When I put down, "The Sun Also Rises," I felt unfulfilled. Not unfulfilled like after a half scoop of ice cream, more like the sheer emptiness of the lives of the characters led me to despise the book itself. As the characters transitioned from one bar to the next drinking more aperitifs than food, I fidgeted while reading, yearning for something more substantial that never materialized. But perhaps, that was the point of the book. It is heralded as an accurate juxtaposition of life during those times.
Life was trivial for those characters.
Reticent to read another of Hemingway's books, I felt like I was on the outside of a joke that everyone else understood. But I decided to withhold judgment until I had a greater collection of his works under my belt. After all, to be unquestionably the preeminent writer of his time, he must write quite well.
"A Moveable Feast" chronicles the lives of many great American expatriate writers in the early to mid 1900's. In a sense, this book resembles a modern day, People Magazine in how we learn the intimate details of these celebrated authors. From Gertrude Stein to F. Scott Fitzgerald the inner lives of these creative and talented minds are scarred with prejudice, alcohol and sabotage. That is not to say the quality or descriptive events rival the irreverent People Magazine to be clear. Hemingway discloses these intricacies without much judgement or laud.
Reading Hemingway runs smooth like a milkshake as he details dialogue between folks. As you read, it's as if you're personally affected by the rambunctious environment and vitriolic insults. His writing enables the reader to live vicariously in the scene as a fly on the wall. Although there may be little to no existential depth, the reader still retains a vested interest.
Hemingway can also read dully for a few pages and then grab you like a bouncer interrupting a fight at a nightclub with a paragraph. For example at the end of the book he writes, "Then you have the rich and nothing is ever as it was again. The pilot fish leaves of course. He is always going somewhere, or coming from somewhere, and he is never around for very long. He enters and leaves politics or the theater in the same way he enters and leaves countries and people's lives in his early days. He is never caught and he is not caught by the rich. Nothing ever catches him and it is only those who trust him who are caught and killed. He has the irreplaceable early training of the bastard and a latent and long denied love of money. He ends up rich himself, moving one dollar's width to the right with every dollar that he made."
What an exceptional paragraph. Bam. It's like watching a point guard slow his dribble only to zoom by when you least expect it. Unlike most other authors, Hemingway is concerned with honest portrayal, not puffery. Anything less than what's essential and accurate remains omitted.
"A Moveable Feast" frankly shows the agonization writers face with their work. Like other artists, poets, and musicians, the creative brain needs to be harnessed to produce and often bounds writers to broken marriages with spouses and fruitful marriages with alcohol. Accentuate the latter during periods without inspiration or begrudging acquiescence to publishers and editors and the result is perpetual aggravation for these writers. Not mundane nor stable.
I recommend this book and will continue to read more by Hem.