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Hemingway started as a reporter, and it shows in the writing. He writes terse, simple sentences. Critics call the style “masculine,” meaning simplistic, and they love to parody it. Here is a typical description from A Farewell to Arms: “The mulberry trees were bare and the fields were brown. There were wet dead leaves on the road from the rows of bare trees.”


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There is a lot more craft here than meets the eye. Hemingway leads you along the line of his observation, from the trees to the road, and then to the men on the road. Compare this to Tolstoy’s immortal, “two fire pumps and a water cart stood in the shed.” Simple, unadorned language makes the narrative seem more real. It’s like reading a newspaper account.

The manuscripts show how hard he worked at this. Hemingway probably put as much effort into removing words as other writers do, thesaurus in hand, adding them. I have read just about everything of his, and I don’t really have any pointers. The novels are good, and the stories are good. Maybe save For Whom the Bells Tolls for last. That’s about it.