Cecily's Reviews > Men Without Women

Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
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Aug 19, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: canada-and-usa, short-stories, overrated
Read from August 19 to September 05, 2012

I'm not especially keen on short stories: if they're good, I can't read too many in quick succession because it's disorienting, and if they're not good... I don't really want to read them.

It may be blasphemous to many, but this collection was in the latter camp, hence it took me a long time to read a very short book. I just couldn't engage with the characters, plots (I hate bullfighting and boxing, which set me against a couple of them) or writing style, the latter being mostly such short sentences that it was almost like reading a child's book. In other hands, such sentences might be pleasingly spare, but here, they just annoyed me.

I get that there was lots of symbolism and big themes in these little nuggets, but for me, there are more enjoyable ways to consider them.

I was going to write a bit about each story, but I don't really feel inspired to do so.

On the plus side, my second-hand copy smelled slightly of smoke, which seemed appropriate.

Hemingway Update

What a difference four years make. I'm a different reader now.

I really enjoyed The Old Man and the Sea, reviewed HERE.

It's still quite a masculine story, but not in the macho way that some of these are.


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Reading Progress

04/15/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by Caroline (new)

Caroline GR is not allowing me to like this. Please consider your review liked :)


message 2: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes I am rather fond of short stories myself, but there is the definite downside of getting to know a character just as they are heading for the door.


message 3: by Mark (new)

Mark Your last sentence, excellent


message 4: by Mark (new)

Mark The others were excellent too but that last one doubly so


message 5: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes I'm with you Mark, that last sentence was killer.


Aleksa Sherlock Couldn't agree more! I am quite of a quick reader, but this book took me fantastic 3 days to read it. Just didn't get me interested enough, nor "the flow" was good enough to keep me on book. He is fantastic writer, but just not for my "realm". :)


Cecily J.Sherlock wrote: "Couldn't agree more! ..."

I wonder if being European is part of it. If you've grown up in the US, where Hemingway is hailed as one of the cornerstones of your 20th century literary canon, and where you can relate more to some of the stories, maybe it's easier to like his works?


message 8: by Violet (new)

Violet wells I don't think I'd like this either, Cecily but I loved his Nick Adams stories - In Our Time.


Cecily Violet wrote: "I don't think I'd like this either, Cecily but I loved his Nick Adams stories - In Our Time."

My ignorance of American literature is such that I don't think I'd even heard of those! Thanks, Violet. They certainly sound more to my taste.


message 10: by Dolors (new)

Dolors "(I hate bullfighting and boxing, which set me against a couple of them)"

That's why I am so weary of reading Hemingway, but I have eyed a couple of books I might enjoy thanks to comprehensive reviews like yours, Cecily.


Cecily Dolors wrote: "That's why I am so weary of reading Hemingway, but I have eyed a couple of books I might enjoy thanks to comprehensive reviews ..."

Thanks, and I'm happy to help in some small part.


message 12: by Anne (new) - added it

Anne "What a difference four years make. I'm a different reader now." I've been meaning to re-read The Old Man and the Sea (or to take up any Hemingway, for that matter), hoping that I'll see him in a new light the second time around, just like you. After years and years of dissecting Hills Like White Elephants in various classes I've become both in awe and wary of him. Your review really compelled me to try him again, regardless of the outcome. :)


Cecily Thanks so much, Anne. I hope The Old Man is as good for you as he was for me.


message 14: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg Z Cecily, great review! I do like to always have a book of short stories nearby. But so far I don't particularly like how the title measures up against a story in which a man and a woman discuss the possibility of her abortion. Is Hemingway saying, with the title, it's the man's choice, not the woman's? Or am I overthinking the relationship between the title and the stories?


Cecily Greg wrote: "Cecily, great review!...
a story in which a man and a woman discuss the possibility of her abortion. Is Hemingway saying, with the title, it's the man's choice, not the woman's? Or am I overthinking..."


Thanks, Greg. I'm afraid it's over four years since I read these stories, and having not enjoyed them at the time, I remember very little about them. I don't remember a story about abortion, even now you've mentioned it. I wouldn't be surprised if Hemingway did think it was the man's choice, and as for the title... Hemingway's a man's man, isn't he?


message 16: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg Z Cecily, yes, H. was always considered a "man's man". I've another way of looking at this issue: the first few short stories in this selection have only men as characters and they are rather violent stories. Then women characters appear, so perhaps Hemingway is saying the manly-man world, on it's own, would destroy itself in a very short time. I know, it's just a title, but I'd never say, for example, that "Atlas Shrugged" is just a title.


Cecily You say Atlas Shrugged, and I shrug. I'd barely heard of it until three or four years ago, and although I know it's an influential book, nothing I've heard makes me keen to read it. For all that I've never been a girly-girl, I guess I'm not keen on macho stuff either.


message 18: by Ken (new)

Ken In Our Time and the collected Nick Adams stories are not the same beast. Some stories from In Our Time are NA-free, whereas the editions called the Nick Adams Stories are all Nick (read: EH) all the time.


message 19: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Ansbro Great review, Cecily. It seemed especially befitting that the book should smell of smoke. Perhaps there was a ring of bourbon on one of the pages too?

And I do like short stories, just like I enjoy a clever TV advert (Mrs A fast-forwards through them).


message 20: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg Z Cecily, I loved Atlas Shrugged. It's the most pretentious soap opera every written, with the most pretentious title to match. But the opening line, "Who is John Galt", pulls you in instantly, and it's so amazingly applicable to today's world. Plus it has a side of syfy, some fascinating characters, and it's just colossus in every since of the word.


message 21: by Greg (new) - rated it 3 stars

Greg Z To all who don't care for short stories: try Saki's "The Open Window". I think it's the perfect short story: it is short, the resolution is great, and it's absolutely easy to walk away from the lead character... fast.


Cecily Ken wrote: "In Our Time and the collected Nick Adams stories are not the same beast..."

Thanks for the clarification, Ken. When I wrote this review, I thought I wasn't going to rush back to Hemingway, but recently read The Old Man and the Sea (my review here) and thought it was brilliant.


message 23: by Cecily (last edited Oct 31, 2016 12:52AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cecily Kevin wrote: "Great review, Cecily. It seemed especially befitting that the book should smell of smoke. Perhaps there was a ring of bourbon on one of the pages too?"

Thanks, Kevin. If it does smell of bourbon, I'm not sure I'd realise!

Kevin wrote: "And I do like short stories, just like I enjoy a clever TV advert (Mrs A fast-forwards through them)."

I generally prefer novels, but get through quite a lot of short stories as well. I don't watch a lot of TV, but none of it is live, so we always fast-forward though ads.


Cecily Greg wrote: "Cecily, I loved Atlas Shrugged. It's the most pretentious soap opera every written, with the most pretentious title to match. But the opening line, "Who is John Galt", pulls you in instantly..."

Hmm. Pretentious soap opera might be amusing for a couple of dozen pages; after that, not so much, I think. As for the opening line, I can't say it grabs me as much as it grabbed you. But thanks.


message 25: by Cecily (last edited Oct 31, 2016 03:35AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cecily Greg wrote: "To all who don't care for short stories: try Saki's "The Open Window"...."

Funnily enough, I read and adored Saki in my youth, but have ignored him for decades - until, a couple of days ago, I picked up a novel of his in a charity shop, The Unbearable Bassington.


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