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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strength in the "bookends"..., 5 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Snows Of Kilimanjaro And Other Stories (Paperback)
This is a collection of 10 short stories by Ernest Hemmingway. The two worthy ones are the first and last one, both set in Africa, on the hunting grounds of the Serengeti plain, which, after the First World War was part of British East Africa, and is now Tanzania. The first story lends its title to this collection, and has achieved iconic and now somewhat ironic status in that so much of the snow has melted. This was my second reading of these stories; the first was some 30 years ago, and at the time it was a "mandatory" read in that I too was lured to find that frozen carcass of the leopard on the top of Kilimanjaro, which Hemingway cites in an epigraph to this story. (I did make it to the top, didn't find the carcass, and, of course, wonder if it was just a wonderful "folk tale.") And there is the irony of the story... in real life, all too true. A soldier survives the perils of the First World War, only to be done in by a common-place and seemingly minor injury in Africa. Hemingway tells much of the story well through flashbacks, as his protagonist deals with - or not - his oncoming death. Sure, a harsher critic than myself might consider the ending a bit "sappy," a fair enough comment, however there are few sights more awe-inspiring than the (still) snow-topped Kilimanjaro rising majestically and quite solo, above the Serengeti. And wouldn't that be a wonderful final resting place, up there with what is most likely a metaphorical leopard.

There was nothing "sappy" about the final story entitled "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." Two Americans, a husband and wife, on a big-game hunting expedition, being conducted by a British guide, with the "attending natives in tow." It is a very scathing account of all too many who "get their kicks" by killing the big game of Africa. The British guide is not only an excellent hunter; where he truly earns his money is being a psychiatrist for the couple, and well... er... ah... providing some additional services as well. It is a finely wrought tale, of high dramatic tension, and very well-written. As for the insights it provides into the "poverty of human existence," when I was there in 1984, with some extra time before my leopard carcass pursuit, we hired a Hungarian guide to conduct, what was for him, his first "photo safari." He confirmed all too much of the truth in Hemingway's tale, saying that some of the Europeans that he led on the safaris did not even know the names of the animals they were killing... the chief criteria was their size.

As for the other 8 stories, figure they should have been left on the "cutting room floor." The next two after "Kilimanjaro" are really just fragments of a story, with perhaps one banal point, like the confusion there can be between the metric and English systems of measure. "Fifty Grand" concerns boxing, and once again, although it might be "cinema vérité" (to continue with my film analogy), but the utterly inane, insipid dialogue, for which Hemingway is cited as a pioneer, can be more annoying that that proverbial screech of the chalk dragged across the blackboard. (I found this particularly true in his novel, The Sun Also Rises). "The Gambler, the Nun and the Radio" concerns a Mexican who is shot in Montana, and is in the hospital. I just found the entire story "out-of-focus," with no real meaning. "A Way You'll Never Be" is a fragment also, drawn upon Hemingway's real-life experience on the Italian front during World War I. Once again, I was left wondering what the point was. And "The Killers" was the worst story of the collection. Enough said.

Great beginning and ending stories. Particularly the last one I'd give 5-stars to, but overall, the collection merits 3-stars.
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