Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hemmingway: Revisited (This is for those of you who like to read)

When I was in Paris the last week of September, I stayed at a hotel which was only steps away from where the famous writer Ernest Hemmingway lived and wrote.

'The Hemingways arrived in Paris on December 22, 1921 and a few weeks later moved into their first apartment at 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine. It was a miserable apartment with no running water and a bathroom that was basically a closet with a slop bucket inside." -
As a Creative Writing/English Literature major in college, you bet I read Hemmingway. And the 1920's happens to be one of my all-time favorite periods of history (along with the 1970's!). Anyway ...

After over two decades of writing "junk" mail as a direct marketing creative director/writer, I think it's fair to say I have drifted far from my beloved Eng Lit heroes and heroines. I could feel the bookbinding strings pulling me in ... as I daydreamed and stood under Hem's apartment on rue Cardinal Lemoine.
On my last day in Paris, I went into a charming bookstore on that very same street and bought my personal copy of Hemmingway's "A Moveable Feast" which chronicles his time in Paris when he lived on rue Cardinal Lemoine. I read most of it on the plane ride back to the states and finished it shortly after arriving home. The book's title refers back to the writer's famous quote to a friend in 1950, in which he said:

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

Yes, Hem was lucky enough to have done just that. But I must add that you can do the same as a femme d'un certain age and it too will stay with you. Thank gawd!

Just today, a friend who's about my age came over for lunch, and we shared our Paris photos with each other. She brought her photo albums from her 2004 trip to Paris with her husband and two-year-old son to share with me. And I showed her my digital photos on my computer. It was fun to relive our travels and tales with each other.

Back in Paris, one of the women on my tour had borrowed a book to read from the hotel lobby's bookcase. It was the aforementioned "A Moveable Feast." This was before I had bought the book, and maybe it was because she mentioned she was reading it and asked me about the writer that I purchased my own copy to take home with me. This woman said she was reading the book but wanted to know what made Hemmingway such a great writer. She couldn't understand. Did I know? I guess if you just have the memoir, which is what "A Moveable Feast" essentially is, without reading his actual work (fiction), you miss the boat.

So to while away my days now that I am no longer in Paris, I read a book I never finished that's been on my bookshelf for quite some time - The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. I read the stories  languorously, some of them again and some of them for the very first time, and feel closer to this writer than ever before. And I understand what made him such a great writer.

Thanks to Paris.