Hemingway's and Perkins's formation of Men Without Women

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Author: John Beall
Date: Fall 2016
From: The Hemingway Review(Vol. 36, Issue 1)
Publisher: Chestnut Hill College
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 4,184 words
Lexile Measure: 1550L

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Ernest Hemingway and Maxwell Perkins collaborated closely on the formation of his first collection of stories published by Scribner's--Men Without Women. Based on an examination of manuscripts in the Hemingway Collection at the Kennedy Library, and of the correspondence preserved in the Scribner's Archive at Princeton, this note traces the selection and ordering of the stories in Men Without Women. It focuses especially on "Now I Lay Me" and Perkins's role in encouraging Hemingway not only to publish the story, but also to place it as the capstone of the collection.

KEY WORDS: Manuscript, Publishing, Story Order


"A book of stories, that is a good one, is just as much a unit as a novel." --Hemingway in a letter to Perkins, 8 April 1933 (1)

Little attention has been paid to Ernest Hemingway's collaboration with his editor Maxwell Perkins over the formation of Men Without Women, published in October 1927. Of the reviews by such writers as Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, and Edmund Wilson, none refers to the volume as a shaped collection of stories (Stephens 52-66). Only F. Scott Fitzgerald responded to Men Without Women as such, "it's a unit, as much as Conrad's books of Contes were" (Bruccoli 151). In current scholarship, Joseph Flora has paid the most attention to how Hemingway's arrangement of the stories influences the reading experience of the collection, yet Flora does not discuss Perkins's role in the construction of the book. (2) This note will develop three arguments: first, that Hemingway was actively involved in planning for his second volume of stories, even while he was at work on The Sun Also Rises-, second, that Hemingway and Perkins collaborated constructively in assembling his first collection of short stories published by Scribner's. And third, that this collaboration is illustrated by the complicated history of how "Now I Fay Me" became the final story in the collection, its capstone just as "Big Two-Hearted River" was the final story of In Our Time.

The process of Hemingway and Perkins's assembling Men Without Women is complex. There are at least eleven drafts of tables of contents for the collection. The earliest version is a manuscript from before 4 May 1926 that bears the heading "Outline of 2nd Book of Short Stories" (Box 54, Folder 596, JFK). (3) This draft is in Hemingway's hand and suggests that he initiated the process of planning for this collection of stories shortly before or after he mailed a typescript of The Sun Also Rises to Scribner's on 24 April 1926, and well before he finished working on the novel (Letters vol. 3, 64; Reynolds 22). The table of contents includes "A hack of Passion," "Summer People," and "Up in Michigan," along with "An Alpine Idyll" (with Hemingway's notation "to be typed"), and "to write" an Indian story "started at Chartres" ("Ten Indians"), and a boxing story, the title of which he wrote would be "Fifty Grand." Cryptically, the first (and title) story in this draft is "They Never Come Back"...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A473148852