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Writers are Readers: “The Nick Adams Stories”

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

REVIEWER:Tom Hernandez

BOOK TITLE: The Nick Adams Stories

AUTHOR: Ernest Hemingway

GENERAL SYNOPSIS: A collection of about 25 of Hemingway’s earliest short stories, all centered on his alter ego, tracing his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood (military service, etc.) Many of the stories are set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and feature Adams doing all the “manly-man” outdoorsy nature stuff that Hemingway loved – fishing, hunting, camping, etc.

GENERAL IMPRESSIONS: Like many writers (and readers), I was obsessed with the Myth of Hemingway in my early days. I marveled at Papa’s short, punchy narrative style (very little exposition, lots of narrative – stories told in dialogue.) His style demanded crisp, sharp, lean writing. He supposedly said he would work all day just to write one “honest and true” sentence. Hemingway was a newspaper reporter early in his career. The requirements of that job – getting right to the point as quickly as possible – poured the foundation of his “revolution” relative to his peers, who wrote 10,000-word missives where EH would make the same point in 100 words. Having to tell a story in “8 inches or less” for the newspaper formed and forced his intense focus on the integrity of the story and characters. He could not afford for the writing to meander in a hundred directions or be diluted by “overwriting” and pretty but pointless detail. Get in, tell the story, help people see and feel what you see and feel, then get out. Plus, I have camped in the UP all my adult life in the same places these stories are set, so it was fun to recognize the locales.


I over-imbibed (big time!) on Hemingway as a young man and fell out of love with him a long time ago. Still, I have spent the rest of my writing career trying (and failing as much as not) to emulate Hemingway’s writing style. He is one of those “dead white males” that lit snobs and critics scorn these days, but when he was right and true, no one could touch him.

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