To celebrate Ernest Hemingway on his 116th birthday, I am just now finishing the newest edition of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s memoir of his time in Paris during the early 1920s.
In A Moveable Feast, we get to see a glimpse of how Hemingway worked, as well as who and what influenced him.
One of the habits Hemingway began during this period was that of reading other authors after working on a story. “I learned not to think about anything I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day….To keep my mind off writing sometimes after I had worked I would read writers who were writing then,” he explained. (58) Gertrude Stein acted the part of mentor to Hemingway during visits to her shop at 27 rue de Fleurus.
A Moveable Feast also introduces us to other authors who were working in Paris during this same period:
Ezra Pound, a good friend and one who was “kinder and more Christian about people than I was.” (88)
Ford Madox Ford, “… an ambulatory, well clothed, up-ended hogshead.”(75)
And of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald –
“His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings.” (125)
Hemingway’s style is best summed up by James Salter, in today’s New York Review of Books: “simple declaratives seemed somehow to break through into a new language, a genuine American language that had so far been undiscovered, and with it was a distinct view of the world.” This “new language” was more about Hemingway paring his writing down into what exactly needs to be said, and no more, much like the way Miles Davis would only play the important notes of a melody.
For example, as he was finishing a story, instead of writing out the ending, it “was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.”(71)
My main objective in purchasing A Moveable Feast was for a model that I could build my memoir on. But this is not the case. I instead found the inner workings of an author’s author, and a benchmark model for exceptional writing.