Thursday, January 6, 2011
And Nothing Was Simple There
Before I started reading A Moveable Feast I didn’t understand Ernest Hemingway. I didn’t care enough to understand him anyway. I didn’t get why everyone made such a big deal about him. Maybe its because the first contact I had with his writing was The Old Man and the Sea in high school where I was too impressionable back then, and although I didn’t complain, everyone else did about what a boring piece of writing they had to read. And so they didn’t. But I did, although I can’t remember if I tried to understand it or not, then.
I picked up A Moveable Feast because someone had made a reference to it in their book, and I wanted to know what they were talking about. It’s the kind of book that one can sit comfortably with, and I’ve made it a ritual to sit with it and a cup of tea in the morning to suddenly find myself in Paris or the Austrian mountains and for once see a clear picture of a person who writes because he has to, not for money which he probably couldn’t stand the thought of, but because it was in his blood. Because everything was a story to him and his best friends were pencil and paper so he could get it all down.
He had a funny way of looking at people, like he didn’t miss a thing and he noticed everything about them on the first meeting. I never really knew that first impressions meant anything until he described a person looking “marked for death” or how a man looked rather nasty, not evil, but nasty, and the way these first impressions made him perceive these people from then on. He always seemed to know what was going on and what people were talking about, even though they didn’t say it directly, and I also found that he had a great capacity for being a friend even if he didn’t enjoy being with a person all that much. On the other hand, he could be an angry, intolerant fiend if the right person came along to press his buttons.
He has a way of describing the every day and the mundane in a way that makes you care, and then at the end he’ll throw a twist in that makes you read the paragraph over to figure out the mystery of it that he won’t say flat out.
He is honest in every observation and thought and word.
“I knew I must write a novel…I would put it off though until I could not help doing it. I was damned if I would write one because it was what I should do if were to eat regularly. When I had to write, then it would be the only thing to do and there would be no choice. Let the pressure build. In the meantime, I would write a long story about whatever I knew best.”
“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”