Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hemingway in Paris

A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast 

"All of the sadness of the city came suddenly with the first cold rains of winter, and there were no more tops to the high white houses as you walked but only the wet blackness of the street and the closed doors of the small shops, the herb sellers, the stationery and the newspaper shops, the midwife - second class - and the hotel where Verlaine and died where I had a room on the top floor where I worked." - Ernest Hemingway, "A Good Cafe on the Place St.-Michel," A Moveable Feast

I read this when I was in high school and in my youthful naivete I had a high opinion of Hemingway. Since then his standing among authors has ebbed for me and, apart from The Sun Also Rises and some of his stories, I would not recommend reading Hemingway. A Moveable Feast is more a series of anecdotes than any attempt at a coherent narrative, as it moves from subject to subject, creating miniature portraits and taking in the atmosphere of Paris at the time. As such I would make it an exception, for it introduces so many characters from that era in Paris, including Ford Maddox Ford, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. Stein, in particular, looms large in the book, as a grand dame of letters--a great mentor to Hemingway, a distinguished innovator in literature, and just a little bit batty. She enjoys the power she projected over people. Hemingway sees her as a self-serving, self-satisfied crone, but he still makes her seem somehow likable.
Because of this content I believe this memoir may be worth reconsidering, if only to compare it to other works I subsequently have read about the same era.

A classic read


parrish lantern said...

I've seen quite a few posts on this book & it appears to be well thought of by most, even those who aren't that keen on the rest of his work.

James said...

It is especially worthwhile if you have an interest in Paris during that era.