A Farewell to Something

The news that Scribner is bringing out a new edition of “A Farewell to Arms” with all the 40-something endings that Hemingway tried and rejected was of more than usual interest to me, for reasons that regular readers of this blog will have no trouble guessing.

So other people do that too? Particularly Hem, who has been established in the literary pantheon as the very extreme of a certain type of 20th-century writer: macho, terse, but above all decisive. Hem does not waffle, or so we would like to think. This might be an appropriate time to confess I have never read “A Farewell to Arms,” finding H. rather tedious as novelist, although I think some of his short stories are among the very finest examples of that genre (and I also liked “A Movable Feast”).

But I would would read this edition. Unlike some cynical commenters who saw in this publishing move merely a naked ploy to sell new editions of an old book, I think the process of writing is sometimes more interesting than the result. As I’ve been revising my novel I’ve been taking things out that I no longer think work but might change my mind about later, from single sentences to entire chapters. (I draw the line at single words. I am not that crazy. Yet.) To my astonishment, today I noticed this outtakes file is, itself, 115 pages long.

Somehow the book itself seems to always remain about 390 pages long, however, like one of those magical purses in fairy tales that constantly are full of gold.


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