The Torrents of Spring
The Torrents of Spring is a novella written by Ernest Hemingway, published in 1926. Subtitled "A Romantic Novel in Honor of the Passing of a Great Race", Hemingway used the work as a spoof of the world of writers. It is Hemingway's first long work and was written as a parody of Sherwood Anderson's Dark Laughter.
Set in northern Michigan in the mid-1920s The Torrents of Spring is about two men, World War I veteran Yogi Johnson and writer Scripps O'Neill, both of whom work at a pump factory. Both are searching for the perfect woman. The story begins with O'Neill returning home to find that his wife and small daughter have left him. O'Neill befriends a British waitress, Diana, at the beanery where she works and asks her to marry him immediately but he soon becomes disenchanted with her. Diana tries to impress her husband by reading books from the lists of The New York Times Book Reviews, but he soon leaves her (as she feared he would) for another waitress, Mandy, who enthralls him with literary (but possibly made up) anecdotes. O'Neill takes mescaline and hallucinates that he is President of Mexico. He appoints a third waitress, Ruby, as his vice president and plots to undo the losses of the Battle of Veracruz. Johnson, who becomes depressed after a Parisian prostitute leaves him for a British officer, has a period during which he anguishes over the fact that he doesn't seem to desire any woman at all, even though spring is approaching. Ultimately, he falls in love with a native American woman who enters a restaurant clothed only in moccasins, the wife of one of the two Indians he befriends near the end of the story. Johnson is cured of his impotence when, viewing a naked squaw, he is overcome by “a new feeling” which he hastens to attribute to Mother Nature, and together they “light out for the territories.”
It was widely believed that Hemingway wrote The Torrents of Spring in an effort to get out of his contract with his publisher Boni & Liveright, though Hemingway denied this. They held the right of first refusal for his next three books, one of which was to be a novel, with the proviso that the contract would be terminated if one of the three were rejected. By rejecting Torrents, Boni & Liveright terminated the contract. In his letters, Hemingway shows a passionate affection for his novella. He corresponded with Sherwood Anderson in May–July 1926, stating that his motivation for writing his first long work was more motivated by his refusal to "pull punches" and encourage sub-par work out of Anderson—as his peer—and not to simply get out of a contract with Boni & Liveright.
Written in ten days, The Torrents of Spring was a satirical treatment of pretentious writers. Hemingway submitted the manuscript early in December 1925, and it was rejected by the end of the month. In January Max Perkins at Scribner's agreed to publish The Torrents of Spring in addition to Hemingway's future work. The Torrents of Spring was published by Scribner's in May, 1926. The first edition had a print-run of 1250 copies.
At the urging of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Max Perkins and Scribner's agreed to publish it because it came paired with "The Sun Also Rises."
Hemingway received a mixed reaction to the novella that was sharply critical of other writers. The work is generally dismissed by critics and seen as vastly less important than The Sun Also Rises, published in the same year. His wife Hadley believed the characterization of Anderson was "nasty"; Dos Passos considered it funny but did not want to see it published; while Fitzgerald considered the novella a masterpiece. The Torrents of Spring has little scholarly criticism as it is considered to be of less importance than Hemingway's subsequent work.
- Baker, Carlos H. (1981). Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961. New York: Charle's Scribner's Son's. ISBN 0-684-17658-0.
- Berg, A. Scott (1979). Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. New York: Washington Square Press. ISBN 0-671-46847-2.
- Mellow, James R. (1992). Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-37777-3.
- Meyers, Jeffrey (1985). Hemingway: A Biography. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-42126-4.
- Oliver, Charles M. (1999). Ernest Hemingway A to Z: The Essential Reference to the Life and Work. New York: Checkmark. ISBN 0-8160-3467-2.