I’ll admit something right now: I had been resisting reading anything by Ernest Hemingway for a long time. I’ll also admit that I don’t know really remember why. I suppose I considered myself more of an F. Scott Fitzgerald girl. I also suppose that Hemingway’s subjects didn’t entice me very much, it all seemed to be about bullfighting, fishing, or war. Three topics that make me yawn or cringe just thinking about attempting to read.
But about three years ago, I heard about his memoir about his time in Paris in the 1920s, A Moveable Feast, concerning his life among all the literary giants there at the time and his own development as a writer. This, I thought, was a book subject I could get behind. I bought the book at Strand, but it sat around for a few years before I finally got to reading it last month.
It was a fascinating book, and a pleasure to read. There have been several books written about this time in Paris, it was sort of a literary jackpot of talent all in one place. I’d like to read more about it, but I think it was great to start with Hemingway’s first hand account.
I had to read this book with a pencil in my hand or close by, since there were so many lines I felt compelled to underline or star. Here are my favorites:
“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.” (page 6)
“With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning.” (page 45)
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.” (page 49)
“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.” (page 58)
“By then 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.” (page 62)
“I had heard complaining all my life. I found I could go on writing and that it was was no worse than other noises, certainly better than Ezra learning to play the bassoon.” (page 93)
Well, I’ve changed my mind about Hemingway. Anyone who can write this well deserves to be given a chance, even if he does tend to write about bullfighting. I’m optimistic that the writing will make any subject interesting. I’m not sure yet which of his novels I should start with, and I’m open to suggestions. I also have a collection of his short stories, so that might be interesting to read next.
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