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appear from his first novel that this 
rumor of modernity must have sprung 
from his subject matter and from his 
treatment of it rather than from any 
fundamental novelty in his conception 
of the art of fiction. It is a bare, abrupt, 
outspoken book. Life as people live it in 
Paris in 1927 or even in 1928 is described 
as we of this age do describe life (it is 
here that we steal a march upon the 
Victorians), openly, frankly, without 
prudery, but also without surprise. The 
immoralities and moralities of Paris are 
described as we are apt to hear them 
spoken of in private life. Such candor 
is modern and it is admirable. Then, 
for qualities grow together in art as in 
life, we find attached to this admirable 
frankness an equal bareness of style. 
Nobody speaks for more than a line or 
two. Half a line is mostly sufficient. If 
a hill or a town is described (and there 
is always some reason for its description) 
there it is, exactly and literally built up 
of little facts, literal enough, but chosen, 
as the final sharpness of the outline 
proves, with the utmost care. Therefore, 
a few words like these: “The grain was 
just beginning to ripen and the fields 
were full of poppies. The pasture land 
was green and there were fine trees, and 
sometimes big rivers and chateaux off in 
the trees”—which have a curious force. 
Each word pulls its weight in the sen-
tence. And the prevailing atmosphere is 
fine and sharp, like that of winter days 
when the boughs are bare against the 
sky. (But if we had to choose one sen-
tence with which to describe what Mr. 
Hemingway attempts and sometimes 
achieves, we should quote a passage from 
a description of a bullfight: “Romero 
never made any contortions, always it 
was straight and pure and natural in 
line. The others twisted themselves like 
corkscrews, their elbows raised and leaned 
against the flanks of the bull after his 
horns had passed, to give a faked look of 
danger. Afterwards, all that was faked 
turned bad and gave an unpleasant feel-
ing. Romero's bullfighting gave real 
emotion, because he kept the absolute 
purity of line in his movements and al-
ways quietly and calmly let the horns 
pass him close each time.”) Mr. Heming-
way's writing, one might paraphrase, 
gives us now and then a real emotion, 
because he keeps absolute purity of line 
in his movements and lets the horns 
(which are truth, fact, reality) pass him 
close each time. But there is something 
faked, too, which turns bad and gives 
an unpleasant feeling—that also we must 
face in course of time. 

And here, indeed, we may conveniently 
pause and sum up what point we have 
reached in our critical progress. Mr. 
Hemingway is not an advanced writer 
in the sense that he is looking at life 
from a new angle. What he sees is a
tolerably familiar sight. Common ob-
jects like beer bottles and journalists fig-
ure largely in the foreground. But he 
is a skilled and conscientious writer. He 
has an aim and makes for it without 
fear or circumlocution. We have, there-
fore to take his measure against some-
body of substance, and not merely line 
him, for form's sake, beside the indis-
tinct bulk of some ephemeral shape 
largely stuffed with straw. Reluctantly 
we reach this decision, for this process 
of measurement is one of the most diffi-
cult of a critic's tasks. He has to decide 
which are the most salient points of the 
book he has just read; to distinguish ac-
curately to what kind they belong, and 
then, holding them against whatever 
model is chosen for comparison, to bring 
out their deficiency or their adequacy.
Recalling “The Sun Also Rises,” cer-
tain scenes rise in memory: the bull-
fight, the character of the Englishman, 
Harris; here a little landscape which 
seems to grow behind the people natu-
rally; here a long, lean phrase which 

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goes curling round a situation like the 
lash of a whip. Now and again this
phrase evokes a character brilliantly, 
more often a scene. Of character, there 
is little that remains firmly and solidly 
elucidated. Something indeed seems 
wrong with the people. If we place them 
(the comparison is bad) against Tchek-
ov's people, they are flat as cardboard. 
If we place them (the comparison is 
better) against Maupassant's people they 
are crude as a photograph. If we place 
them (the comparison may be illegiti-
mate) against real people, the people we
liken them to are of an unreal type. 
They are people one may have seen 
showing off at some cafe; talking a 
rapid high-pitched slang, because slang 
is the speech of the herd, seemingly 
much at their ease, and yet if we look 
at them a little from the shadow not 
at their ease at all, and, indeed, terribly 
afraid of being themselves, or they would 
say things simply in their natural voices. 
So it would seem that the thing that is 
faked is character; Mr. Hemingway 
leans against the flanks of that particu-
lar bull after the horns have passed.

After this preliminary study of Mr. 
Hemingway's first book, we come to the
new book, “Men Without Women,” pos-
sessed of certain views or prejudices. His 
talent plainly may develop along differ-
ent lines. It may broaden and fill out;
it may take a little more time and go 
into things—human beings in particular
—rather more deeply. And even if this 
meant the sacrifice of some energy and 
point, the exchange would be to our pri-
vate liking. On the other hand, his is 
a talent which may contract and harden
still further! It may come to depend 
more and more upon the emphatic mo-
ment; make more and more use of dia-
logue, and cast narrative and descript-
tion overboard as an encumbrance.

The fact that “Men Without Women”
consists of short stories, makes it prob-
able that Mr. Hemingway has taken the 
second line. But before we explore the 
new book, a word should be said which 
is generally left unsaid, about the im-
plications of the title. As the publisher 
puts it . . . “the softening feminine 
influence is absent—either through 
training, discipline, death, or situa-
tion.” Whether we are to understand 
by this that women are incapable of 
training, discipline, death, or situation, 
we do not know. But it is undoubtedly 
true, if we are going to persevere in our 
attempt to reveal the processes of the 
critic's mind, that any emphasis laid 
upon sex is dangerous. Tell a man that 
this is a woman's book, or a woman 
that this is a man's, and you have 
brought into play sympathies and an-
tipathies which have nothing to do with 
art. The greatest writers lay no stress 
upon sex one way or the other. The 
critic is not reminded as he reads them 
that he belongs to the masculine or the 
feminine gender. But in our time, 
thanks to our sexual perturbations, sex 
consciousness is strong, and shows itself 
in literature by an exaggeration, a pro-
test of sexual characteristics which in 
either case is disagreeable. Thus Mr. 
Lawrence, Mr. Douglas, and Mr. Joyce 
partly spoil their books for women read-
ers by their display of self-conscious 
virility; and Mr. Hemingway, but much 
less violently, follows suit. All we can 
do, whether we are men or women, is 
to admit the influence, look the fact 
in the face, and so hope to stare it out 
of countenance.

To proceed then—“Men Without 
Women” consists of short stories in the 
French rather than in the Russian man-
ner. The great French masters, 
Mérimée and Maupassant, made their 
stories as self-sufficient and compact as 
possible. There is never a thread left 
hanging; indeed so contracted are they,
that when the last sentence of the last 
page flares up, as it so often does, we 
see by its light the whole circumference 
and significance of the story revealed. 
The Tchekov method is, of course, the 
very opposite of this. Everything is 

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cloudy and vague, loosely trailing 
rather than tightly furled. The stories 
move slowly out of sight like clouds in 
the summer air, leaving a wake of mean-
ing in our minds which gradually fades
away. Of the two methods, who shall
say which is the better? At any rate, 
Mr. Hemingway, enlisting under the 
French masters, carries out their teach-
ing up to a point with considerable success.

There are in “Men Without Women”
many stories which, if life were longer, 
one would wish to read again. Most 
of them indeed are so competent, so 
efficient, and so bare of superfluity that 
one wonders why they do not make a 
deeper dent in the mind than they do. 
Take the pathetic story of the Major 
whose wife died—“In Another Country”; 
or the sardonic story of a conversation 
in a railway carriage—“A Canary for 
One”; or stories like “The Undefeated,” 
and “Fifty Grand” which are full of 
the sordidness and heroism of bullfight-
ing and boxing—all of these are good 
trenchant stories, quick, terse and 
strong. If one had not summoned the 
ghosts of Tchekov, Mérimée, and 
Maupassant, no doubt one would be en-
thusiastic. As it is, one looks about for 
something, fails to find something, and 
so is brought again to the old familiar 
business of ringing impressions on the 
counter, and asking what is wrong?

For some reason the book of short 
stories does not seem to us to go as deep 
or to promise as much as the novel. Per-
haps it is the excessive use of dialogue, 
for Mr. Hemingway's use of it is surely 
excessive. A writer will always be chary 
of dialogue because dialogue puts the 
most violent pressure upon the reader's at-
tention. He has to hear, to see, to sup-
ply the right tone, and to fill in the 
background from what the characters 
say without any help from the author. 
Therefore, when fictitious people are al-
lowed to speak it must be because they 
have something so important to say that 
it stimulates the reader to do rather 
more than his share of the work of cre-
ation. But, although Mr. Hemingway 
keeps us under the fire of dialogue con-
stantly, his people, half the time, are 
only saying what the author could say 
much more economically for them. At 
last we are inclined to cry out with the 
little girl in “Hills Like White Elephants”
“Would you please please please please 
please please stop talking?”

And probably it is this superfluity of 
dialogue which leads to that other fault 
which is always lying in wait for the 
writer of short stories; the lack of pro-
portion. A paragraph in excess will 
make these little craft lopsided and will 
bring about that blurred effect which, 
when one is out for clarity and point, 
so baffles the reader. And both these 
faults, the tendency to flood the page 
with unnecessary dialogue and the lack 
of sharp, unmistakable points by which 
we can take hold of the story, come from 
the more fundamental fact that, though 
Mr. Hemingway is brilliantly and enor-
mously skillful, he lets his dexterity, like 
the bullfighter's cloak, get between him 
and the fact. For in truth story writing 
has much in common with bullfighting. 
One may twist one's self like a corkscrew 
and go through every sort of contortion 
so that the public thinks one is running 
every risk and displaying superb gal-
lantry. But the true writer stands close 
up to the bull and lets the horns—call 
them life, truth, reality, whatever you
like,—pass him close each time.

Mr. Hemingway, then, is courageous; 
he is candid; he is highly skilled; he 
plants words precisely where he wishes; 
he has moments of bare and nervous 
beauty; he is modern in manner but not 
in vision; he is self-consciously virile; 
his talent has contracted rather than 
expanded; compared with his novel his 
stories are a little dry and sterile. So 
we sum him up. So we reveal some of 
the prejudices, the instincts and the 
fallacies out of which what it pleases us 
to call criticism is made.