I’m very quietly participating in this year’s Paris in July event. Last year I was too ambitious and disappointed with myself when I didn’t accomplish my French-related reading goals, so this year I am only reading two short books (and maybe, possibly a third if I can swing it) that will allow me to visit France vicariously with the many other readers who are joining the challenge.
The first book, A Moveable Feast, I finished very quickly because it is a perfectly fascinating book that I just couldn’t put down. Written by Ernest Hemingway near the end of his life, it is a memoir, of sorts, of his youth and his carefree days as an impoverished beginning writer in Paris during the 1920′s. Each chapter focuses on a different person who was important to him during his Paris years and so we get to learn about such intriguing figures as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Beach and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The style is typical Hemingway – short, simple sentences, with no elaborate descriptions or phrases. His tone is a bit mocking yet full of glee. One of the lovely aspects of this book is that Hemingway’s complete joy and enthusiasm for writing and for his time in Paris truly light up the memories he chooses to include. I do wonder how much of his stories are true, though. Everyone he writes about, except for Sylvia Beach, comes off looking foolish and pathetic. Especially Fitzgerald. Poor Fitzgerald. Even Ezra Pound, whom Hemingway praises as one of the kindest and most sympathetic of men, doesn’t come off well after Hemingway is through writing about him.
Hemingway is a fantastic writer with the ability to ensnare a reader and completely immerse you in his world. However, I don’t think he was a very nice man or a good friend. That didn’t lessen my enjoyment of his stories, though, or dampen the thrill of living in 1920′s Paris with him, walking the same streets, meeting the same people and experiencing his daily efforts to become a great writer. This is a wonderful book no matter the veracity of his memories and one I heartily recommend if you are interested in this time period.
Go here to see a list of readers who are participating in Paris in July – I’m sure you’ll find some great reads, books that will transport you to France this summer.