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Reading the Paper: A Bibliographic Approach to in our time.

"You are very right about the lack of capital letters--which seemed
very silly and affected to me--but Bird had put them in and as he was
printing the In Our Time himself and that was all the fun he was
getting out of it I thought he could go ahead and be a damn fool in his
own way if it pleased him. So long as he did not fool with the text."
(Hemingway "Letter to Edmund Wilson," 18 October 1924) (1)

Critical discussions of Hemingway's first story collection have tended to focus either on the author's achievement of a unique modernist style in the stories (Steinian, paratactic, affectless) or on questions of the book's genre (is it a story collection, a novel-in-stories, or a compound of some kind?). (2) Most of these analyses have addressed the now canonical 1930 In Our Time. This volume's juxtaposition of well-known stories such as "Indian Camp" and "Big Two-Hearted River" with the "interchapters" realized the totalizing view-from-a-distance that Hemingway boasted of in a letter to Edmund Wilson. (3) That book, however, follows (and absorbs) the earlier in our time that Hemingway published with William Bird's Three Mountains Press in 1924. Milton Cohen's 2005 monograph, Hemingway's Laboratory, attends carefully to the hard-won stylistic breakthroughs of the 1924 volume, but that book's focus on the language of Hemingway's short prose vignettes provides only a partial picture of the modernist intervention that this early work makes. In this essay, I offer a paratextual and bibliographic reading of the 1924 in our time to show how such features as the cover, title page, dedications, and even the paper upon which the book is printed contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the project's intervention--or, really, two understandings. I will argue that these features sometimes produce a hermeneutic effect, resonating with themes that arise from the texts, and sometimes produce what can be thought of as a positional effect, inviting certain protocols of reading that suggest to the reader the kind of book in her or his hands as well as the book's level of prestige or (following Pierre Bourdieu) distinction. (4)

Hemingway's first book was developed in response to an invitation by Ezra Pound, who was producing a series of books exploring the current state of English prose for William Bird's Three Mountains, a small press operated in Paris. Having read the six vignettes Hemingway was to publish in the Little Review's "Exiles" issue in April 1923, Pound asked Hemingway to contribute to this series. An advertisement for the series appears in the "Exiles" issue, with Hemingway's contribution already promised, but as yet untitled; it is listed as "BLANK, by Ernest Hemingway". (5) Hemingway added another dozen vignettes to the original six to produce in our time.

Because only 170 copies were printed, this 1924 volume has long been unavailable to readers unless they visit one of the special collections fortunate enough to own a copy. Because it was superseded, both in Hemingway's eyes as well as in the publication world, by the 1925 In Our Time, it has typically been discussed as a preliminary to the later work rather than an independent and coherent work of its own. Two recent publication events invite readers to reconsider this relationship. First, Cohen's 2005 book offers a rich and complex reading of the individual vignettes and the whole they combine to make. Cohen painstakingly analyzes the effects of narrative focalization, diction, and sentence structures in the stories. For example, in his discussion of "chapter 6," Cohen shows how the structure and paratactic relationships of the opening five simple sentences "focus our attention wholly on their minute actuality" (151) and how various repetitions--of the number six, of "shutters" and "shut," of sibilant consonants--intensify readers' perceptions. More recently (2015), the Modernist Versions Project of the University of Victoria released an electronic version edited and introduced by James Gifford. This edition usefully makes available both the text of the 1924 volume, including the texts of its dedications and title pages, and an illustration of the book's striking cover, although the digital format can only approximate certain effects of typography and placement. The edition also lacks such features as the frontispiece, though it includes the reference to this portrait in the facsimile advertisement at the end of the volume, which lists the six "works constituting the series" that made up Pound's "Inquest into the state of English prose" (25). Neither Cohen's scrupulous attention to Hemingway's prose nor Gifford's electronic re-presentation of the book capture or interpret those material features legible only in the physical artifact. However, the choices at the levels of paratext and bibliographic text are significant and assist in the elaboration of the volume's themes and in the determination of the volume's value as a material textual act in the world. Specifically, I will argue that certain paratextual or bibliographic features (the cover, dedications, colophon) contribute to the book's thematic unity, especially the thematic relationship of temporal specificity--"our time"--and universality, while some features (paper quality, typesetting, advertising) offer strong clues to the reader about what kind of book Hemingway's is, what kind of modernism it embodies, and what sort of audience it aims for.

In attending to these material features, I am of course following both the general lead of Gerard Genette, whose 1987 book (or, really, its 1997 translation) introduced the term "paratext" into critical conversation and the more specific approaches to modernist editorial practice fashioned by such scholars as Jerome McGann and George Bornstein. The two terms--paratext and bibliographic text--are importantly distinct. Where the paratext for Genette is the "threshold" created by such aspects of presentation as title page, preface, and notes, the bibliographic text comprises both those features and things like "ink, typeface, paper, and various other phenomena which are crucial to the understanding of textuality" (Genette 1; McGann 13). Attending to both Genette's paratexts and McGann's bibliographic codes, Bornstein offers an argument about modernism itself in Material Modernism. He contends that attending to "historical contingency, multiple versions, and the material features of the text itself" and "examining modernism in its original sites of production and in the continually shifting physicality of its texts and transmissions results in alternative constructions" of the contested episode of literary history (1). Hemingway's in our time, especially when examined alongside the Little Review's six-vignette version of "In Our Time" and In Our Time (the collections of stories and prose vignettes brought out by Boni & Liveright in 1925 and--in a revised edition--by Scribner's in 1930), offers a rich opportunity to reveal the signifying properties, the contribution to meaning-making, latent in the volumes pages. It's also fun because in our time is a gorgeous and fascinating example of modernists--in this case Hemingway and Bird--geeking out on print and its conventions.

in our time dwells repeatedly and insistently on the tension between timeliness and timelessness. On the one hand, certain pieces in the volume locate themselves specifically "in our time," the moment of the First World War and its aftermath. The first vignette, in which a kitchen corporal recalls a drunk lieutenant and an adjutant who urges him to put out the light of his kitchen wagon, names the Champagne region. The story's references to military ranks and the front set it during the Great War. There are more direct references to battle sites in "chapter 3" and "chapter 8." Specific place names work similarly in the second piece, on the Greek retreat across Thrace, which, as James Gifford writes, introduces one of the volume's key themes, the Asia Minor catastrophe that followed upon the Greco-Turkish War of 1922. Slang sometimes suggests time and place, as in the soldier's jaunty memory of the "topping" time he had "potti[ng]" enemy troops as they tried to surmount a barrier in "chapter 4" or the cops' dialogue in "chapter 8." On the other hand, settings are often rendered at once less specific and more symbolic. As Cohen points out, the execution of the Greek cabinet ministers in "chapter 6" is perpetrated by a nameless "They," and the courtyard of the unnamed hospital with its boarded-up windows serves as an ironic rather than a historic location. The dead leaves and puddles of water take on deeply suggestive, though historically non-specific, characters through their isolation and repetition.

In a similar way, the volume's paratexts enact this thematic tension. On the one hand, the book is literally framed by contemporary headlines. Its cover is a collage of red-printed newspaper fragments that emphasize present-day conflicts ("Spanish Revolt Frustrated") as well as bullfights and other motifs repeated in the prose. The book's last page announces that this volume concludes "The Inquest into the state of contemporary English prose," emphasizing the work's metonymic figuring of the up-to-date. On the other hand, the volume's framing gestures also include archaizing touches characteristic of Bird's publishing enterprise. The Three Mountains colophon appears on the cover printed in black to set it off against the red collage, its Latin text and visual style both hearkening to older modes of bibliographic production. The colophon's text, levari oculos meon in montes, quotes Psalm 120 ("I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills"). It appears to be hand lettered above and below a visual suggestion of those hills or mountains, the whole set off in a rectangular box. The colophon appears again at the center of the title page, whose busy layout recalls the variability and inclusiveness of title pages before their standardization in nineteenth-century print culture. (6) Even Hemingway's dedications here juxtapose historical specificity and hints of temporal generality. Bird and Robert McAlmon are named as "publishers of the city of paris," while Hemingway's friend "eric edward dorman-smith" is identified with "his majesty's fifth fusiliers" [sic]. The entire history of the French capital seems to be the purview of the publishers, while Dorman-Smith's regiment locates him in the discursive arena of combat (and readers would, of course, link combat in general to the recently concluded European war). Typography makes things even more interesting here, with the alternation of Roman and Italic typefaces echoing older print conventions while the setting of all the text on the page in lowercase is a distinctly modern touch.

When we compare the volume with any edition of In Our Time, the project into which this 1924 edition is dissolved from 1925 on, we can more clearly see the way the texts and paratexts of the 1924 in our time work together to stage a productive tension between historical specificity and temporal generality. At the level of text, the combination of stories and "interchapters" in In Our Time, beginning with the Liveright edition of 1925 and continuing through all subsequent editions, pulls the latter together as that totalizing view-from-a-distance that Hemingway describes to Wilson. While the stories offer close-up examinations of individual subjectivity under the pressures of relationship, estrangement, or trauma and its aftermath, the interchapters work together to highlight general themes of violence, whether of warfare, crime and its punishment, or bullfighting. The specific tensions legible in in our time are transformed into a different set of interpretive possibilities, whether those invited by the juxtaposition of story and interchapter (the interplay, for example, between the two parts of "Big Two-Hearted River" and the interchapter on Sam Cardinella's execution, in which the convict's collapse as he approaches hanging can be read as underscoring Nick's emotional bravery in the story that surrounds it) or by the new shape of the whole to which both stories and interchapters contribute. Those specific tensions also disappear at the paratextual level, as attention shifts from "our time" and "time" to Hemingway's authorial importance and the conventions of mainstream publishing.

Some of these hermeneutically significant features also have positional effects, though I want to maintain the possibility of some important overlap in these effects. For example, the cover of in our time emphasizes contemporaneity with its newspaper collage, but the covers of the first two editions of In Our Time enact agendas that, while different from each other, are most dramatically different from that of the earlier work. Hemingway's value and reputation dominate the cover of Boni and Liveright's 1925 edition oi In Our Time. The title and the author's name are now all in capitals, rather than the lowercase of in our time, and in a typeface that suggests hand lettering rather than the typewriter font of the earlier book. They are situated in a rectangular box, horizontally centered and slightly above the center vertically. In lieu of red-printed newspaper headlines and snatches of news stories, the Boni and Liveright edition surrounds author and title with testimonials by Hemingway's contemporaries: Edward O'Brien, who had published "My Old Man" in the Best Short Stories of 1923, Sherwood Anderson, Gilbert Seldes, Donald Ogden Stewart, Waldo Frank, and Ford Madox Ford. Just as the collage on the front cover of in our time continues onto the back cover, the testimonials continue onto the back cover here. Hemingway's work is literally embraced by appreciation, which aims to guarantee his relevance and reputation for future readers, instead of being framed by evidence of his moment ("our time"). The cover's emphasis on Hemingway's authorial importance and value does not perform the thematic work of the in our time cover.

The same is true of the 1930 Scribner's edition cover. It reduces the testimonials to a single line promising an introduction by Edmund Wilson. Instead, the title and author's name appear in another lettered-looking typeface with unusual serifs on some characters. The title is positioned at the top of the cover and in larger print than Hemingway's name, which is slightly smaller and at the bottom. They are separated by a roughly circular illustration that depicts the faces of a man and woman in a somewhat Socialist Realist style. This unexpected image highlights not the peculiarities of the stories' postwar moment (which dominates the interchapters) but instead the more "mainstream" theme of fraught romantic relationship that surfaces in a number of the book's stories. The illustration works along with the thrust of the back cover's blurbs. These advertise Hemingway's other books published before 1930 (The Sun Also Rises, Men Without Women, and A Farewell to Arms) and emphasize the author's "originality, vitality, fidelity, [and] dramatic sensitivity" (from a New York Times review of Men Without Women) and his "gift for seizing upon the essential qualities" and his "Shakespearean absoluteness" (from a Saturday Review of Literature piece on The Sun Also Rises). Illustration and blurb work most closely together when Heywood Broun is quoted on A Farewell to Arms: "one of the most eloquent love stories I know." This cover works hard to locate Hemingway not on the avant-garde margins of "our time," but right in the central concerns of commercial fiction. This positional effect also has a hermeneutic effect, replacing the focus on timeliness and timelessness of in our time with the suggestion of romantic themes and claims for universality.

Other paratexts in these editions also realign Hemingway's project with the mainstream, eliding the significant tension between timely and timeless that characterizes in our time. The dedications to publishers "of the city of paris" and to Hemingway's war-veteran friend Chink Dorman-Smith are replaced by the simple dedication "to Hadley," and the title pages of both the Boni & Liveright and the Scribner's editions are cleaner. Both lack the snippet of quoted dialogue that appears on the title page of in our time (it is moved to the half-title page in the Boni & Liveright edition), and each has a simple layout, with the Scribner's title page foregoing even the simple colophon and framing that appear on the Boni & Liveright edition). Their integration into the sequence of stories, along with the various paratexts of In Our Time, subdue rather than highlight the distinctive and aggressive modernism enacted and embodied by Hemingway's prose vignettes in their 1924 publication.

The material features on which I have focused so far are those that frame in our time as a whole. These are among the most visible and legible of the book's bibliographic codes (I mean, that cover, right?), but what of the hermeneutic effects that paratexts and bibliographic codes have on individual vignettes? Cohen claims that the sixth vignette--the shooting of the cabinet ministers--is "[a]rguably... the best chapter in in our time" (152). I'll take that as good enough reason to use it as an example through which to focus a look at some of these features and effects.

In the first of Hemingway's publications titled "In Our Time," the series of six vignettes he published in Little Review, the final episode is an account of six cabinet ministers' execution by firing squad. As several scholars have noted, Hemingway based this vignette on a story in the London Daily Express. Following Greece's horrific defeat in the offensive against Turkey, ex-Premier Dimitrios Gounaris and five members of his Cabinet were sentenced to death and executed in November 1922. As Kenneth Lynn writes, "the liberties [Hemingway] took with the story in the Express demonstrated how conscious he had become of the limitations of journalism as a means of getting at the meaning of events. Journalists focused on facts; writers created visions" (197). Hemingway fashions a vision from the facts available in the newspaper by changing elements of the scene, by emphasizing imagery with symbolic resonance, by opting for diction quite different from the news accounts, and by repeating words and syntactic structures. Comparison is instructive. Here are two paragraphs from the article on which Hemingway based "chapter 6":

To begin the horrors of that morning, it was discovered by the guards that one of the five [ministers who had been fetched from the single room where they had been imprisoned] had died in the van on the way out from heart failure.

On the arrival of the van Gounaris [who had been driven separately and left on a stretcher] was lifted out of [the] stretcher to stand up and face a firing party. It was then found that this wretched man, who, after all, had been a figure in the recent history of Europe, was unable to stand at all. He was thereupon given sufficient injections of strychnine to strengthen the action of his heart to enable him to stand up in front of the firing party. The man who had died on the way out was propped up beside him--a ghastly line of four live men, one half alive, and one dead man. (qtd. in Lynn 198-99)

And here is part of Hemingway's transformation of the scene:

One of the ministers was sick with typhoid. Two soldiers carried him downstairs and out into the rain. They tried to hold him up against the wall but he sat down in a puddle of water. The other five stood quietly against the wall, (in our time 10)

Gone are such words as "ghastly" and "wretched." Gone, too, are suggestions of background or identity; the cabinet ministers lose their national specificity, Gounaris loses his name, and the measures taken to strengthen Gounaris for the "firing party" disappear. At the same time, Hemingway heightens certain effects with his changes and choices. He sets the execution at dawn (it happened at mid-morning, after the two trips to bring the condemned men from prison) and in a hospital courtyard (the news story does not give a specific location). The hospital offers an opportunity for irony, especially when the narrator points out that its shutters are nailed closed. He repeats references to rain or water six times in the single paragraph of the vignette, and he concludes with the sick minister "sitting down in the water with his head on his knees" as the first volley is fired. He thus transforms the facts into a bleak and powerful vision.

The textual features that critics like Lynn and Cohen examine help us to see how Hemingway's reading and rewriting of the newspaper effect a particular advance in modernist prose. This vignette is one in which we see Hemingway's stylistic contribution to modernism in the making. In its different publications, features of its material manifestation affect the vignette's function and significance. Appearing as the final episode of "In Our Time" in the Little Review, the paragraph is unnumbered but culminating. Its placement at the top of its page reinforces its separation from the preceding parts, marked by three asterisks at the bottom of the fifth vignette. Where the first vignette begins with the word "Everybody" in all-caps and with its initial capital "E" enlarged so that it forces the first five lines to be indented, the sixth is printed in a standard and straight-forward way, its first letter capitalized but in no unusual size, its first line indented the four-character space typical for prose paragraphs in the magazine. Also consistent with the magazine's style, the paragraphs last line is followed by the author's name in all-caps. Taking up about the top third of the page, the vignette is followed by the beginning of the issue's next text. The placement at the top of a page, separated from the other vignettes, strengthens the piece's closure effects as it concludes and culminates the series, absorbing the earlier scenes of violence seen in war and bullfighting into this blinded courtyard.

As the sixth chapter of in our time, the paragraph takes on slight but significant bibliographic differences. Where the three-asterisk dingbat separates each of the six episodes of "In Our Time," each of the 18 prose pieces in in our time is printed on its own page, in our time also gives each vignette its own chapter heading. Centered half an inch above the paragraph's text in the 1924 volume, "chapter 6" is printed in 18-point bold type. The word "chapter" at once enhances the sense of continuity (this piece is one part of a whole divided into parts, as a novel is a whole whose chapters are parts) and the sense of division (rather than a continuation of what precedes it, this "chapter" is a distinct and set-apart section), "chapter 6" is now at once more clearly called out as a distinct unit in the whole sequence and more fully absorbed into the sequence as a whole, losing its cumulative character but inviting consideration of its juxtaposition to the adjacent chapters, in our time encapsulates "chapter 6" with wall imagery: the fifth chapter features a barricade erected across a bridge and the seventh chapter shows Nick and Rinaldi wounded near a church wall. The anti-romantic presentation of the execution in this context at once ironically undercuts the slangy enthusiasm of the narrator in "chapter 5" and is echoed in Nick's famous comment to Rinaldi that they have made "a separate peace" in being wounded in "chapter 7." Compare this to the hermeneutic effects of sequencing in In Our Time. There, the chapter is now the fifth vignette (renumbered because what had been "chapter 2," a sketch in which a young matador has to kill five bulls, was moved to later in the book, becoming "Chapter IX"). This change loses one occurrence of the number six, thereby reducing the power of one pattern Cohen calls attention to. In addition, it is now printed in italics, its title in all-caps and centered above. All of the short prose vignettes (now "interchapters") appear in italics in In Our Time, the typography working along with their setting on pages of their own to separate and distinguish them from the titled stories. Finally, the vignette is now framed by the stories that appear on either side of it: "The Three-Day Blow" and "The Battler." In Our Time thereby encloses the execution of the cabinet ministers not with imagistic and thematic resonances in "chapter 5" and "chapter 7," but, instead, with Nick's sorrow over his breakup with Marjorie and with the drunken camaraderie he shares with Bill (on one side) and with Nick's encounter with the former prize-fighter Ad Francis (on the other). The new surroundings weaken juxtapositions whose significance we could see with the vignette in its context in the 1924 in our time.

Paratexts and bibliographic codes sometimes contribute to, reinforce, or complicate the thematic developments produced by a text. More often, though, they signal to readers important information not about the text's meaning(s) but, instead, about its character or type. Following Pierre Bourdieu's discussion of "position taking" in the cultural field, I am calling this kind of paratextual or bibliographic effect "positional." In The Field of Cultural Production, Bourdieu writes that the literary landscape is "a field of forces, but it is also a field of struggles tending to transform or conserve this field of forces" (42). When a writer takes a position in that field (through choices of theme, genre, or style, of course, but also, I am arguing, through paratextual and bibliographic codes), the writer establishes her or his relationship with one or another of the forces in tension within that field, with or against the centers of power or what Bourdieu calls the "specific profits (such as literary prestige) which are at stake in the field" (42). Many of the material features of in our time perform this work of position taking, locating the book in the cultural field of early 1920s print culture and aesthetic practice. The cover, typefaces, layout, and paper all tell readers that the book joins a specific stream of literary modernism. This modernism is typified by archaism and appeals to the authority of traditions however revisionist a given work's stance toward tradition might be. It is self-consciously aimed at an exclusive and elite readership, one positioned, in Bourdieu's vocabulary, to reap the "specific profits" of avant-garde prestige as opposed to those of mainstream or mass-market success.

Let's begin with the simple fact of the book's publication by Bird's Three Mountains Press. Bird produced a work whose bibliographic codes are almost as legible, and almost as instructive, as its sentences and narratives, though the information they provide is often about what kind, and for what kind of reader, this book is. From the beginning, Bird was interested in the book as object and artwork; he had what he called an "amateur's fondness for typographical experiment," and he aimed to publish and distribute striking handprinted volumes (Ford 99). Pound's A draft of xvi cantos (1925) is exemplary in this regard, with its rubrication and illustrations done by Henry Strater, the artist who also made the portrait of Hemingway that serves as frontispiece in in our time, its fine paper and woven covers. The paratexts of the Pound volume archaize the book, hearkening to the appearance of illuminated manuscripts and enacting at the level of bibliography the poems' recapitulation of tradition. This is further solidified through authorial choices such as opening with a translation of the Odyssey's nekuia (from Book Eleven) and its casting of the Greek episode in Pounds version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse. I have already described the title page of in our time, whose layout and mix of typefaces similarly refer to an earlier moment in book history. We might similarly take account of how the combination of the Three Mountains colophon and the use of lowercase for author name and title work together to position the book as a kind of Poundian "making it new" through publishing practices strongly marked as old. These features did not escape the notice of readers. In the review that Hemingway aggressively sought from him, Edmund Wilson singles out this lowercase printing for dismissive comment, writing that it is an irritating insistence on the book's avant-garde status, an affectation that, while "it used to be rather effective when the modernists first used to use it to call attention to the fact that they had something new to offer, has now grown common and a bore" (340). (7)

The book's red-printed board cover and perfect binding advertise not only a modernist artwork but also a distinctively deluxe artifact. This sense is borne out by the most invisible of most texts' material manifestation: the paper on which the text is printed. The typesetting of "chapter 6" and several other short vignettes in the 1924 in our time leaves a lot of paper prominently visible. What is revealed when we read this paper? The front matter identifies the paper in this volume as Rives BFK, a hand-made 100% cotton paper manufactured by the Canson paper company. I have consulted the copy in the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College and this paper is beautiful. At 310 grams per square meter (gsm), it is heavy and dense. The higher the gsm, the heavier the paper: typical printing paper today is around 80 gsm, while card stock starts around 170. 310 gsm produces a paper that is almost vellum textured. This Rives BFK is warm-colored and toothy, a luxurious commodity. Produced by the premiere French papermaker--Canson was founded and initially run by the Montgolfier brothers, and its watermark included a stylized hot-air balloon in their honor--it is at once expensive and metonymically linked to the finest print production (Rosenband 22-23; Basbanes 59). All of this makes it striking to see how much of this paper is left blank by the typesetting and layout of in our time.

The contrast with the Little Review "In Our Time" is instructive here. Literary historians and print culture scholars have pointed to the availability of cheap paper as an important material factor in the rise of little magazines in the 1910s, and Little Review is indeed printed on fairly inexpensive and ordinary paper. Yet little of this paper is left unprinted; one text follows another mid-page, and space not given to texts is filled with advertisements. One could readily imagine Bird exercising similar economies, printing two chapters on some pages of in our time so as more efficiently to use the expensive Rives BFK. Instead, some pages, like "chapter 6," are two-thirds empty. This conspicuous consumption of fine paper emphasizes the vignettes aesthetic character, its participation in the transformation of news into art for consumption by an elite audience. (8) In this way, the handling of paper in the book enacts the phenomenon Alexander Monro describes in his recent history of paper: "Its gradual elevation to a symbol of elegance and luxury spells a new age of grand retirement as the symbol of expensive invitations, art prints, glossy business catalogs and books aimed at buyers who prize beautiful covers and the physical pleasures of contact and ownership as well as valuable content" (6). The paper of in our time performs a kind of Bourdieuian cultural distinction, emphatically operating in a print world far removed from that dominated by the newspaper that is the vignette's source.

Again, comparison helps to clarify these important effects. The cues offered by the material composition of in our time are rendered more legible when set alongside Hemingway's Three Stories and Ten Poems published by Robert McAlmon's Contact Press. In McAlmon's decisions about book design and materials, we see a middle step between the particular brand of avant-garde work Hemingway produced with Bird and the mass-produced book he would go on to publish through Boni & Liveright and Scribner's. Just as the Three Mountains in our time is advertised in the Little Review's "Exiles" issue (albeit without its title), Hemingway's Three Stories and Ten Poems is announced in this issue, in an advertisement for Contact. While it is among the outer rings of Genette's paratexts and is not a feature of the volume itself, this ad is worth hovering over for the way it positions Contact's version of modernism in the literary marketplace of 1923-1924. Where Bird's deluxe and extremely limited edition marks in our time as an exclusive avant-garde production, the Contact advertisement positions McAlmon's press between the mass market and high modernism. The publishing company is "[d]edicated to the idea that artists need not please either money-making publishers, or a main street public." However, the ad stipulates that "[n]o claim will be made by the publisher that [its books] are revolutionary or works of supreme genius." Instead of hewing to either the mainstream or the self-consciously arty margins, Contact publishes work that represents "a certain amount of concentrated effort by aware individuals." Along with William Carlos Williams's Spring and All and Mina Loy s Lunar Baedeker, Hemingway's Three Stories and Ten Poems appears as exemplary of an American modernism associated more with New Jersey and New York than with Paris.

McAlmon's brand of modernism--newness as directness of perception and the scrubbing away of tradition, whether lyrical or narrative--is enacted by the bibliographic codes of Contact books, including Hemingway's. In lieu of Bird's collaged board covers, Three Stories and Ten Poems is bound in folded paper. The typeface on the cover and title page is a straightforward sans serif, with none of Three Mountains' alternation of Roman and Italic and no variation beyond size to differentiate title, author name, and contents which all are listed on the cover. McAlmon's front cover has no colophon, and even the copyright page gives only the simple "Published by Contact Publishing Co" at the bottom. As Michael Epp argues in an essay on McAlmon and modernist book making, the Contact material text signifies McAlmon's "editorial effort to provide meaningful contact between readers and writers" (274). Epp emphasizes the standard Baskerville-style font of the texts, which he calls "a classic but conservative English type" and which produces "a legitimating effect" that tames the adventuresome character of the cover's sans-serif typeface. He argues that the type, along with the fairly standard octavo trim size, the comfortably but "not ostentatiously" thick paper, the subdued cover stock, and the significant leading and size of text blocks works to produce "a clear and straightforward presentation," a "general impression" that is, finally, "businesslike" (274). Though it sold for just as much as the deluxe Three Mountains volume ($3.00), McAlmon's Hemingway book is bibliographically engaged not in working out the nature of "our time," but rather in the presentation of clear-eyed and unencumbered perception of realities, including those unsavory, or, in Stein's word, inaccrochable, realities limned in "Up in Michigan," the only one of these three stories not to appear in In Our Time.

Finally, we might attend to how such a small feature as indentation, or the lack of it, positions the vignettes' texts generically. The theorist Giorgio Agamben has famously written that the definitive characteristic that separates poetry from prose is rhyme; others have suggested that it is simply the fact of the line, a unit that determines genre as it refuses to extend to the right margin. The definitive characteristic of expository or narrative prose, which extends from the left margin all the way across the page to the right, might be the indentation at the beginning of the paragraph. One of the easiest bibliographic codes to miss in the presentation of Hemingway's text in in our time is the absence of indentation at the beginning of each vignette. Where the initial line of each vignette in Little Review is indented, the first line of each in in our time is not. In those pieces consisting of multiple paragraphs, those after the first paragraph are indented, but in a piece like "chapter 6," the lack of indentation gives the single paragraph a distinctive and generically suggestive appearance. Taken together, margins and indentation encode the vignette in the magazine as narrative prose and work in tandem within the fine-print volume to strongly suggest the prose poem. (9) This typographical feature subtly but insistently invites the reader to attend as much to the verbal, imagistic, and aural repetition in the paragraph as to the sparse narration. Where the vignette in the magazine reads as a stylistically estranging and powerful comment on this aspect of "our time," the vignette as set in in our time subtly reverses these terms, reading instead as a use of "our time" as the ground for an experiment in modernist poetic prose.

As my comparisons between in our time and In Our Time have already suggested, this moment of artisanal commitment to small-press print is a short episode in Hemingway's career. Like Pound, who left such presses as Three Mountains or Nancy Cunard's Hours Press behind after 1930, Hemingway moved into mass-market publication. By the late 1920s, he had thrown himself fully into the world of New York publishers and commercial magazines. However, unlike Pound, Hemingway had hoped and worked to break into precisely those markets from the beginning. "My Old Man" famously survived the loss of a suitcase full of his early stories because it was under consideration at Cosmopolitan; the return of the rejected manuscript enabled Hemingway to offer it to McAlmon as part of Three Stories and Ten Poems. Nevertheless, his work in in our time, at the levels of bibliography and paratext as well as text, exemplifies an estranging, self-referential, materially citational, and thoroughly experimental modernism that helps us to situate Hemingway and his work more precisely in the network of modernist literary exploration of the early 1920s, a network as focused on the book as artwork as on the text as art practice. (10)


(1.) Letters vol. 2, 165-66.

(2.) See, for example, Matthew Stewart's discussion of Hemingway's early style in terms of both modernist painting (especially Cezanne) and journalism (especially the famous style sheet of the Kansas City Star) (15-21) and Wendolyn Tetlow's reading of In Our Time as analogous to the modern poetic sequence.

(3.) On the revisions and the various witnesses of in our time (and In Our Time) see Hagemann and Hays.

(4.) On cultural capital and distinction, see Bourdieu, Distinction. Bourdieu discusses position taking within the cultural field in The Field of Cultural Production.

(5.) Gerard Genette would include these advertisements in the volume's paratexts; they make up part of what he calls the "public epitext" of a book, the array of discourses around and about, though not physically contiguous to, the text. (See Paratexts, ch. 13.)

(6.) On the history and development of the title page in early print history, see Smith.

(7.) As the quotation 1 took for this essay's epigraph suggests, Hemingway concurs (or at least appears to concur) in Wilson's judgment in his letter of 18 October 1924.

(8.) Bartholomew Brinkman makes a similar point regarding Poetry magazine in the 1910s (76-77).

(9.) This point is vexed. The history of paragraph indentation is covered by Paul Saenger in "The Impact of the Printed Page on the Early History of Reading," and it shows enormous variability in the practice. A colleague reminds me that the Chicago Manual of Style calls for not indenting the first paragraph in a piece of prose. The 1915 style sheet of the Kansas City Star to which scholars often point as influential on Hemingway is silent on the formatting of paragraphs. 1 have not yet been able to compare the tormatting of initial paragraphs in in our time with that of other works in the prose series that Pound edited for Three Mountains. It is true that first paragraphs in the short stories of In Our Time are not indented, though this would be attributable to Scribner's house style. Nevertheless, my point is that the combination of this lack of indentation and other such factors as the printing of each new vignette on a new page in in our time, taken together, suggest the genre of the prose poem.

(10.) I'm grateful to Shannon Supple, Karen Kukil and Barbara Blumenthal of the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College for their assistance with materials, and to Andrea Stone and Nigel Alderman for their perceptive readings of this essay and their smart suggestions for revision.


Basbanes, Nicholas A. On Paper: The Everything of Us Two-Thousand-Year History. Knopf, 2013.

Bornstein, George. Material Modernism: The Politics of the Page. Cambridge UP, 2001.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the judgment of Taste. Translated by Richard Nice, Harvard UP, 1984.

--. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature. Edited and introduction by Randal Johnson, Columbia UP, 1993.

Brinkman, Bartholomew. Poetic Modernism in the Culture of Mass Print. Johns Hopkins UP, 2017.

Cohen, Milton A. Hemingway's Laboratory: The Paris in our time. U of Alabama P, 2012.

Epp, Michael. "Full Contact: Robert McAlmon, Gertrude Stein, and Modernist Book Making." Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 99, no. 2, June 2005, pp. 265-93.

Ford, Hugh. Published in Paris: American and British Writers, Printers, and Publishers in Paris, 1920-1939. Macmillan, 1975.

Genette, Gerard. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. Translated by Jane E. Lewin, foreword by Richard Macksey, Cambridge UP, 1997.

Hagemann, E.R. "A Collation, with Commentary, of the Five Texts of the Chapters of Hemingway's In Our Time, 1923-1939." Critical Essays on Hemingway's In Our Time, edited by Michael Reynolds, G.K. Hall, 1983, pp. 38-51.

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Hemingway, Ernest. "In Our Time." Little Review, April 1923, pp. 3-5.

--. in our time. Paris: Three Mountains Press, 1924.

--. in our time. Edited by James Gifford, University of Victoria: Modernist Versions Project, 2015.

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--.The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2: 1923-1925, edited by Sandra Spanier, Albert J. De-Fazio III, and Robert W. Trogdon, Cambridge UP, 2013.

--. Three Stories and Ten Poems. Contact, 1924.

Lynn, Kenneth S. Hemingway. Fawcett Columbine, 1987.

McAlmon, Robert, editor. The Contact Collection of Contemporary Writers. Contact, 1925.

McGann, Jerome J. The Textual Condition. Princeton UP, 1991.

Monro, Alexander. The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of a Revolutionary Invention. Knopf, 2016.

Rosenband, Leonard N. Papermaking in Eighteenth-Century France: Management, Labor, and Revolution at the Montgolfier Mill, 1761-1805. Johns Hopkins UP, 2000.

Saenger, Paul. "The Impact of the Printed Page on the Early History of Reading." The History of the Book in the West: A Library of Critical Essays, vol. 2, edited by Ian Gadd. Routledge, 2010, pp. 385-450.

Smith, Margaret M. The Title-Page: Its Early Development, 1460-1510. British Library, 2000.

Stewart, Matthew. Modernism and Tradition in Hemingway's In Our Time. Camden House, 2001.

Tetlow, Wendolyn E. Hemingway's In Our Time: Lyrical Dimensions. Bucknell UP, 1998.

Wilson, Edmund. "Dry Points." The Dial 77, Oct. 1924, pp. 340-41.

Michael Thurston

Smith College
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Author:Thurston, Michael
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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