In Our Time: Critical Reception
Published October 5, 1925 by Boni & Liveright,
In Our Time is a combination of short stories previously published
in Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), sketches previously published
in in our time (1924) and new material. This collection is Hemingway’s
first to gain real literary attention and criticism. Immediately
following its publication, there were eleven reviews, including one by
F. Scott Fitzgerald, “How to Waste Material: A Note On My Generation”(5/26).
Times Book Review praises it for its “precision
and economy,” noting that Hemingway “packs a whole character in a phrase,
an entire situation in a phrase or two"(10/18/25). Fitzgerald, who
was very enthusiastic about the collection and would later prove instrumental
in Hemingway's success, remarks that there is "not a bit to spare" in his
stories (5/26). This sentiment is echoed throughout the reviews.
Many critics, including Hershel Brickwell of the
New York Evening Post, argue that Hemingway’s style redefined short
stories (10/17/25). Paul Rosenfield of the New Republic even
compares the stories to cubist paintings with its "direct, crude, rudimentary
forms"(11/25/25). Ed Walsh of This Quarter Winter writes that
there is "no annoying space between author and character"(winter 1925-26).
Schuyler Ashley of the Kansas City Star applauds Hemingway's "great
feeling for nonchalant bleak-faced relish for life"(12/21/25).
Repeatedly to Hemingway's dismay, In Our Time is compared to
Sherwood Anderson's work, especially between "My Old Man" and Anderson's
earlier "I Want to Know Why." Meant to be complimentary, five of
the eleven reviews acknowledge some indebtedness to Anderson. Rosenfield's
review states, "There is something of Sherwood Anderson of his fine bare
effects and values coined from the simplest words."
The negative reviews were few but unforgiving.
Offended by Hemingway's style Robert Wolf of the New York Tribune
accuses the collection of being "dull, suffering from low blood pressure"
and "not enough to be great"(2/14/26). Reviewing for the Saturday
Review of Literature, Louis Kronenberger said there is “no power of
emotion or deep quality of celebration”(2/13/26).
With In Our Time Hemingway stepped onto the
international literary scene. The unique sparse style, which would
become his trademark, initially was a revolutionary approach to literature.
In the competitive literary world of the 1920’s, it is remarkable for a
first serious attempt to gain such recognition. This short volume of stories
plays a significant role in launching Hemingway’s career.