Hemingway's First

August 13: On this day in 1923 Ernest Hemingway published his first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems. This was an edition of 300 copies, put out by friend and fellow expatriate, the writer and publisher Robert McAlmon. Both had arrived in Paris in 1921, Hemingway an unpublished twenty-two-year-old journalist with a recent bride, a handful of letters of introduction provided by Sherwood Anderson, and a clear imperative: "All you have to do is write one true sentence." Hemingway's early efforts to do so, in the bars, cafés, and garret apartments of Paris, have become Lost Gen literary legend, described later in A Moveable Feast:

It was a pleasant café, warm clean and friendly, and I hung up my old waterproof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a café au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write. I was writing about up in Michigan and since it was a wild, cold, blowing day it was that sort of day in the story....

The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St. James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpener with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink.

I've seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.

In a review of Three Stories and Ten Poems in the Paris Tribune (November 27, 1923), Gertrude Stein gave Hemingway's writing her unique stamp of approval:

I may say of Ernest Hemingway that as he sticks to poetry and intelligence it is both poetry and intelligent.... I should say that Hemingway should stick to poetry and intelligence and eschew the hotter emotions and the more turgid vision. Intelligence and a great deal of it is a good thing to use when you have it, it's all for the best.


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

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