- Reading Hemingway's Men Without Women: Glossary and Commentary
Following the success of H.R. Stoneback's Reading Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (2007), a new book by Joseph M. Flora in Kent State's Reading Hemingway series leads the way in promoting a stronger understanding for those reading Hemingway's 1927 short story collection Men Without Women. Not since the late Paul Smith's A Reader's Guide to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway debuted in 1989 have Hemingway scholars had such an insightful exploration of the fourteen stories comprising Men Without Women., and Flora's is the first book devoted to Men Without Women exclusively. Flora, who cites Smith frequently, has broken new and significant scholarly ground in this close study of Hemingway's second, and arguably most challenging, collection of short stories.
Series editor Robert W. Lewis chose the right author for Reading Hemingway's Men Without Women. In the past three decades Flora has written or edited multiple books on or involving Hemingway, including his Mayflower Award-winning Hemingway's Nick Adams (1982) and Ernest Hemingway: A Study of the Short Fiction (1989). His scholarly articles have dealt with Hemingway's short stories and particularly with the importance of Nick Adams, who appears in Men Without Women as a character in "The Killers," "Now I Lay Me," and "Ten Indians." This new treatise contributes new ideas and detail to Flora's work on Hemingway's short stories and their themes including family, gender, and manhood.
Flora explores Hemingway's use of dialogue, description, and mood at great depth in this study. He points out that in Men Without Women, Hemingway seemed to set out to perplex and subvert the reader. Flora's line-by-line analysis of each of the collection's stories attempts to clarify many of the obscurities the reader will encounter as the natural result of Hemingway's ambiguous writing style. Flora does this not only through close reading of the text, but also via examination of biographical information, including Hemingway's travel in foreign countries and his experiences in the arenas of war, sportsmanship, and even marriage.
Flora's work differs from Smith's before him in providing a lexicon with critical annotations that leaves no line unexplored in the entirety of Men [End Page 187] Without Women. The book offers a brief introduction to each story, ranging in length from two short paragraphs for "A Canary for One" to a page and a half for "Today is Friday." The book is quite readable, accessible, and consistently intriguing in its deep involvement with the text. A Hemingway scholar or even a general reader will likely feel engaged enough to peruse the entire volume.
In its entirety, the text, more so than its title advertises, is a comprehensive critical handbook to Men Without Women that deserves to be read line-by-line alongside Hemingway's actual collection. The discussion, inclusive in nature, even discusses relationships to Hemingway's other story collections and novels, especially in terms of Nick Adams and his progression from a child in In Our Time to a more mature character in Winner Take Nothing. Flora also includes information on Hemingway's process of composition, for instance mentioning in his introduction to "Ten Indians" that the style of Hemingway's portrayal of lost innocence is indebted to James Joyce. The glossary portion of the book does not provide definitions or substance of that nature, but rather complete, systematic, line-by-line analyses of Hemingway's stories, including thematic investigation of the masculinity that gives Hemingway's collection its poignant title, exploration of allusions and personae, and explanation of historical framework.
To give an example, in the commentary on "Hills Like White Elephants" a discussion of Jig's complicated relationship with the American takes the central position, with Flora comparing the young American man to Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. Both are unable to commit to anyone, and succeed in making their romantic counterparts suffer. The commentary moves...