I was already an Ernest Hemingway fan, so it will be no surprise to say I loved Papa’s memoir of the his early days in Paris. A Moveable Feast (the restored edition) recounts Ernest’s lean years after he quit his journalism work to focus on writing stories.
Hemingway describes this time in the twenties, with his first wife Hadley and their son, living cheaply in a room without a proper toilet. The room often grew so cold he saw his breath in the morning. Hemingway focused on his work during the day, writing in cafes, but he was aware of the sacrifices his wife was making for his work. Hemingway stated:
“I knew how severe I had been and how bad things had been. The one who is doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one the poverty is hard on.”
About ten pages in, I realized I should have had my highlighter ready from the start. There’s solid writing advice and motivational quotes throughout the book, including one of his most famous thoughts on the craft of writing:
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
The memoir is also remarkable for reading Hemingway’s thoughts on his mentors and friends during this period. He provides his perspective on Gertrude Stein’s mentorship and their relationship. He discusses seeing glimpses of James Joyce dining in a cafe with his family. There are quite a few chapters recounting Hemingway’s relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and how Fitzgerald appeared to have quite a few medical issues (in addition to the stress of dealing with Zelda.) Hemingway appeared to be quite fond of Fitzgerald’s writing, and claims he remained loyal to his friend. At the same time, some of his stories cast Fitzgerald as having some strange issues, the most memorable being Fitzgerald’s concern after Zelda told him he lacked in the manhood department.
If you have read Hemingway and want to learn about his early years, I definitely recommend picking this book up and giving it a read. It’s worth buying so you can make your own notes.
Also – There is also a Hemingway documentary that I found to be interesting. Hemingway: Wrestling with Life was available on Hulu for free, at least the first part was. It was interesting to watch this in conjunction with this excellent memoir.