'Men Without Women' by Ernest Hemingway (1928)

Men Without Women - Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women (London: Arrow Books, 2004), 132pp

 

I must admit that, whilst reading parts of this book, I thought that Men Without Women would be the first Hemingway experience I've had that I disliked (it is the seventh book by the man that I have read). A fair proportion of the stories here are simply dull, lacking direction and not even offering any coherent symbolism or thematic depth as redemption. Many other reviewers have praised the included stories 'Hills Like White Elephants' and 'The Killers', and though I liked both, they didn't exactly blow me away. Others, such as 'Che Ti Dice La Patria?' and 'A Canary for One', don't really have anything to recommend them, whilst 'A Simple Enquiry' was just strange and right out of left-field.

Sometimes the strangeness is fine and pleasing, as with 'A Pursuit Race', a story about a drug addict who happens to talk through a white bed-sheet (!?!) and 'Today is Friday', which has three Roman soldiers winding down after work and talking about that Jesus bloke they put up on the cross ("You see me slip the old spear into him?" (pg. 120)). I did like the two sports-related stories: 'The Undefeated', about a bullfighter, and 'Fifty Grand', about a boxer. I found the latter to be the most accessible and pleasing of the selections on offer. But, all told, if you're looking for a collection of Hemingway's short stories, you might want to check out The Snows of Kilimanjaro first, which I found to be a stronger offering.