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The Nick Adams Stories Paperback – February 1, 1981

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About the Author

Ernest Hemingway did more to influence the style of English prose than any other writer of his time. Publication of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms immediately established him as one of the greatest literary lights of the 20th century. His classic novella The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He died in 1961.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


"Of the place where he had been a boy he had written well enough. As well as he could then." So thought a dying writer in an early version of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." The writer of course was Hemingway. The place was the Michigan of his boyhood summers, where he remembered himself as Nick Adams. As well as be could write then was very well indeed.

Until now, however, the stories involving Nick have always appeared so many to a book, in jumbled sequence. As a result the coherence of his adventures has been obscured, and their impact fragmented. In Men Without Women, Hemingway's second collection of stories, Nick appears first as a soldier in Italy, next as an adolescent in Summit, Illinois, then in turn as a younger boy in Michigan, a married man in Austria, and a soldier back in Italy. Or consider the trouble with "Big Two-Hearted River," one of the best-known Hemingway stories. Placed where it was -- at the end of In Our Time, the first collection -- it puzzled a good many readers. Put where it goes chronologically, following the stories of World War I, its submerged tensions -- the impression that Nick is exorcising some nameless anxiety -- become perfectly understandable. But "A Way You'll Never Be," which precedes "Big Two-Hearted River" in time and explains it, was published eight years and several books after it.

Arranged in chronological sequence, the events of Nick's life make up a meaningful narrative in which a memorable character grows from child to adolescent to soldier, veteran, writer, and parent -- a sequence closely paralleling the events of Hemingway's own life. In this arrangement Nick Adams, who for a long time was not widely recognized as a consistent character at all, emerges clearly as the first in a long line of Hemingway's fictional selves. Later versions, from Jake Barnes and Frederic Henry to Richard Cantwell and Thomas Hudson, were all to have behind them part of Nick's history and, correspondingly, part of Hemingway's.

As is true for many writers of fiction, the relationship between Hemingway's work and the events of his own life is an immediate and intricate one. In some stories he appears to report details of actual experience as faithfully as he might have entered them in a diary. In others the play of his imagination has transformed experience into a new and different reality. Exploring the connections between actuality and fiction in Hemingway can be an absorbing activity, and readers who wish to pursue it are referred to the biographical studies listed at the end of this preface. But Hemingway naturally intended his stories to be understood and enjoyed without regard for such considerations -- as they have been for a long time.

The first Nick Adams fiction appeared almost a half-century ago, the last in 1933, and over the years a great deal has been written about it. Among the unpublished manuscripts Hemingway left behind him, however, eight new contributions to the over-all narrative were discovered. Presented here for the first time, inserted in the places in time where the events fall, they are varied in length and apparent purpose. Three accounts -- of how the Indians left the country of Nick's boyhood, of his first sight of the Mississippi, and of what happened just before and after his wedding -- are quite brief. If the author had larger plans for any of them, such are unknown; they might be read simply as sketches in an artist's notebook. In two other cases his plans are self-evident, for here we have the beginnings of works that were never completed. Nick on board the Chicago, bound for France during World War I, was the start of a novel called Along with Youth that was abandoned long ago. Similarly, though much later, the plot of "The Last Good Country" was left in mid-air, and many pages would have been required to resolve it. Two other pieces are known to have originated in Nick stories already published. "Three Shots" tells how the young boy became frightened while on a camping trip. It once preceded the story called "Indian Camp." And Nick's "stream of consciousness" reflections on his writing career once (anachronistically) concluded "Big Two-Hearted River." Of these new works only "Summer People," very likely the first fiction Hemingway wrote about Nick Adams, can be regarded as a full-length, completed story.

To distinguish them from previously published works, all the new materials in this book have been printed in a special "oblique" type. If the decision to publish them at all is questioned, justification is available. For one thing, the plan for rearranging the Nick Adams stories coherently benefits from material that fills substantial gaps in the narrative. Further, all this new fiction relates in one way or another to events in the author's life, in which his readers continue to be interested. Last and most important is the fact that these pieces throw new light on the work and personality of one of our foremost writers and genuinely increase our understanding of him. The typography suggests an oblique introduction, but a warm reception is expected.


Preface copyright © 1972 by Charles Scribner's Sons --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reissue edition (February 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684169401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684169408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ernest Hemingway ranks as the most famous of twentieth-century American writers; like Mark Twain, Hemingway is one of those rare authors most people know about, whether they have read him or not. The difference is that Twain, with his white suit, ubiquitous cigar, and easy wit, survives in the public imagination as a basically, lovable figure, while the deeply imprinted image of Hemingway as rugged and macho has been much less universally admired, for all his fame. Hemingway has been regarded less as a writer dedicated to his craft than as a man of action who happened to be afflicted with genius. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1954, Time magazine reported the news under Heroes rather than Books and went on to describe the author as "a globe-trotting expert on bullfights, booze, women, wars, big game hunting, deep sea fishing, and courage." Hemingway did in fact address all those subjects in his books, and he acquired his expertise through well-reported acts of participation as well as of observation; by going to all the wars of his time, hunting and fishing for great beasts, marrying four times, occasionally getting into fistfights, drinking too much, and becoming, in the end, a worldwide celebrity recognizable for his signature beard and challenging physical pursuits.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Bruce L. Nelson on December 9, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To me, this book is so eloquent I am reluctant to review it because it will be impossible to do it justice.
It is a collection of short stories from earlier works of Hemingway. In each of them, a thoughtful reader can gain insight into Hemingway and him/herself.
The following is from "Indian Camp." In it, Nick is a very young boy, and, with his physician father, he has been present at a difficult childbirth and found the victim of a suicide. Dawn is approaching and he is in the canoe with his father rowing back across the lake.
"Do many men kill themselves, Daddy?"
"Not very many, Nick."...
"Is dying hard, Daddy?"
"No, I think it's pretty easy Nick. It all depends."
They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning.
In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.
Regardless of how you feel about Hemingway, this is a poignant look into the soul of the man, and ourselves. Hemingway's family was plagued by suicide, including that of his physician father, and, like all of us, Hemingway was once a young child coming to grips with the idea of mortality, in a world still fresh and fascinating and frightening.
Other stories deal with the joys of a life full-lived, an appreciation of the natural world around us, and our "quiet desperation," in love, life, and death.
"The Nick Adams Stories" is high on my "Top Ten List."
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on October 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
In the spring of 2008 the first Great Michigan Read was launched, a program which encouraged state residents to join in the reading and discussion of one book. The book chosen for this ambitious and worthy project was a classic: Ernest Hemingway's The Nick Adams Stories. Program coordinators throughout the state went to great pains to publish and distribute background information on the the book and on the Hemingway family connections to northern Michigan. Many readers were surprised to learn that Ernest Hemingway spent all the summers of his youth at the family cottage on Walloon Lake near Petoskey. That area and other northern Michigan towns provide the settings for most of the tales of young Nick Adams, often called Hemingway's fictional alter ego.
The Nick Adams Stories first appeared under that title in 1972, in an edition which attempted to chronologically arrange the tales and also added previously unpublished fragments found after Hemingway's death. Most of the original stories, however, were first published in 1925, when Hemingway was living in Paris, under the title, In Our Time.
I read this collection the first time in 1968, in an American Lit class at Central Michigan University. Our professor, Dr. John Hepler, spent much of our clast time explaining what he called the collection's centerpiece story, "Big Two-Hearted River." It depicted Nick Adams' solitary fishing trip to a river near Seney, in the Upper Peninsula. Dr. Hepler carefully pointed out to us the utterly peaceful setting of the forest and the river, the small simple pleasures of the details of making camp and the process of fishing itself.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 1997
Format: Paperback
Though Hemingway did not, strictly speaking, write this book, he did write
every word in it: except of course for the preface. The stories about Nick Adams
originally appeared in the Hemingway collections, In Our Time, Men Without Women, and Winner Take Nothing, all
published before Papa was 40. Here they have been assembled in "chronological" order, i.e. in an order based upon
Nick's apparent age in the stories, and have been "supplemented" with 8 pieces of Nick Adams material which Hemingway
never published. The best of these "new" pieces is "Summer People," a moving and evocative story involving young lust.
The most fascinating piece, for those interested in Hemingway the writer, as writer, and in his opinions on other writers, is
the piece "On Writing." Perhaps the most provocative "might have been" is the unfinished novella, "The Last Good Country," in which
Nick runs away from home to avoid arrest by game wardens, and is accompanied by his younger sister, "Littless." This assemblage
does not, to be sure, create a Nick Adams novel, but it does allow the stories to build and accumulate, and to create thereby, perhaps, the semblance of a life. And yes, of course I had to use the information in the preface to assemble this review. I'm not a Hemingway scholar, you know.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By on May 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Nick Adams Stories is the most satisfying read of my life. With the end of each story you first think that there has to be more; then you sit back and realize how much Hemingway has truly said with such short, simple, yet fluid language. This book, along with For Whom The Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms negates any criticism for his recieving the Nobel Prize.
When you finish this book, as you do when you finish each story, you can only sit back and smack your lips. Even your saliva tastes more pure. Reading this book is like bathing your mind and spirit in the cleanest spring. Highly inspirational and without any faults. This is the perfect collection of short stories, plain and simple. Yes, plain and simple.
Mr. Hemingway, God bless you.
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