Author: Ernest Hemingway
Page Count/Review Word Count: 446
Let’s face it, we all know that Ernest Hemingway is a phenomenal writer, but this book here is what proves it. See, he started work as a journalist nearly 100 years ago, and the first piece of work in this collection is dated March 1920, a piece on a free shave by an apprentice barber in Toronto. It was journalism which paved the way for Hemingway’s literary career, and this book collects together 75 articles written over the course of 35 years.
As you can imagine, it’s a fascinating read, and not just because it’s interesting to see how much the world changed across the intervening years – Hemingway’s gift for words is just as apparent here as it is in his novels, and it’s potentially even more powerful because he’s writing about true events, the majority of which happened either directly to him or to his contacts.
The sort of stuff that he covers is pretty typical for Hemingway – hunting, fishing, bullfights, women, booze, etc. He was the first great writer to make himself a reputation for being a great drunk, too – he’s had many imitators, both in the way that he lived his life and the way in which he writes, but nobody has ever proved themselves his equal. In my opinion, no-one ever will, and it’s fantastic that his personality has been thoroughly stamped on his journalism, as well as in the rest of his work.
Ultimately, you’re probably not going to want to read this if you’re not a Hemingway fan, and even if you are then I wouldn’t blame you if you stuck to his novels, at least to begin with. But then, as with most great writers, even the lesser-read and seemingly less appealing work emerges in all of its triumphant glory, once you read it. My honest opinion is that you’d be a fool to pass this over just because a book of journalism doesn’t sound particularly interesting, and that you’ll learn a lot more about the world as it was and as it is than you’d expect to.
Of course, what with this being a classic, it includes commentary, a foreword and even, bizarrely enough, an introduction called ‘Hemingway Needs No Introduction‘. With most classic novels, it becomes something of a chore to have the author’s work intruded upon by references – Noel Coward once said that “having to read footnotes resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.” Here, though, the extra notes just add to what you’re reading, in a way that few other books ever manage.