Monday, 24 October 2011

A Moveable Feast

I've been sitting on this one for a while. There are many reasons why I sometimes delay in writing up my thoughts on a book. Sometimes I don't know how I feel about a book until it has digested for a while, but that was not the case here. Sometimes I don't feel strongly enough about a book to be moved to write something, but that was not the case here. Here, rather, I suspect I was worried that by writing about the book I might lose some of the marvellous escapism I felt while I was reading it, that somehow in putting my feelings down on paper [sic], I might somehow lose them.

I loved this book. I really did.

Its a funny sort of book when I think about it structurally. Its basically a series of Hemingway's memories about time spent living and writing in Paris with his wife in the 1920s. The stories he tells are short, and are mostly centred about his interactions with other artists, poets and especially authors either living or passing through Paris at the same time: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others. Much like the other Hemingways I've read, I just felt so at home in his Paris. Its a city far removed from any I've lived in, and he fills it with activities far removed from those I prefer - betting on horses, in particular - and yet I felt such a strong connection.

That this was a book published later in his career shows through in the writing, which carries his trademark simplicity and economy of words, but with more mastery than he had shown in the other of his books I've read this year. What is lovely, too, is that much of what he writes about is his writing; he discusses his philosophy of le mot juste, and many of his practices, exemplified here by their very own description.

Ebert, or some other commentator of film, used to say that "No good film is too long, no bad film is short enough", but after reading a great novella like this one, it is tempting to suggest that a book this good is too short. We shall never know; all we have is what we are given, but like the food of the city it describes, it is a dish whose perfect flavours make any paucity of volume irrelevant. I will forever be indebted to Nicole for recommending it to me.

Next up on deck: continuing with Hitchcock/Truffaut, and starting on Pullman's His Dark Materials. Also, in a moment of weakness at Wellington airport in the early hours of Saturday, I picked up a copy of Updike's Rabbit, Run.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

I have the restored (extended?) version of A Moveable Feast. It features a foreward and an introduction by Patrick and Sean Hemingway, and a collection of unedited first drafts. It's supposed to be quite a bit longer than the original published text - and closer to the author's original version.

Picked it up at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, so it's a little bit special to me.

You're welcome to borrow it ... I just might have to re-read it first!