Craving manly tales of outdoor adventure, I checked out a handful of short-story collections by Ernest Hemingway and Jack London. I started with the titular story of Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilamanjaro, having seen the movie earlier in the week. and was surprised when the main character died, instead of being rescued by plane as he was when portrayed by Gregory Peck — surprised because in the story, he was rescued by plane — but that was, alas, the dream of a dying man. I switched to To Build a Fire (And Other Stories), only to be treated to the account of a man freezing to death in the Yukon wilderness, having cheerfully blundered into the snow despite even his dog knowing -50 degrees is too cold for country walks. I decided to stop reading those and find something slightly happier, like The Men Who United the States. At the library, though, I spied that we’ve recently acquired Things Fall Apart, the latest piece in Harry Turtledove’s supervolcano-induced ice age death of civilization series.
Thus, death-by-nature seems to be a theme among the books I’m spending time with as we head into winter, but surely all of Hemingway and London’s stories collected in the volumes I have can’t end in death. I intend on reading the Snows of Kilamanjaro collection through, if only because the only Hemingway I’ve read is The Old Man and the Sea. He feels like an author I should have read much more of. So, this week I’ll be finishing off Small is Beautiful, then entertaining myself with tales of the outdoors. Distracting me will be The Men who United the States and The Other Side of Western History, the latter of which contains historical pieces on everything from shipping traffic during the classical era to the daily minutia of being a Renaissance bishop — war in the morning, graft in the afternoons. Work, work, work!