Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast is Hemingways memoirs of his early-mid 1920s Paris days. Like most memoirs, it might not be entirely truthful, and there is evidence that between Hemingway's posturing of himself as the quintessential male and the editing of his fourth wife, the tale is not necessarily non-fiction. Whatever - I don't care. It was extremely entertaining nonetheless - and one of the best books I've read all year.

I love stories about authors...their habits, lives, friendships, rivalries, etc. I turned down almost ever other page in some chapters for their insight into the lives of Hemingway's friends: Stein, Joyce, and Fitzgerald in particular. A Moveable Feast is full of funny anectodes that made me laugh out loud. Stein wouldn't invite you back to her house if you praised James Joyce more than once. Hemingway called Katherine Mansfield "near-beer" compared to Chekov. He always held his breath whenever Ford Maddox Ford came around - I suspect because he smelled bad. There is a long episode in which Hemingway and Fitzgerald go on a trip together to pick up a car. On the way home, Fitzgerald doesn't feel well and becomes convinced that he is dying. You can just hear the frustration that Heminway felt about this, Fitzgerald lying in bed telling him to take care of Zelda, demanding a thermometer, etc. And then we come to Fitzgerald's...ah, yeah - his size issue. Apparently, Fitzgerald had his eye on some girl, but something Zelda had once told him held him back from pursuing her. Essentially, she told him his penis was too small. Fitzgerald was so self-conscious about this, Ernest had to (I'm giggling just writing this - it is too funny) check it out in the bathroom of the cafe to reassure Fitzgerald. He told Fitzgerald it was fine, that women say that to keep men in check, that it was the size it grows to that matters, and that they could go look at the statues at the Louve if it made Scott feel better. Yeah - TMI but REALLY funny.

Gertrude Stein's influence is very clear in Papa Hemingway's style in A Moveable Feast. It reminded me very much of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, and not just in the subject matter. I liked The Autobiography plenty, but this was better...if just for the Fitzgerald penis episode. How many books can have THAT in it? Sure, alot of it is mean-spirited, but mean-spirited can be fun to watch - as in my continued fascination with Megan from all those VH1 shows, including the insanely awesome-looking upcoming Charm School II. I've had a love-hate relationship with Hemingway over the years, but A Moveable Feast was FABULOUS!

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