I can agree with Nathan Heller that in his later work Ernest Hemingway's style became increasingly loose and imprecise, prone to pompous declarations. I can certainly agree that the popular image of Hemingway as "a virile, intense man of hard-living habits and a few brilliantly selected words" gets in the way of appreciating his genuine literary accomplishments. The Hemingway who appears in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is a caricature of Hemingway, mitigated only by the fact that Allen himself surely knows this is true.
I cannot agree, however with Heller's claim that it is a mistake "to assume that [Hemingway} was foremost a stylist." He is, in fact, along with Henry James arguably the most important stylist in all of American fiction, not so much, or not only, because of the specific character of his prose style but because his fiction so manifestly calls attention to the centrality of stylistic choices in fiction. Whether the principle is "less is more" as in Hemingway or "more is more" as in James, both writers pursued strategies that bring style to the foreground of the reader's attention, and set standards that subsequent writers have continued to reckon with.
Heller contends that in his earlier, best work Hemingway was attempting to register "the experience of processing the world directly in time." This is certainly a way of describing the effect Hemingway's style has on us as we are engaged by Hemingway's characters, but ultimately I fail to see why this effect is not itself the consequence of style. The characters' attempts to process their experience in its immediacy is unavoidably rendered through the words Hemingway has chosen and the way he has chosen to arrange them. Surely no one actually does experience the world in the deliberately simplified words and cadences of Hemingway's sentences. The impression left of "processing the world directly in time" is one that has ineluctably been created by style.
When Heller criticizes Hemingway's later work by asserting that "[r}ather than using the progress of experience to shape the words on the page, Hemingway was using his voice to shape the sentences," he suggests that it would be possible for a fiction writer to record the progress of experience without the "shaping" provided by style, but such a thing is not possible. Isn't it the "style" we are after when reading fiction, after all? If all we wanted was the "experience," wouldn't we be reading journalism instead, at least the sort in which the writer is encouraged to leave style behind?
It would be more accurate to say that in his later work, Hemingway's style has become excessively mannered. It is as if he has become so hyperconscious of himself as the stylist able to merge lyricism with the "plain" prose style that his fiction becomes an excuse to exhibit this style without much discipline or definition. Certainly it is not the case that in this work Hemingway discovered style while in the earlier work he somehow managed to evade it.