11. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

So, I’m pretty annoyed. I spent about an hour writing ab0ut 900 words about this novel, and wordpress deleted my draft as I tried to publish it. I just spent about 45 minutes looking through forums on how to get the post back, and discovered there’s a post revisions button….that won’t appear for this post. It appears for my other posts, but not on this particular one. I saved drafts continually throughout the original writing of this post, and wordpress just has absolutely no record of it. I also went through my browser’s cache, and had zero luck. I’m pretty annoyed, and don’t really feel like writing a super long post all over again.

However, here’s the gist of my former post. I don’t particularly like reviewing classic literature because I feel a weird pressure to say something new and interesting (part of my complex as a former French Literature major) about a novel that many smarter, more incisive critics have already read and reviewed. For me, the Cannonball Read is a chance to spend more time reading for pleasure, whether that’s more lighthearted fare like Sarah Silverman’s book, or Hemingway. I’m trying to get better at discussing literature without feeling pressured to say something innovative and new, but rather sharing my thoughts and impressions. Truth be told, I like reading literary criticism and learning more about the author’s life, work, and how one particular novel fits into the author’s body of work, as well as overall themes and their connections to larger movements and to the author’s life. I think that approaching a novel from a more academic standpoint has its merits, and I do like a bit of literary analysis, although I’ve had more than my fair share of literary over analysis. Unlike my counterparts in the French departments of the world, I don’t think that psychoanalysis should come into play when reading ever work of literature- sometimes, it’s just a fucking poem.

That being said, I do feel like some knowledge of the Parisian literary scene in the 1920’s is needed to fully appreciate A Moveable Feast. This book really is filled with ‘sketches’ of writers and artists in Paris: many different interconnected stories about a very literary crowd at a particular moment in time. Although I found this part interesting, I think I would have liked it a lot more if I’d known more about the real dynamics between these writers. Hemingway spends a lot of time discussing Sylvia Beach, founder of then English language bookstore Shakespeare & Company, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, among other literary figures. I preferred reading about these three people the most, since I know the most about them.

Sylvia Beach is the only one of these characters who comes off in a remotely flattering light. Hemingway talks about his fondness for Beach, her willingness to extend him credit at her store/library, and how she would always lend him money. She seemed like a pretty nice lady, and an interesting woman to know. Unfortunately, Hemingway did not portray Gertrude Stein or F. Scott Fitzgerald in anything that could be regarded as a positive manner.

When Hemingway first introduces Gertrude Stein, he’s not as critical of her, but he does insert a few barbs about her terrible taste in literature and some of her lesser literary friends. He also makes a few jabs at the paintings in her apartment, as well as her philosophies on living well. I don’t know too much about Stein, or what she was really like, but she seemed like a nice lady that was pretty undeserving of Hemingway’s ire. He really turned on her after overhearing a quarrel between Stein and her lady friend. Hemingway was pretty awful about Stein’s lesbianism, and basically said that hearing that fight between the two ladies made him never really want to be around Stein again. Her sexual preferences ruined any semblance of respect that Hemingway had for Stein, and he went so far as to say that he supposed friendship between a man and a woman was pretty pointless anyway, and he wasn’t really sure why he tried in the first place. I’m clearly paraphrasing here, but Hemingway got pretty offended by this one exchange he overheard. A lot of this is hidden within Hemingway’s pretty sparse prose – the man knows how to construct a dense sentence, but he was pretty clear about his disdain for Stein’s sexuality.

Additionally, F. Scott Fitzgerald comes off looking like a sad sack moron. I’ve read Tender is the Night, in which Fitzgerald addresses his wife Zelda’s severe depression and psychological issues, as well as his own failures as  a writer, but I felt like Hemingway really throws him under the bus in A Moveable Feast.  Hemingway consistently makes jabs about Fitzgerald’s terrible writing, how he was soooo surprised by The Great Gatsby, and does a lot of foreshadowing about how Fitzgerald would never amount to much because of his terrible wife. Hemingway got pretty judgemental. Also, Hemingway makes a big deal of this one scene where he’s in a cafe with Fitzgerald, who’s pretty depressed because Zelda is being a crazy person, and Fitzgerald makes Hemingway go into the bathroom and affirm that Fitzgerald’s dick isn’t too little. First of all, what a weird scene. It was kind of funny in an astonishing way, but I felt so bad for Fitzgerald, that his supposed friend Hemingway is airing all of this dirty laundry so publicly, and in such an awful judgmental way. Fitzgerald was clearly going through some rough shit, and Hemingway just shat on him even more.

On the whole, I enjoyed reading A Moveable Feast. I’d probably give it three stars: recommended for people who already like Hemingway, or for people who want a different account of the Paris literary scene in the 1920’s. There were some really nice parts, and Hemingway is clearly a great writer – some of the passages about his writing routine and describing what it’s like to be poor in Paris (although apparently 100% untrue, since Hemingway and Hadley had access to large amounts of cash while they were there ?!?) were pretty cool. He does gossip a lot about the literary scene, but in a mean sort of way. On the whole, enjoyable, but Hemingway comes off looking kind of dickish.

Pages: 211/2843

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~ by lefaquin on April 5, 2012.

One Response to “11. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway”

  1. […] Read the rest of my review here… Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggStumbleUpon Posted by lefaquin in 3 stars – a good book and tagged a moveable feast, Ernest Hemingway, lefaquin, paris […]

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