Hemingway Finds His Voice

It was surely no accident that the first Library of America volume devoted to Ernest Hemingway was released on the first day of autumn, or, if it wasn’t, it was a happy accident. For Hemingway’s work has always had an autumnal feel to it: because so often its theme is death, but also because of its bracing quality. As Hemingway wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Summer’s a discouraging time to work—You dont feel death coming on the way it does in the fall when the boys really put pen to paper.” (Hemingway’s spelling was hit or miss.)

The opening section of this volume, “Selected Journalism 1920–1923,” includes mostly work Hemingway wrote for the Kansas City Star and Toronto Star. All his future themes appear in these articles in a popularized jocular form, along with a sardonic wit Hemingway did not often display in his fiction. In this journalism, after driving ambulances along the Austrian-Italian front in World War I and being wounded, he began to learn to write. As he told George Plimpton in his 1958 interview for The Paris Review, “On the [Kansas City Star] you were forced to learn to write a simple declarative sentence.… Newspaper work will not harm a young writer and could help him if he gets out of it in time.” By “Newspaper work,” Hemingway must have meant being on the daily staff of a newspaper, because he wrote occasional journalism for most of his career.

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