The Art of the Short Story
In March 1959 Ernest Hemingway's publisher Charles Scribner, Jr., suggested
putting together a student's edition of Hemingway short stories. He listed the
twelve stories which were most in demand for anthologies but thought that the
collection could include Hemingway's favorites and that Hemingway could write a
preface for classroom use. Hemingway responded favorably. He would write the
preface in the form of a lecture on the art of the short story.
Hemingway worked on the preface at La Consula, the home of Bill and Annie
Davis in Malaga. He was in Spain that summer to follow the mano a mano
competition between the brother-in-law bullfighters, Dominguin and Ord6nez.
Hemingway traveled with his friend, Antonio Ord6nez, and wrote about this
rivalry in "The Dangerous Summer," a three-part article which appeared in Life.
The first draft of the preface was written in May, and Hemingway completed
the piece during the respite after Ord6nez was gored on May 30th. His wife, Mary,
typed the draft, and, as she wrote in her book How It Was, she did not entirely
approve of it. She wrote her husband a note suggesting rewrites and cuts to remove
some of what she felt was its boastful, smug, and malicious tone. But Hemingway
made only minor changes.
Hemingway sent the introduction to Charles Scribner and proposed changing
the book to a collection for the general public. Scribner agreed to the change.
However, he diplomatically suggested not printing the preface as it stood but
rather using only the relevant comments as introductory remarks to the individual
stories. Scribner felt that the preface, written as a lecture for college students,
would not be accepted by a reading audience which might well "misinterpret it as
condescension." [Scribner to E. H. June 24, 1959.]
The idea of the book was dropped.
Hemingway wrote the preface as if it were an extemporaneous oral presentation
before aclass on the methods ofshort story writing. It is similar to a transcript ofan
informal talk. Judging it against literary standards or using it to assess Heming-
way's literary capabilities would elevate it beyond this level and would be
inappropriate. Both Hemingway's wife and his publisher were against its publica-