There are those who think Ernest Hemingway was a genius and I am not one of them. Unpopular opinion? Maybe. But it’s all a matter of taste. In A Moveable Feast, a memoir set in 1920s Paris, Hemingway puts his macho, declarative sentences to use in a stark, elegant tale of La génération perdue.
Each chapter places a magnifying glass on Hemingway’s various encounters in Paris, even on something as small as watching a girl in a cafe. The vision, however, is never clear; it’s fleeting and often so simple that it blurs out of memory. It’s fragmentary. And I want more than that. Nevertheless, each snap (or chapter if you want to be conventional) spills bright and interesting information on the often romanticised Lost Generation. This era and its gathering of artists and intellectuals has been the subject of countless books, films and dinner discussions. But A Moveable Feast gives us an outlook from within, pouring out of the very throat of that time period.
For example, while ol’ Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t constructing literary masterpieces, he was a seasoned, silly drunk, carried to bed by Hemingway. Take a trip to Gertrude Stein’s gallery of a home and you’re left trying to decide whether you like her or not, this formidable lady who says clever things but ‘does talk a lot of rot sometimes.’ And always, always, a part of each day, you drink and talk at cafes, as all manner of characters dream and flutter like moths into your vision. What a lovely escape.
The writing itself is a kind of newspaper-y prose. A little too pared and pruned for my liking. But it toes the water’s edge of poetry. It’s hard to describe, but I’m choosing to evoke instead of describe here, just as ol’ Hemingway liked to. Unpopular approach? Maybe. But it’s all a matter of taste.