Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review of: A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

My rating: 4/5

What a fascinating read!

Hemingway’s legend precedes and slanders him. What image we have of him, magnified by the myriad portrayals and caricatures of the man in film and literature, utterly fails to capture the essence of the man as a writer.

Reading ‘A Moveable Feast’, Hemingway’s memoirs of Paris, I was at first frowning at the simplicity of the wording, thinking that the lack of nuance was abandoning much depth of experience, until details thrown out in stark contrast to the canvas started coming out to punch me in the face. The turning point in the reading is a scene where Hemingway describes a boxing session he is having with Ezra Pound, the simplicity of stance and movement, and it seemed to me (I may be wrong about this, or simply reading too much into it) that Hemingway is describing his writing as he writes it, that this was a sort of meta-message to the reader enjoining him to be wary of the sudden jabs and uppercuts that the writing will be throwing.

At some moments, the previous chapter almost needs to be re-read in light of how he finishes it, as when he describes a light conversation with Pascin at a bar.

Sometimes the book is laugh-out-loud as when he’s trying to get some writing done on the terrace of a café and an aspiring writer/critic (mercifully unnamed) keeps butting in. Or the whole description of travelling across France with Scott Fitzgerald, or when Scott Fitzgerald confesses the crux of his marital woes, I laughed, I couldn’t believe what I was reading!

All in all, I think the main interest of this book lies in capturing the experience of the American writer in Paris at a time when an American-writer-in-Paris was the thing to be. That may seem trite and it is, but what can you do, that period in literary history has come and gone, and while there will certainly be other Parises and other expatriate writers in search of themselves, a party and a bit of exoticism, but each time will be different and this one really, drop-fed in parsimonious detail, is a pleasure to take in.

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