I just finished reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast over the weekend. It took me a while to get through this small work, but it always does when I’m reading old Ernest. I love his short stories, but his longer works are difficult for me. I know- it is me Ernest, not you.
Hemingway relates his time in Paris in the circle of fellow artists like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald among others. I bristle at his descriptions of Fitzgerald –there is too much jealousy hiding there. It almost feels like Hemingway doesn’t think Fitzgerald deserved to write such a good book as The Great Gatsby. In a 209 page book he spends 45 pages on Fitzgerald relating everything from his drunkenness to his fears about the size of his manhood. Okay, I know that is a silly way to describe it, but stay with me here.
Outside of this snarkiness, Hemingway provides remarkable insights into his craft, his practice of writing and the challenges his faced. I gathered some interesting ideas like cleaning your brain after writing by reading. I think I will try this too. He discusses how being poor and hungry had him focus on characters with big appetites. I thought, this sure explains a lot. Hemingway is dedicated to his craft, working and reworking a single paragraph. He is true to his own vision, and believes that saying less is really more. All good stuff.
There are some great gems I found, reflection on life, like this one about the false spring, “You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason” (Hemingway, p. 45).
The ending left me cold. After his long rant about Fitzgerald he concludes by describing his book publication and his affair with another woman. I think this felt so sour to me because since the beginning of the work he would make references to his wife, and all I could think was What is HER story? That would be worth reading. What did she do all day when he was out writing at cafes or meeting with other artists? I think she might be more honest and sympathetic.
Once I longed for a group of writers and artists that I had heard about gathering in Paris. Now, I wonder if it was just messy. It sounds like Hemingway engaged, but kept the scene at arm’s length. So, maybe I am better off with the less eccentric folks in life. You know, ordinary real people.