A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Life in Paris in the 1920s was everything you might imagine it to be: romantic and glamorous, and culturally rich. Thus it was truly inspirational for the hopeful young artists and writers struggling to get recognition. Hemingway shares anecdotes of his friendships and acquaintances. And he describes the struggle living from day to day with a wife and child to support. It was often a challenge just to find a peaceful, quite place to work. He disciplined himself to produce a certain amount of writing each day and when he got writer’s block he thought to himself, “Do not worry. You have always written before, and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Not yet in his 30s Hemingway was a modest and insecure young man. Judging by his early sketches, a vulnerable side of Hemingway shines through that you would never imagine existed had you only read the stories that came after his achieved fame.
If Hemingway wasn’t writing or spending time with his wife and child, he was drinking, eating – or thinking about food when he didn’t have money to eat – gossiping with his friends, and reading. Yes, it’s true – writers spend as much (or more) time reading as they do writing.
He talks about his friendship with F. Scott Fitzgerald and F. Scott’s alcohol addiction. He discusses his camaraderie with Ezra Pound and his disdain for Ford Madox Ford who apparently was a pompous ass. On one occasion, Ford and Hemingway had an amusing intellectual discussion about what a “cad” is, and who qualifies as one. Ford insisted Hemingway definitely was one.
Hemingway talks about his contentious relationship with Gertrude Stein. According to Hemingway, she was intelligent but very opinionated, and quite often wrong. She thought James Joyce and Aldous Huxley were losers. If anyone openly disagreed with her, about anything, they were immediately removed from her social list. And she was an opportunist. Hemingway states, “I cannot remember Gertrude Stein ever speaking well of any writer who had not written favorably about her work or done something to advance her career….” From other comments, I drew the conclusion that Gertrude’s lover – Alice B. Toklas – was not a very nice person. In Hemingway’s word, “frightening”.
Coincidentally, I just finished reading The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas written by Gertrude Stein which presents Paris in this period for a whole different point of view. Check out my review on that book for some interesting contrast.
A Moveable Feast is a light read – simple and concise – with great descriptions of places, events, and renowned people, all with bits of conversation interspersed. Catch a glimpse of Hemingway in his early years with this captivating book.
Rated 4.5 Stars June 2014
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