Hemingway had a fictive go at killing off Sherwood Anderson in his short story The Killers when he sent the vaudville deadly duo Al and Max to rub out; the scriptive erasure is appropriate, a fighter called Ole Anderson. Ole Sherwood had slighted Young Hem unforgivably by helping him in various ways. In a story, a not very good story, Anderson in The Fight from the collection Death in the Woods mocks the Hemingway circularity and plain prose. Hurt feelings don’t generally make for great literature. The word ‘shabby’ barnacle encrusted with judgement seems right for the younger man’s behaviour.
I’ve been reading Winesburg, Ohio recently and re-evaluating the respective positions of the two men in the American canon. The Hemingway paradox is that he is now the more mannered and literary writer of the two and Anderson with his larger grasp of human nature and even with the cracker barrel effects, is an undated perennial. He colours in more of the picture and though the line isn’t delicate it has vigour and risk. Hemingway asks you to fill it in for yourself.
- Yeah, you fill it in.
- I don’t know if I can.
- Sure you can, you can fill it in O.K.
- I’m glad you think so.
The older man slipped off the stool, suddenly. The younger did not try to catch him. He’d seen this sort of thing before and he just hoped it wouldn’t happen to him. It was a thing that you did not wish to see and it was not very satisfactory.