A curious little novella. It’s a parody of fellow author Sherwood Anderson, considerably less well-known than Hemingway these days, so it has the odd quality of being a joke and satire of something most readers will be unfamiliar with.
Does it work well enough as a standalone novella, when the reader lacks that context, like I did? In my experience, not particularly. It’s not a bad piece of writing by any means; Hemingway always wrote with skill. But there’s not much meat on the bone, so to speak, when one lacks the awareness of what exactly Hemingway is referencing and commenting on. In its own time, it caused something of a stir, some authors (such as Gertrude Stein) finding it distasteful and petty, and others (like F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is actually mentioned as part of the actual text of the novella) championing it as a more-than-worthwhile work.
Apparently the novella was written in just ten days, just to get out of a writing contract. I don’t think it’s inherently foolish to try and apply critical analysis to the work in a way that expends more effort than Hemingway probably used in the writing of it, but it’s not something I feel drawn to do. I suppose it’s worth reading for the Hemingway completionists (the reason I was drawn to it really), but there aren’t many praises I can sing of it. The metacommentaries between the actual prose sections of the story are an amusing diversion, and the most memorable aspect of the novella to me. At such a slight length, perhaps for some, it’s worth reading for those alone. In any case, I give it two chinooks, and a birdcage.