“It was a fine sentence and a good sentence and if you needed it punctuated you were a fool and there was no hope for you thought the man to himself a few hours before killing the bull perfectly. Though it was before noon he had already drunk a dozen grammars as it was very hot that day and he was sure the bull would not back down to a colon so he could not either. Antonio the bartender thought the man needed a comma but Antonio had never won a Nobel Prize for literature and needed to mind his own business and get more ice before the toreros came and everyone got very loose.”
So begins the latest posthumous release of Ernest Hemingway, a writer who needs an introduction as little as he needs small marks on paper to assist a reader as they make their way through the clean, well-lighted, but sparsely punctuated place that is his body of work.
The story, entitled “Comma in the drain,” is one of six that Papa Hemingway said could be released after he was dead, in a possible indication that the literary giant hoped future readers might be even less bound to the conventions of writing, but more attached to patriarchal ideals. And, with a president who often communicates entirely in capitals having risen to power at the same time as figures such as Jordan Peterson have clawed their way to prominence, The Hemingway Society felt that 2018 was just such a time.
While editors and English teachers have been quick to say that only an exceptional talent who has been dead more than 50 years is allowed to take such liberties with sentence structure, the new short stories have been immediately embraced by fans of Hemingway, and opponents of the comma everywhere.
Never one to disappoint in the endless battle against the tyranny of convention, the piece concludes with a paragraph from the late, great writer which reads in much the same manner that someone who doesn’t believe in the Highway Traffic Act might drive.
“The man had another grammar and waited for the afternoon to come and with it the crowds to the Plaza del Toros. There was little to be said now that Antonio was dead behind the bar lying in a pool of his own punctuation and wishing he had kept his mouth shut if dead men can make wishes. The man got his own ice and wondered if the Guardia Civil would come before or after he killed the bull it did not matter. Everything was quiet and fine and there was not a comma in the sky and the bull was still alive and the man was the man and there was nothing more to be said but the story was not finished so on it went until the man’s publisher called and said it was enough and then after a few more grammars the man agreed he had taken it too far but it was too late. And he left then and nothing mattered more than nothing else had ever mattered.”