This read-a-long is hosted by Wallace at Unputdownables.
We have finished A Moveable Feast. I have to admit, it’s definitely not my favorite book; however, I am glad that I read it. This last week’s reading was particularly interesting, as my version of the book finally got to the chapters about Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Many different details jumped out at me while reading, as I daresay these chapters were written with a bit more care.
First, I was astounded by how open Hemingway and the rest of his generation are to meeting people. On page 158, Papa befriends a fire eater and takes him out to dinner. Whereas that would be, for most people, a highly awkward setting, Hem and the fire eater seem completely at ease with one another. I envy that openness that they had with strangers; today, it’s nearly impossible to meet new people in such a setting.
Later, around page 165, Fitz is convinced that he’s sick (although he miraculously recovers) and Hem takes care of him. Although Hemingway obviously thinks Fitz is being absurd, he plays along and tries everything he can to make his friend feel better. His exasperation is tangible, though, and brings a comedic element to the scene. Later, in the chapter called “A Matter of Measurements,” Hem alleviates Fitz’s fear of… inadequacy by taking him to the Louvre to compare equipment with the male statues. Although this was a laugh out loud moment to be sure, it also revealed Hem and Fitz as close friends. Hemingway led an active sex life–with his wives and with his mistresses–and Fitz had only been with his wife, Zelda. Instead of making fun of him for his insecurity, as I imagine most men would do nowadays, Hem tries everything he can to make his friend feel better.
Although my book has put my reading a bit at odds with the rest of the group, as it seems that my chapters are in a different order, I’m really glad that it ended with the stories about Hemingway and Fitzgerald. These chapters, aside from those at the very beginning, are the only ones that really made me like Hemingway. Not that I disliked him throughout the rest of the book, I just couldn’t connect with him or anyone else for that matter.
I will say this, though, as I think it’s important to note. Regardless of if what Hemingway has written is “true,” it is his perception of what happened (Rebecca Joines Schinsky of The Book Lady’s Blog brings this issue up here, in the comments discussing another memoir whose truth was called into question). While he may not be a reliable narrator per se, he has reported these events as he remembers them. I think that keeping in mind the fact that he wrote these chapters decades after these events took place is key in understanding that they may not be factual. This is interesting to me, because it means that the events he has taken the time to remember and record are those that truly impacted his life.
Additionally, I think it’s important to remember that Hemingway never got to finish this book. We see within it that he didn’t just revise, but rewrote his novels before sending them off to his publisher. Had he the chance to actually complete this memoir, it most likely would have been a much different reading experience.
This read-a-long has been wonderful and I look forward to starting the next one. Join us at Unputdownables for a reading of Dickens’ Bleak House!