JRF's #43 - A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway

I bought this book at one of my favorite bookstores in the world, Shakespeare and Company, in Paris a few years ago.  It sat on my bookshelf until this year when after watching one of my favorite movies of the year, Midnight in Paris, I was inspired to pick this book back up.

In A Moveable Feast Hemingway recounts his early days as a writer in Paris.  In his unique and vivid writing style he recounts walks in the park with Getrude Stein, his faithful friend Ezra Pound, the eccentricities of well-known artists and poets, drunken road-trips with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even taking Fitzgerald to the Louvre to look at naked statues to boost Scott's confidence in his manhood.  While much of the ancedotes Hemmingway relays are hilarious, some are also heartwrenching, such as his account of falling into an affair during his first marriage.

For a Paris-o-phile and Hemingway-o-phile such as myself, this book was a fun read.  If you liked Midnight in Paris, you will enjoy this book which must have provided much of the source material for the film.

"There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.  We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached.  Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it.  But his is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy."

JRF's #20 Men Without Women by Ernest Hemmingway

I always have bittersweet experiences with Ernest Hemmingway's writings.  This collection of early short stories was no different.  The sweetness comes from the way that Hemmingway draws you into the life of his characters.  Often you meet them in the middle of a thought or event and yet you immediately begin to invest in them, quickly sympathizing with or being disgusted by them...or most often both.  Hemmingway's terse writing style, in particular his machine gun style dialouge which would become one of his most influential contributions to modern literature, can be seen evolving in these early works.

The bitterness sets in for me usually towards the end of the story as I realize that we (me and the characters) are either at the same place we started in, dead, or dying.  The joy for Hemmingway seems to be found in the moment, not the accomplishment of reaching any sought after destination.

I walk away from a Hemmingway book with a similar feeling as walking away from a Wes Anderson movie (although Hemmingway was immeasurably more manly than a Wes Anderson movie).  And I will most likely continue to read Hemmingway for similar reasons as viewing Wes Anderson's films - for their Ecclesiastes-ish sense of irony that is so ridiculously tragic as to be humorous, the joy of great dialogue, and their delight in the mundane and absurd details.  I will also lament their bleak, Christ-less, outlook on life.