Title: A Moveable Feast
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Year Of Publication: 1964
Summary: What brings a reader to a book? After the horrific November Paris attacks I turned, like many did, to the past. To an incorruptible Paris. The Paris of Hemingway and Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound and James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald (before the fall).
Hemingway didn’t live to see the publication of this work, though scholars maintain that those were his intentions. “A Moveable Feast,” based on a series of lost notebooks eventually found years later, is a series of remembrances made by Hemingway of his time in Paris in the early to mid 1920’s. For lovers of the writerly myth, it’s essentially lit porn.
We all know Hemingway. To some extent, any American who came after Papa and has put pen to paper owes some debt to the biggest literary celebrity our country has ever seen. That’s what makes this memoir infectious. You read it in hopes of understanding how someone can sit in a café, sip café au lait, and compose something like “Up In Michigan.” If we respect the biographical fallacy, this is closest we’ll come to seeing the start of a literary superstar.
It’s a piece of intellectual gossip, and that’s its appeal. We’re treated to the name of his favorite places to eat, write, and drink. The name of his preferred bookstore, Shakespeare & Company, and, most interestingly, the authors with whom he crosses paths.
We’re aware that Hemingway is writing the book in the 1950’s, nearly 30 years beyond the events he details. But the specificity of it all, when taken in context with the rest of his portfolio (in which he reveled in minutia) feels true, for what it’s worth. And it adds to the Legend of Hemingway. We can feel Paris, the weather (especially the weather), the people, the streets and shops and sights, and any inaccuracies or gentle fabrications can be forgiven.
The city is what’s important. For all the friends he makes, the meals he eats, the time he spends working, his image of Paris is what endures. In Cuba, in Idaho, in Spain, in Hemingway. It’s where the book gets its title:
Per the epigraph on the book’s title page and attributed to Hemingway: “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.”
TL;DR: Hemingway remembers his time in 1920’s Paris and that time F. Scott Fitzgerald drunkenly told him about his small member.
Verdict: Paris and Hem: how can you not?