Friday, February 24, 2012

A Moveable Feast; Hemingway ~ Read-a-Long - Weeks (1) (2) and (3) and Wrap Up

A Moveable Feast
Overall Rating - 4.5/5

Final Thoughts 
(possible spoilers)
  • The fact that this book was published after Ernest Hemingway's death, makes me wonder, what if anything was embellished.  I liked the writing style  -- it was easy reading and held my interest. Not sure the style would have worked as well, had it been a longer book.
  • I loved Hemingway's reflections about his earlier days and happier times as a young writer.  His first wife Hadley seemed to be the love of his life. She really seemed to love him.  I was amazed that Hemingway did not feel he was to blame for the break-up of his marriage to Hadley, but that it was instead his second wife Pauline's fault that he was unfaithful!! Really???
  • It was engaging to travel with Hemingway as he spent time in cafes bookshops, and just traveling in and around Paris.  It was interesting to learn about his relationships with, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and especially with F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • However, for an obviously intelligent man, at times I found him incredibly naive. His story about his trip with Fitzgerald to pick up his car and drive from Switzerland to Paris had me laughing out loud.
  • I thought it was so sad to see his downward spiral -- too much alcohol and bouts of depression which seemed to make him very bitter, and the likely cause of his ultimate suicide.
  • Overall rating - 4.5/5
In Week # 3 - I was fascinated by what I read about F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his wife Zelda (one crazy lady).

(Hemingway about Fitzgerald)
"...If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby, I was sure he could write an even better one.  I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him. But we were to find out soon enough."

Zelda was a big drinker often drinking more than her husband. When F. Scott did not join her, she called him a "spoilsport" or even ridiculed him publicly.  She was jealous of Scott's writing, so when he sat down to do some serious writing, she'd claim she was bored and get him to leave his writing and go and party and get drunk.  As jealous as Zelda was of Scott's writing, Scott was equally as jealous about Zelda and other men.  She was good at making him feel insecure about his manhood and his ability to please her sexually.

Hemingway had a deep affection for Fitzgerald, nursed him when he was sick, encouraged him, and detested Zelda for the way she treated her husband.

"Scott did not write anything any more that was good until after he knew she was insane".  (We later learn that Zelda had at least one nervous breakdown)

I found a few interesting links I wanted to share about Hemingway, and also about the nickname "Tatie" that Hemingway's wife Hadley gave him.
Paula McLain, author of Paris Wife states that "tatie" was a name they called each other,  but I'm still not sure why?.
For more feedback of this week's reading visit, Unputdownables.

In Week # 2 - participants were asked to read through Chapter 17, (50 pages), and although chapters still held my interest, I did not enjoy these chapters quite as much as much as I did last week's reading.

"In those days we did not trust anyone who had not been in the war, but we did not completely trust anyone...."

In these chapters the reader was introduced to Ezra Pound and he wife Dorothy (both seemed to be struggling a bit financially at that time, by the way their studio was described.  Hemingway teaches Pound to box.  There seemed like a lot of interest in gambling related activities: poker playing, horse racing, boxing.

We also see Hemingway's friendship with Gertrude Stein slip away, but in these chapters he gets to spend time with F. Scott Fitzgerald.  This author seemed like a piece of work. He was also one who seemed to enjoy alcohol a bit too much.

At one point F. Scott asks Hemingway to meet him in the morning to take the train to Lyon to pick up his car, and then they could drive back together. Hemingway was looking forward to spending time with the older and more experienced writer. F. Scott, however, was not at the train station in the morning.  Hemingway was annoyed and had a temper, but by the time the (2) of them eventually hooked up, he got his anger out of his system but, he "demoted him from F. Scott to Fitzgerald".

(I liked this passage) -- "I rang for the waiter.  He didn't come and I rang again and then went down the hall to look for him.  Scott was lying with his eyes closed, breathing slowly and carefully and, with his waxy color and his perfect features, he looked like a little dead crusader.  I was getting tired of the literary life that I was leading, and already I missed not working and I felt the death of loneliness that comes at the end of every day that is wasted in your life......"

Probably the thing I noticed most about Hemingway in last week's chapters was, how very sexist he seemed. I realize it was the 1920's but he really seemed to enjoy writing about the way the women he met were built!

(p. 84 - Hemingway's description of the (2) models posing for the painter Pascin)...."The two models were young and pretty.  One was very dark, small, beautifully built with a falsely fragile depravity.  She was a lesbian who also liked men.  The other was child-like and dull but very pretty in a childish way.  She was not as well built as her sister, but neither was anyone else that spring."

(p.86 - Hemingway's description of Pound's wife Dorothy) "Dorothy's paintings I liked very much and I thought Dorothy was very beautiful and built wonderfully."

(p. 121 --There was a wonderful German girl who skied with us.  She was a great mountain skier, small and beautifully built...."

In Week # 1 of the "A Moveable Feast"  Read-A-Long, participants were asked to read through Chapter 7 (oops -- it was suppose to be to Chapter 9 -- I goofed).  Despite that, I admit that isn't a lot to expect of readers, but with several books going at once and a very busy busy weekend with no time for reading, I found myself starting and reading all the chapters required in one sitting one Friday during a long lunch.

For those who are not familiar with this book, it is a memoir of Ernest Hemingway's time spent in Paris in the 1920s  The writing style is very casual, readable and at times tender and affection. I found his accounts of his very poor beginnings starting out as a writer, both interesting and engaging.

"It was wonderful to walk down the long flight of stairs knowing that I'd had good luck working.  I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day.  But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire ans squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look over the roofs of Paris and think, Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write again now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you now."

The chapter are very short and the way they flow makes it each chapter flow into the next quite well.  I especially liked the introduction and description of Gertrude Stein and her companion. It made me chuckle.

Miss Stein was "very big but not tall and was heavily built like a peasant woman. She had beautiful eyes and a strong German-Jewish face.........." Her companion (Alice) had a very pleasant voice, was small, very dark, with a haircut like "Joan of Arc in the Boutet de Monvel illustrations and had a very hooked nose........"

Hemingway and his wife Hadley (who called her husband Tatie), developed a friendship with the couple while in Paris. Stein, as I'm sure many of you know was an influential writer, and art collector of post-impressionist art. Even though Stein is extremely opinionated, I did enjoy their discussions about books and authors.  And speaking of books, I also loved reading about the rental library of Shakespeare and Company, a library and book store owned  by Sylvia Beach. Beach was a sweet, charming and welcoming sort of person who was always delighted to see Hemingway.

I'll continue my post about book next Sunday, but I already can tell I'm going to enjoy it very much.   I know some of my readers have also enjoyed this one.  Have you read it? Loved it? Hated it?


  1. Yep, I loved it! It goes well with the movie Midnight in Paris, too.

  2. Can't believe I haven't read it. I'm a writer and I love Paris. I do remember that line by Hemingway in Midnight in Paris -- Write the truest sentence you know. I wonder if the other lines from the movie came from this book by Heminway.

  3. One of my favorite books. I hope y'all enjoy it.

  4. I love this book. It's one of my favorites. I'm glad you're enjoying it, too!

  5. I'm so glad you're reading this one. I love it! I agree that Midnight in Paris is a fun companion movie to pair this with. The new book The Paris Wife is interesting as well. It tells Hadley's side of things during this time.

  6. I loved it, too. Will be following your progress...

  7. I'm following three people who are participating in this read-a-long. I'm thinking maybe I should have joined. I love reading a book as a group and participating in a discussion. I might have to be content with reading your posts and then reading it at a later date.

  8. Glad you're reading this. I read this book after watching Midnight In Paris last year, as well as The Paris Wife. Have to admit, Woody Allen started it all! Will be following your posts on it.

  9. I didn't realize it until now, but referring to how they're built does sound incredibly objectifying. As if their reation is due to someone or something else. Men aren't described this way.

  10. I've been enjoying this RAL and have gleaned so much information from the discussion threads!! I will use this weekend to get caught up!

  11. I haven't read this book yet but I'm going to since I'm enjoying your notes and comments on the chapters and love the passages from the book. I didn't know Hemingway was so sexist other and taken with women's appearances! I also think it's interesting to read about his friendship with other writers. I knew Zelda was a handful and a little nutty but jealous of her husband's writing?! wow!

    Great post Diane, thank you!

  12. It is very sad that Zelda made life so difficult for Fitzgerald. So many great writers seem to have tragic personal lives -- not sure why, but sad all the same.

  13. The good news surely must be that the various heirs of Hemingway can't destroy his work, no matter what their motivations. The text is still the work of one of the 20th century's greatest and most influential writers. Most readers won't need the new edition, as the original, as literature, hasn't really been improved upon. Scholars and Hemingway fans will want to see the new sketches. Probably 45 years into the future, a "scholar's" edition will be published, sans any input from the various heirs of Hemingway, in an attempt to "set the record straight."

  14. I bought 'A Moveable Feast' after reading 'The Paris Wife' though wasn't greatly enamoured by the Hemingway projected in that book. He's on the shelf for now, but always get tempted to start when I read a post such as yours.

    I've been slow reading Diane Souhami's 'Gertrude and Alice' as well, interesting how the relationshhip is depicted from their perspective. Thanks for sharing, great review and comments.

  15. Isn't the relationship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald fascinating! Although they did have some positives in their relationship, Hemingway also criticized Fitzgerald for being a hack writer - writing for the pay rather than for the art. I took a Hemingway and Fitzgerald course in grad school and it remains one of my favorite classes that I took!

    Enjoy the book--I kind of finished it thinking that Hemingway was a jerk! ;)

  16. I've read it maybe three times, at different stages of my life, and I do so love it. The most touching part for me is when he sees Hadley get off the train, after he has been unfaithful. He mentions her hair is longer, and he aches with the loss of them as a couple. I just went and got my 95¢ copy (!!) to get the words right:

    I wish I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.

    Whew. I still tear up reading them. The man could say more in a few words than most authors do in whole books.

    I just mentioned to someone else (I hope it wasn't you!) that there's a biography of Hadley I plan to read rather than the fictional version. It is by Gioia Diliberto. She ended up married to a poet laureate of NH, Paul Scott Mowrer, and lived in Chocorua.

    Just think how different their lives could have been, and even how the literary scene may have been if they had stayed together. (says Nan, the romantic)


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