short short short stories

There is an anecdote that gets passed around about Hemingway which may or may not be true. He wrote what he (supposedly) called a six-word novel, (supposedly) on a bet. And henceforth considered the six word novel his most accomplished piece of work. And here it is: For sale: baby shoes. Never used.

For some reason this popped into my head the other day and I haven’t been able to shake it. So maybe if I write a little about it I can free myself of those six words.

My first observation / opinion: if this mini-novel had been written by a woman, it would have been dismissed as sentimental slock.

Next: A hundred different nouns could be substituted for “baby shoes” and some of them would be far more evocative. Wedding dress comes to mind, but of course that would be equally as melodramatic. For sale: wedding dress, size 22, never used. The size gives this what little punch it’s got. And yes, I know it’s eight words instead of six.

If I had the energy, I would try to come up with a long list of nouns that could be substituted for baby shoes, and see what happens. Most of them would fall flat, some would be melodramatic and/or sentimental, some would be funny, and a few might really be evocative.

For sale: AK47, never used.

For sale: typewriter, never used.

For sale, bowling ball, never used.

I think it would be far more interesting to try to make a story out of a bowling ball than out of unused baby shoes. The baby shoes have a very simple and straightforward backstory, all tragic, no complexity. The bowling ball you could a lot with.

You could go all quirky: For sale, sense of humor, never used. Or: For sale: PhD in Theoretical Physics, never used.

Any ideas for other revisions to Hemingway’s six word novel?

14 Replies to “short short short stories”

  1. The choice of those 6 words says a lot more about the writer, to me. Made me wonder: what year was Hemingway challenged to do this – was he trying to prevent future comment from the challengers by picking something really personal for a man to talk about? What was going on in his life at the time, and how would society at that time have taken such a glib treatment of something tragic? And all of this is alleged, not proven, right? Very interesting thinking about the “why” rather than another “what” on that one.

  2. For sale: Slightly used ink cartr

    Other topic: I didn’t respond to your dictionary and Bartlett sites. Loved them. Although the Bartlett references were supposedly over 100 years old, I’ve heard many of them and use quite a few myself.

  3. Peace on earth, time to move.

    My favorite short,short story was: The last human on earth sat at his table in his room, there was a knock at the door..(paraphrasing) O’Henry I think

  4. And, just in case you want to know I am having some issues with the right column random things with lines going through them and that sort of thing.

  5. Meredith, I should have thought to google for these — they really are funny — and/or disturbing.

    Kenzie and Asdfg both made me laugh aloud.

    Jessica — I’m really sorry about this. Are you using Internet Explorer? It seems that people who are having these troubles all are. I’ll continue to see what I can do, but IE is tough.

  6. I agree with Jessica. The middle column is scrutched up. I can’t see the stuff to log in. And, yes, I’m on IE. Things went haywire when you added the political stuff. Or maybe the political stuff police are WATCHING YOU and made your stuff go haywire.

  7. Yes, I am using IE. I can still read everything but it has lines that run through the middle of the words. The lines run through the political stuff and the “Die Hards”.

  8. Does it have to be tragic? The first thing I thought of was a pair of baby shoes, so hideously sequined by a mother in law, that someone is finally trying to get rid of. Death need not be involved.

  9. I don’t think the baby shoes one has to be tragic. It could be something as mundane as having bought the shoes to fit your niece’s favourite doll, but it turned out they didn’t fit after all.

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