Friday, November 5, 2010

Moving A Feast Of Greatness: A Moveable Feast By Ernest Hemingway Succeeds!

The Good: Quick, excellent dialog, funny
The Bad: Simple, especially in writing style
The Basics: One of Hemingway's best, A Moveable Feast is a fun, quick read!

It ought to be noted that my Hemingway bias is toward his earlier works: A Farewell to Arms has always been one of my favorites and I've never been able to stomach The Old Man and the Sea. A Moveable Feast was a very pleasant surprise in that it was one of Hemingway's later books and it's extraordinary. In addition to being a lazy afternoon's worth of reading, the memoir (novel? It's never made terribly clear how truly autobiographical this work is) is funny and often witty.

Basically, the book is about a young Ernest Hemingway living in Paris as an expatriate writer early in his career. In France, Hemingway meets numerous other artists: Gertrude Stein, Ford Maddox Ford and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among the most notable. With him is his wife, Hadley, who fulfills an almost Sancho Panza role in the novel - her occasional interjections in the novel are often biting and funny (a perfect example is acknowledging how Gertrude Stein ignores her at the end of one chapter). In the end, Hemingway's attempts to write his new work and negotiate with all of the people in his life are complicated by his feelings of ambivalence.

But, basically, all A Moveable Feast is is a collection of important art celebrities in the early part of the last century living in France. It's a lot of name-dropping and more intimate conversations that we're lucky to be privy to. Or at least we get to see Hemingway's take on them. His views on Gertrude Stein and Ford Maddox Ford are insightful and not a part of either of their works.

There's not much to A Moveable Feast, so if you've ever been turned off by Hemingway, this is a very reader-friendly way back into his world. The book is charming and it's impossible for me to not mention how hard I laughed over the scenes where Hemingway is giving Fitzgerald advice on lovemaking. It's classic. Fitzgerald, throughout the book, is characterized as nervous and completely dominated by his wife and her hypochondria. Hemingway has a lot of advice for him.

Basically, this is Hemingway with a sense of humor and a surprising amount of historical importance; he knew the time and place he was was significant and he captured it expertly in this book. It's a place that's very easy to discover through this novel, especially if you didn't live through it.

This is the work where it is evident that Hemingway can write realistically. His level of vocabulary and diction is more impressive than most of his later works and he has many memorable lines here. The candor with which he exposes each of his contacts in Paris is exquisite and the level of detail is high and interesting. It's worth the attention of anyone who likes a decent historical novel.

For other Modernist works, please check out my reviews of:
The Sound And The Fury - William Faulkner
The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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