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Courtesy of Sandra Spanier
Courtesy of Sandra Spanier

Just Discovered: Ernest Hemingway's Earliest Known Short Story, Written at Age 10

Courtesy of Sandra Spanier
Courtesy of Sandra Spanier

Ernest Hemingway was a born writer, as seen in a newly rediscovered work by the iconic 20th-century scribe. As Atlas Obscura reports, Hemingway’s earliest-known short story—a 14-page tale he wrote when he was just 10 years old—was recently found in the possession of family friends in Key West, Florida, where the author lived in the 1930s.

Written in a stained brown notebook—which was stored inside a Ziploc freezer bag and safeguarded inside an ammunition box—the untitled story from 1909 recounts a fictional trip to Ireland and Scotland, complete with descriptions of Hemingway’s journey to Europe by train and the ocean liner RMS Mauretania.

A notebook containing an early short story by Ernest Hemingway, written when he was 10 years old, discovered among the collection of Telly Otto “Toby” Bruce.
Courtesy of Sandra Spanier

The narrative is established through a series of diary entries and letters to Hemingway’s parents. The author's precise attention to detail—ranging from the number of propellers on his ship to local landmarks, like Blarney Castle, that he encounters during his stay—initially makes the work appear to be a true-life tale. (The freezer bag the notebook was stored in was also labeled “September 8, 1909, EH diary to Europe.”)

But according to Sandra Spanier, a Penn State professor and general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, Hemingway didn’t make it to Europe for the first time until he was much older. Plus, he never made the exact journey through Ireland and Scotland that he describes in the notebook.

"It’s a fascinating find, showing the young Hemingway’s interest in getting the details of place exactly right (even as he makes up the characters and incidents)," Spanier tells Mental Floss.

A notebook containing an early short story by Ernest Hemingway, written when he was 10 years old, discovered among the collection of Telly Otto “Toby” Bruce.
Courtesy of Sandra Spanier

The short story was found among the collection of Telly Otto “Toby” Bruce, Hemingway’s friend and former employee, who inherited a portion of the prolific author’s personal archive from the writer's fourth wife and widow, Mary Welsh Hemingway. The collection of manuscripts, photos, and memorabilia is today managed by Bruce’s son, Benjamin “Dink” Bruce, and is occasionally used for local exhibits and scholarly research.

In May 2017, Spanier and historian Brewster Chamberlin were combing through Bruce’s papers in Key West in preparation for the publication of volume four of the 17 total volumes that will comprise The Letters of Ernest Hemingway. While their eyes were peeled for missing letters from 1929 to 1931, they ended up finding the notebook, which also contains snippets of poetry and grammar notes.

It’s unclear whether Hemingway was writing the short story as a school English assignment, a literary contest submission, or simply for his own pleasure. Still, Spanier says that the find is “amazing; a real landmark piece of writing,” she told The New York Times. “It’s the first time we see Hemingway writing a sustained, imaginative narrative.”

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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This Just In
How Much Does a Missing Comma Cost? For One Dairy in Maine, $5 Million
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iStock

Copy editors aren’t the only ones who should respect the value of the Oxford comma. Since 2014, a dairy company in Portland, Maine has been embroiled in a lawsuit whose success or failure hinged on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law. The suit is finally over, as The New York Times reports, and die-hard Oxford comma-lovers won (as did the delivery drivers who brought the suit).

The drivers’ class action lawsuit claimed that Oakhurst Dairy owed them years in back pay for overtime that the company argues they did not qualify for under state law. The law reads that employees in the following fields do not qualify for the time-and-a-half overtime pay that other workers are eligible for if they work more than 40 hours a week:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish product; and

(3) Perishable foods

Notice that it says the “packing for shipment or distribution” and not “packing for shipment, or distribution of.” This raised a legal question: Should dairy distributors get overtime if they didn’t pack and distribute the product?

The case eventually made its way to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which ruled that the lack of comma made the law ambiguous enough to qualify the drivers for their overtime pay, overturning the lower court’s verdict that the state legislature clearly intended for distribution to be part of the exemption list on its own.

In early February, the company agreed to pay $5 million to the drivers, ending the lawsuit—and, sadly, preventing us from ever hearing the Supreme Court’s opinions on the Oxford comma.

Future delivery drivers for the dairy won’t be so lucky. Since the comma kerfuffle began, the Maine legislature has rewritten the statute. Instead of embracing the Oxford comma, though—as we at Mental Floss would recommend—lawmakers decided to double down on their semicolons. It now reads:

The canning; processing; preserving; freezing; drying; marketing; storing; packing for shipment; or distributing of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

Come on, guys. What do you have against the serial comma?

[h/t The New York Times]

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This Just In
Flights Grounded After World War II Bomb Discovered Near London City Airport
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

London City Airport grounded all flights on the night of February 11, after a World War II bomb was found in the neighboring River Thames, The Guardian reports.

The half-ton bomb was revealed Sunday morning by development work taking place at the King George V Dock. Following its discovery, police set up a 702-foot exclusion zone around the area, closing local roads and shutting down the London City Airport until further notice. According to the BBC, 261 trips were scheduled to fly in and out of London City Airport on Monday. Some flights are being rerouted to nearby airports, while others have been canceled altogether.

The airport will reopen as soon as the explosive device has been safely removed. For that to happen, the Met police must first wait for the river's tide to recede. Then, once the bomb is exposed, they can dislodge it from the riverbed and tow it to a controlled explosion site.

The docks of London’s East End were some of the most heavily bombed points in the city during World War II. Germany’s Blitz lasted 76 nights, and as the latest unexpected discovery shows, bombs that never detonated are still being cleaned up from parks and rivers more than 75 years later.

[h/t The Guardian]

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