Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Saddest Story

I like to teach Hemingway and Fitzgerald side-by-side.  They construct sentences so differently.  Generally speaking Fitzgerald's are long and flowy with lots of adjectives, Hemingway's are short and crisp with very few adjectives.  I like to make my students describe their prose and try to imitate it, or take a Fitzgerald sentence and re-write it the way Hemingway might have done it. 

Anyway, I can't remember when I first heard about the short story Hemingway wrote that was only six words long.  Maybe one of my professors mentioned it in undergrad?  I seem to recall that he supposedly wrote it to settle a bar bet, or to make a point to some of his fellow-authors that they were unnecessarily wordy.  I can't really remember the backstory, but every one in a while those six words float into my head.  Because not only is it the shortest story I know, it's also the very saddest story I've ever read:

For sale:
baby shoes,
never worn. 

Evidently Hemingway himself thought it was one of the best stories he'd ever written.  And also the saddest.

* * *
If I lived in the nineteenth century, tonight I would be diagnosed with melancholia.  I am not hysterical, I am not consumptive, I am not clinically depressed.  But I am really feeling melancholy tonight, as I think about Eliza and all of her cute little things.  A wardrobe of baby girl clothes, packed away in plastic bins.  Never worn.

It's getting redundant to say I miss her, but the old news is still true.

* * *
In new news...  our deep freeze melted, I spilled primer all over our patio furniture, and I've decided to paint our living room ceiling.  I promise 'round the house updates tomorrow, when the melancholia has subsided.


  1. My word. Saddest story there is.

  2. I love that story and HATE it at the same time.

  3. I've heard that story before from a friend shortly after Aiden died. Our life summed up in 6 words, 3 lines, 1 simple story.

    Tiny shoes, brand new.

  4. I often go back to that little story and it says it all doesn't it? After you wrote about the Bluest Eye, I read that and then dove into Beloved. I am having a lot harder time getting through it than most of the other books I have read. Hoping you feel some peace from your melancholia soon and sending love~

    my captcha: healed...

  5. Saddest story indeed except for I don't think I could ever bring myself to sell Addison's. They are still precious to me because they were bought for her.

  6. That's the one thing he's written that almost gives me patience for Hemingway.

    Melancholia is hard to shake. I'm sorry she's keeping you company. And one of the really frustrating things about grief is the redundancy. I'm sorry you have to deal with that too. Sitting here, missing Eliza with you.

  7. I've thought of that story many times since December. It never seems to be far from my memory.

    6 words I never thought I'd understand.

    I do.

  8. I think that story is so well known by so many of us and so unknown to so many others in the world... and it just sits there in my heart alongside all of my sadness, grief, and longing.

  9. When put together those words really do tell an incredibly sad story. I just hope we all have more babies that can use their older siblings shoes and clothes and toys. Although I don't think I could ever part with Liam's stuff.
    Thanks for sharring that.

  10. Yep. :(

    Not to change the subject, but since you mentioned Hemingway & Fitzgerald, have you seen Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris"? ; )