Friday, April 24, 2020

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway captures a fascinating picture of a long-gone moment in time, a place that still exists but will never exist in this exact way again, and a talented group of writers honing their craft and breathing in the creative life in Paris of the 1920s.

For the most part, I'm not a fan of Hemingway's fiction. But the almost poetic title of the book drew me in, and the praise-filled reviews sealed the deal – I had to see what the fuss was about. I made sure to get the original version (which I had to order used, receiving a 40-year-old paperback coming apart at the seams, which cost almost as much as just getting the new, revised edition would have), and I'm glad I did. The original book was edited by his last wife shortly after his death, and the revised edition, the only one that seems to currently be in print (or in ebook format), was re-edited by a grandson.

Reviewers say the revision seems to have been edited with an eye to being more favorable to the grandson's own grandmother (Hemingway's second wife). I didn't read them both to compare, but I felt the one edited by his last wife was probably closer to the author in time and emotional connection before his death, so I went with that.

Throughout the pages, you'll find some lovely lines, as well as some perceptive ones, such as:
"I've seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil." (This refers to a woman he saw while writing in a cafe – so beautifully described you can almost feel the moment and emotion). 
"...I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better."
There were also amusing anecdotes, like F. Scott Fitzgerald asking for reassurance about his, um, manhood, and its adequacy, which required Hem to take a gander. And some worrying tales, like the one about the family cat serving as sole babysitter to their infant son when both parents were out.

All in all, it's an intriguing read. It didn't make me want to take as second run at Hemingway's fiction, but its glimpse into a poor writer's life in Paris of the 1920s is fascinating.

Note: I read this book in 2015 shortly before I started book blogging. I reviewed it for Goodreads, though, and am belatedly adding the review of this wonderful book here.

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