kinsella

It may be hard to believe, but back in the 1920s, short fiction was big business. For the likes of F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, cranking out a few short stories to sell to magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, with their massive circulation figures, meant enough money to drown yourself in the finest martinis New York could offer. Today, 100 years later, the publishing industry looks a little different. When was the last time you paid for some written content on the internet, by the way? The $4,000 fee that Fitzgerald received (and bear in mind that’s 1920s money; think around £200,000 when adjusted for inflation) can only be dreamed of by authors today. But the peculiar thing is that there’s still something of a market out there, albeit one that has changed considerably.

Fitz and Hem: They could write short stories that you never forgot

Take Cat Person. Towards the end of 2017, a dark political year by anyone’s standards, the New Yorker published Kristen Roupenian’s short story and inadvertently triggered a tornado of hot takes on Twitter. Cat Person, though I probably don’t need to tell you this, latched onto some part of our collective imagination, some part shared by all the women who’d gone on bad dates with gross men and who’d looked for greater meaning in the ghosting that followed. It not only demonstrated the power of a well-written short story, but also our appetite for the format. In today’s climate of snackable content and videos that cut off after 15 seconds, it might be that a short story is just the palate cleanser we need most.

But what makes a well-written short story? For readers, they need to be tight and taut, packed with only the most necessary elements to draw us in and keep us involved over the course of a handful of pages. One perfect example is Raymond Carver, the American writer whose 1970s and 1980s stories demonstrated the value of saying less. There’s no room in a short story for fuss or frills; in a 500-page novel, on the other hand, there can be plenty of opportunity to digress. A good short story feels like a tightrope act, and by the time it ends, you can feel all the emotions of a blockbuster novel, but delivered a single smooth punch that knocks you to the ground and leaves you seeing stars. 

knock out punch

This is not to say that writing a novel is by comparison an easy feat. But dip into one of Lydia Davis’s breathtakingly lucid short stories (start with Break It Down) and tell me that there isn’t something totally unique about the heft that a mere 20 or so pages can carry, when done properly. Knowing what to condense into so little space, and bringing the reader on an emotional journey along the way, is a challenge not suited to every writer.

So all that said, why would anyone bother writing them? It’s all in the arc, as Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure and award-winning short story writer, tried to explain it to me. “Short stories are inherently more playful I think,” she mused.  “I try and see them as an opportunity to take a risk every time in some way, because if it doesn’t work out you can just go and write another one. You can go really deep into a moment in the way that a novel can’t always, and the shorter, sharper arc of a truly great story can be just completely disorienting, intense in a way I think you can’t sustain over a whole book.”

Hem and Black Dog

Reading the likes of Tenth of December by George Saunders or Especially Heinous by Carmen Maria Machado reveals the shocking fervour a well-wrought story can have. “Because you can read stories in one sitting, it’s a form perfectly suited for high-intensity experiences,” explains Thomas Morris, author of the short story collection We Don’t Know What We’re Doing. “When I finish reading a great story, I feel as if I’ve come away changed. And it’s incredible to me that I can have this kind of experience in the time between waking up and having my breakfast.” According to Thomas, the main difficulty when writing a short story is “knowing when to get in and when to get out. They’re like burglaries in that regard. Sometimes you need to linger, and keep searching for the treasure. Other times, it requires a smash and grab job.” 

They mightn’t sell as much as a blockbuster novel, but as Cat Person itself proves, our desire for an extraordinary short story that takes you to dark places prevails. The perfect short story might not exist, but the very best can feel close to ideal exemplars of what can be done with words in such a short space. Lingering in the mind, like a microcosm of relationships or heartaches or middle-of-the-night fears, the power of the short story might be found in its willingness to dive right in and explore the murky depths that lie within us. 



Expansion of Hemingway Division of the JFK Library in Boston

Good day!  A new display at the JFK Library, Hemingway Collection. I will catch it in the next few weeks. Hope you are having a great summer. Best, Christine

Hemingway’s legacy inspires new JFK Museum display

Associated Press

Friday, June 29, 2018
BOSTON — A new Ernest Hemingway exhibition puts a fresh spin on the author’s colorful life and legacy by displaying his own books and belongings alongside pop culture items from his time.

“Ernest Hemingway: A Life Inspired” opened Thursday at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which has become the leading research center for Hemingway studies.

Visitors to the expanded show will see manuscripts for “A Farewell to Arms,” “The Sun Also Rises,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and other Hemingway works — but they’ll also glimpse popular paperback books from the first half of the 20th century, as well as magazines, photographs and other mementos pulled straight from his world.

It’s an elaborate attempt to portray “Papa” in his proper context.

“It is now our pleasure to present a permanent Ernest Hemingway exhibit that tells the writer’s story by weaving together his literary masterpieces with his worldly inspirations,” said James Roth, the JFK Library’s deputy director.

“The exhibit places the viewer in Hemingway’s shoes, seeing the people and places that inspired his greatest works,” he said.

It includes many of the papers, photos, fishing rods, mounted animal trophies and other quirky personal belongings that Hemingway’s widow, Mary, retrieved from the author’s former estate in Cuba with help from JFK after her husband died in 1961. She later offered a trove of items to Jacqueline Kennedy for safekeeping and display at the Boston library, which opened in 1979.

Kennedy Library, home of the Hemingway Collection, Boston

It’s since become the world’s No. 1 repository of Hemingway lore.

Hemingway and Kennedy never met, but the late president was an admirer. He wrote Hemingway for permission to use his oft-quoted phrase “grace under pressure” in the opening to JFK’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profiles in Courage.”

The new permanent display builds and expands on a 2016 temporary but ambitious exhibition, “Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars.” Curated by Hilary Justice, the presidential library’s Hemingway expert, the latest presentation draws from virtually every aspect of JFK’s vast Hemingway collection.

full quote of “the world breaks everyone”

On show are first editions of Hemingway’s major works; personal photos from his own collection; and photos of the women who inspired him. (Spoiler alert: Hemingway had a reputation for being a “man’s man” and a misogynist, but strong women helped shape his art.)

There are also pages from early drafts of some of Hemingway’s most celebrated books.

“The Old Man and the Sea,” his last major work of fiction, figures prominently. A Live magazine edition of the novel is on display, along with 32 covers of translations done around the globe.

All Photos for a change


Hem with boys and cat

hem back row right

1918 Nurse Agnes von Kurowsky and American Red Cross volunteer Ernest Hemingway, Milan, Italy. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Hemingway with Patrick, John “Bumby”, and Gregory “Gigi”), at Club de Cazadores del Cerro, Cuba. Photograph in Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Below are a few photos that are not published as often as some. Hope you enjoy them. Best, Christine


Hem and his father


Hem with his beloved Black Dog (a spaniel stray that adopted Hem)

hem and Mary

The early days in PARIS, On the left, Hadley with Bumby

Hadley near the time of her wedding

Hem and Gregory, his third son


Hemingway and Bumby/Jack, his first born

Early love in WWI Agnes Von Kurowsky

Enough photos for Today!  C

Visit to Hemingway Collection Part 2

Continuation of post regarding my visit to the Kennedy Library, Hemingway Exhibit on Between the Wars

Hem and Hadley near their wedding
Hem and Hadley near their wedding

There was an anecdote displayed of an interview that Hemingway had with George Plimpton. Plimpton knew that Hemingway had written the end of A Farewell to Arms something like 39 times. Plimpton, a writer himself, asked if there was a technical problem that stumped him and why he kept re-writing the end. What was the problem? What was the hold-up???Image result for george plimpton

Hemingway, in typical succinct style, replied “getting the words right.”

Old joke but still makes me smile: A farewell to arms
Old joke but still makes me smile: A farewell to arms

Finally, a famous quote from A Farewell to Arms (1929) was posted. Most people know the first sentence, but not the next one. It reads, “The world breaks everyone and after many are strong in the broken places.” Most people stop there.

Hemingway and Martha: between their personal wars
Hemingway and Martha: between their personal wars

It goes on, however, But those that will not break, it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these, you can be sure it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.

Thus we go from something that sounds somewhat upbeat and promising to a rather grim conclusion. Still, above all Hemingway believed that men can’t be defeated even in death.

full quote of "the world breaks everyone"
full quote of “the world breaks everyone”

Finally, his mantra for writing was the following:

  1. Use short sentences.
  2. Use short first paragraphs.
  3. Use vigorous English.
  4. Avoid the use of adjectives.
  5. Eliminate every superfluous word.

And there you have it.img_0373



Visit To the Hemingway Collection in Boston Part 1



Kennedy Library, home of the Hemingway Collection, Boston
Kennedy Library, home of the Hemingway Collection, Boston

I was in Boston for a few days and took the opportunity to visit the Hemingway collection at the JFK Library and Museum. It’s about 20 minutes depending on traffic from downtown in a cab but shuttle buses travel out there more inexpensively as well. It is right on the water and very modern as you can see.

The present exhibit at the Hemingway Collection is entitled Hemingway Between the Wars, which covers much if not most of his career. The Old Man and the Sea, The Dangerous Summer, A Moveable Feast, among others came after World War II, (some posthumously. Hem died in 1961 and A Moveable Feast came out in 1964, edited primarily by Hemingway’s surviving wife, Mary. Garden of Eden  was also posthumously published.) but The Sun Also Rises, Men Without Women, A Farewell to Arms, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many of the more famous short stories, i.e. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Green Hills of Africa, all were done between the wars.

Green hills of Africa
Green hills of Africa

Although Hemingway had his first great romance (with Agnes Von Kurowsky, his attending nurse after Hemingway was injured) during the war–not between the wars, the famous photo of her and Hemingway was in the exhibit. While I knew well that F. Scott Fitzgerald had done some serious editing on The Sun Also Rises and cut out the beginning and told Hemingway to start at a different place—and the rest is history—they had the actual letter Fitzgerald wrote to Hemingway expressing his disappointment at the beginning and making his suggestion to cut in strong terms. Uncharacteristically and probably because he was young and not yet confident, Hemingway did not resist and took Fitzgerald’s advice, much to the improvement of the book.

 1918 Nurse Agnes von Kurowsky and American Red Cross volunteer Ernest Hemingway, Milan, Italy. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
1918 Nurse Agnes von Kurowsky and American Red Cross volunteer Ernest Hemingway, Milan, Italy. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Hem and Scott
Hem and Scott


There also was a list of titles that Hemingway considered for The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (1936). For those of you not familiar with this story, it is set in Africa and was published in September 1936 in Cosmopolitan Magazine concurrently with The Snows of Kilimanjaro. The story was eventually adapted to the screen as “The Macomber Affair” (1947).

The story deals with a dysfunctional marriage between Francis and Margot who are on a big game safari in Africa with a professional hunter Robert Wilson. On his first time out, Francis had panicked when a wounded lion charged him, which humiliated him in front of his wife who took far too much pleasure in mocking him about his act of cowardice. It is suggested that she sleeps with Robert Wilson. The next day the party hunt buffalo. Two are killed and one is wounded and retreats. It’s generally bad form, not to mention cruel all around, to leave a wounded animal as it is, and Francis and Wilson proceed to track him so that they can put him out of his misery. When they find the buffalo, it charges Francis Macomber. He stands his ground and fires, but his shots are too high. At the last second Macomber kills the buffalo with his last bullet and Margot fires a shot from her gun, which hits Macomber in the skull and kills him. Good times!


(Sorry, as a divorce lawyer I sometimes have a dark sense of humor on relationships.) Anyway, at the exhibit, there is a list of some of the alternate titles that Hemingway considered such as Marriage is a Dangerous Game, A Marriage has Terminated, The Cult of Violence, Marriage as a Bond.


HAPPY On the Sea

Fitzgerald's advice typed up so we can read it easily. Actual handwritten letter was in the display.















Hemingway Exhibit at the Morgan Library/Museum Sept ’15-Jan 31 ’16

on safari in Kenya
on safari in Kenya


Ernest Hemingway was a maker of lists and a collector of his life’s ephemera. For the first time, some of the objects that this American writer gathered during his long career — bullfighting stubs from Pamplona in Spain, boastful fishing logs from expeditions off the Cuban coast, coy letters to a mistress, penciled drafts of stories — will be on display in an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum from Sept. 25 through Jan. 31.

Oh, the fun of this. About half of the items in the exhibit are being borrowed from the Kennedy Library (Boston) Collection. Some were private letters so don’t be too hard on him. If letters you wrote to a close friend or lover were made public  .they might not include your most eloquent turns of phrase. If you can manage, this will be a great stroll through Hemingway lore and history.

Always reading
Always reading

What’s Percolating in the Hemingway World?


I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds and google alerts that keep me posted on all things Hemingway. So here are a few random developments.

1) Mariel Hemingway is producing a movie of Hemingway’s last book, A Moveable Feast, finished after his death and published initially in 1964. (Hemingway died in 1961).

2) Andy Garcia is wrapping up his movie about Hemingway and his boat captain, Gregorio Fuentes.

3) Coming out in the Fall is a possible Oscar contender called GENIUS, about

Max perkins
Max perkins

Hemingway’s editor Maxwell Perkins (played by Colin Firth) and Tom Wolfe (played by Michael Fassbinder).  Dominic West plays Hemingway.  All Brits playing Americans.cadillacinhavana

4) The Cuban government is working on how much access to permit to the Finca Vigia. Right now, the public can peer through windows but cannot go in.

5)Thomasville is having a Hemingway Outdoor furniture collection.

6) A man named Robert Wheeler spent a winter four years ago in Paris, retracing Hemingway’s time there in the early 1920s. He took a camera. And now he’s publishing a book, due out April 7. I can’t wait to se2014-06-16 07.07.40e it.

Furniture from the Thomasville Hemingway collection
Furniture from the Thomasville Hemingway collection

7) Before announcing the winner of the 2015 PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction, Beacon Press director Helene Atwan, administrator of the prize, made note of a major gift from the Hemingway family. The cash prize attached to the award was doubled this year to $20,000. Patrick, Hemingway’s remaining son, was on hand to assist in distributing the awards which took place at the JFK Library, home of he Hemingway Collection.

Patrick Hemingway 2013
Patrick Hemingway 2013, JFK LIBE

Paris 1927
Paris 1927

Hemingway: the early years in Oak Park

Hemingway's Summer Michigan places
Hemingway’s Summer Michigan places

the family
The family, Hem is tall in back

Young Hem fishing
Young Hem fishing

Hem as toddler
Hem as toddler, second from left.

Italy and home 161
I’m thinking of my friends who are going to Cuba next month and I’m not. I had planned a different vacation before i knew of their trip and could not do Cuba. SAD for me but happy for them.

Check out this interesting article on Hemingway’s early years.

The Oak Park Public Library will be able to offer unprecedented access to rare Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and library archives thanks to a grant from the Illinois Secretary of State to digitize Illinois history. Due to a grant, documents that previously were unavailable to the public will be digitized and on view in Hemingway’s hometown. The exhibit focuses on Hemingway’s youth in Illinois.



Younger Hem
Younger Hem


              As usual, Hemingway is in the news everywhere.  So what’s new?


1.)  There apparently is news that there is a computer program that can predict whether you or I are the next Hemingway.  You can send in a sample of your writing and the computer can tell you if you are in line with his style or just another wannabe.  Hem, Mary


I'd like to see Paris before I'm too old
I’d like to see Paris before I’m too old




We all know that there is so much more that went into his writing than on the surface.  One of the prime theories that Hem put to the test was the iceberg theory.  For every sentence that he wrote on the paper, there were ten that didn’t get down on the paper but that were distilled into making that one sentence. When Hemingway wrote about a waiter, he–in his head–knew the waiter’s whole history and it was his theory that by knowing that history, even though it didn’t make it to the paper and the story, it added some texture to what eventually got into the story.  He wrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times and he wrote the last sentence of the The Sun Also Rises “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” many, many times until it had the exact inflection he wanted.  No program can take that into account.  So good luck with that computer


The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea





                2.)  The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library has received a shipment of new documents that it has added to its Hemingway collection.  One that is particularly interesting is the telegram by which Hem was advised that he’d won the Nobel Prize for literature.  It was sent to him on October 28, 1954 at 11:00 a.m.  It said: 

       At its session today the Swedish Academy decided to award you the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature and I would accordingly request you to notify me if you accept this award and whether in that case it would be possible for you to be present in Stockholm on Nobel Bay December 10 to receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty the King.  Anders Obersterling, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, 7:00 p.m. 


                Hemingway was not in good enough health to go to Sweden.  He’d just survived two plane crashes in Africa and, while he put on a brave face, the second crash left him impaired for life with pain that never went away.  He wrote a brief statement that was read by John C. Cabot, the then U.S. Ambassador to Sweden.  


                While Hemingway told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen, and Bernard Berenson were far more deserving of the honor, but he could use the prize money so he accepted, I have to believe he was pleased.  He should have won it for For Whom the Bell Tolls and fortunately he won it eventually for The Old Man and the Sea.  

                It’s wonderful to listen to him making the speech, which he made after the fact and recorded.  The beginning of it goes as follows: 

“Having no facility for speech making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this prize. 


                No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the price can accept it other than with humility.  There is no need to list these writers.  Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and conscience….Writing, at best, is a lonely life.  Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing.  He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates.  For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer, he must face eternity, or lack of it, each day….I have spoken too long for a writer.  A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.  Again, I thank you.”


A Farewell to ArmsContentment
A Farewell to Arms

                 At his best, he was an amazing class act.





Mining for Gold


Earlier this year, a trove of about 2,500 documents from Hemingway’s home in Cuba, Finca Vigia, were shipped to the Hemingway collection in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.  They were digitized and many have already been made available.  The documents include letters, lists, diaries, telegrams, insurance policies, bank statements, passports, a page of his son, Patrick’s, homework, and many Christmas cards.

The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea

For whom the bell tolls

For those of us who love and follow all things Hemingway, it’s an enormous boon that he was a packrat.  He seems to have saved everything.  In 2008, another group of documents and letters were sent to the library, including an alternate ending for For Whom the Bell Tolls. Robert Jordan lives?? 

In reading about the material that went to Boston, I felt sad all over again.  When Hemingway and Mary left, they didn’t know that they would not be going back.  Books were left open, shoes were left out, a Glenn Miller record was on the phonograph.

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy

After Hemingway’s death in July of 1961, relations with Cuba could not have been much worse.  The Bay of Pigs invasion occurred in April of 1961 and our two countries were not cozy.  Nevertheless, John F. Kennedy quietly arranged for Mary Hemingway to travel to Havana and meet with Fidel Castro.  They agreed that Mary could take paintings and papers out of the country and in return, she gave the Finca Vigia and its remaining contents to the Cuban people.

The property declined significantly, but due to the efforts of the Finca Vigia Foundation, which was started by Jenny Phillips, the granddaughter of Maxwell Perkins, Hemingway’s long-time editor, the decline has been arrested.  Documents are being preserved and the house has been shored up with some repairs taking place.

Mary in older age
Mary in older age

It was interesting to read about the documentation and how it came through in a very random way.  In the middle of a folder of Christmas cards, a recipe might appear or an important letter about Hemingway’s style.  A telegram from Archibald MacLeish congratulating him on For Whom the Bell Tolls is followed by Mary’s hamburger recipes.  There are logs from his boat, the Pilar, as well as correspondence that Mary had.  According to Susan Wrynn, the curator of the Hemingway collection at the JFK Library, Mary Hemingway, while packing up papers to take back to America also burned some messages which were sent to Mary but were believed not to be written by Hemingway but by a newspaper man named Herb Clark, an old flame of Mary’s in the Paris days.  Perhaps she thought that her own correspondence wasn’t important?

Hem at typewriter
Hem at typewriter

There are also stories with edits by Hemingway critiquing his own work, noting “you can phrase things clearer and better.”  Or, “you can remove words which are unnecessary and tighten up your prose.”  All in all, it’s quite a find and addition to this amazing collection.

Intelligent and happy?
Intelligent and happy?

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