Friday, May 6, 2011

A Moveable Feast - Read it First

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

In a previous post I mentioned that I was reading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast while waiting for The Paris Wife from the massive list of people ahead of me at the library. Now there is a waiting list for A Moveable Feast, so I feel quite pleased with myself for getting to it first (ha ha! as the bully from the Simpson's would say).

I finished reading the book a few days ago - it ranks pretty high up there on the interesting scale for me. The writing is strange at times, the book lacks flow and the stories he tells in the book don't have any cohesive plot or anything (and a few parts are totally skip worthy - too much info about horse racing, a la Moby Dick and the sections detailing whale blubber).

Hemingway wrote the book about Paris of the 1920's in the 1950's and it was published after his death. I wondered if it was found unfinished, or still in draft form, but I eventually came to the conclusion that this memoir ebbed and flowed like our memories do.
Paris 1925
We don't remember things in a linear way, one thought leads to another and they don't have to be connected in any otherwise logical way. Reading A Moveable Feast is like floating inside his memory, feeling and seeing and moving in tandem, as a part of Hemingway.

Since I read the book with the story of his wife, Hadley, in mind (the author wrote The Paris Wife after being inspired by their relationship in A Moveable Feast), every mention of her stuck out. The funny thing about it is, there aren't all that many mentions of her. Hadley, and even more so their son Bumby (who he mentions they left with the family cat from time to time as a babysitter), are very peripheral characters in the book.


When he does talk about her it's always lovely, how wonderful their relationship is, pure and right, then he pulls immediately back and says something like "We didn't know this wouldn't be like that forever" but in a more Hemingway kinda way. The very last chapter, almost like an apology or afterthought, he finally comes clean on what happens to their relationship (I won't spoil it, don't worry), but it is so quick and detached and almost too painful for him to even remember. He left it last for a reason.

That too recalls back to the way we remember - the painful things tend to always be looming on the periphery, and when we do have to relive them, it can be hurried and awkward - just brushing the surface of the reality behind the pages and pages of hurt.

Reading the first few chapters of The Paris Wife on my Kindle, I am so glad I read A Moveable Feast first, and recommend anyone interested to follow suit.

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