Msnowe's Blog

a moveable famine

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on May 6, 2009

Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is a striking book. It no doubt fits the mold of Old Hem’s sparse prose.  m.snowe isn’t finished yet, but finds that sometimes analysis is better at the mid-point of a book than after its conclusion.

A few things have come to m.snowe’s attention: Hemingway’s protagonist (because despite the admission that this is a “memoir,” Hemingway is most definitely constructing his own “persona”) is obsessed with writers of the old tradition: James Joyce, Henry James. And these men that swim in his imagination and conversation–one living at the time, the other dead–earn more attention in the spartan prose from the character of Hemingway than even his first wife, Hadley does.

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” Well, Hem might’ve been onto something here, but so were Joyce and James, with their truthful, dense, meandering sentences. No one would think Isabelle Archer or Christopher Newman was any less true than a Hemingway hero. Their thoughts messed the pages, but life is messy.

The problem with reading Hemingway today is simple: we the readers have been bombarded with every possible wannabe and bastardization of the unquestionably “Hemingway style” rooted in journalistic brevity and front-loading, that even Hemingway’s prose looks like a parody of Hemingway’s prose.   m.snowe is all for carefully constructed prose, and le mot juste, but Flaubert (quite possibly the most obsessive writer ever regarding diction choice) didn’t seem to mind to take the time to describe the adorned drawing room of his fine French ladies.  Truth can be found in the white spaces and margins of a page, but cold disconnection in a text can often be met with a similarly cold reception. We are in a relationship with the pages in front of us, and we expect a little give and take. No one likes a one-sided relationship, and sometimes when trying to suss out who exactly is speaking in Hemingway’s dialogue, the reader can feel a bit ignored and under-appreciated.

m.snowe likes A Moveable Feast so far, but can’t help but wonder if the protagonist, who’s hunger doesn’t leave him even after he finishes a meal, just needs a few more words to squelch his appetite.

2 Responses

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  1. fictionadvocate said, on May 7, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    If Ernest were alive, he’d wrestle you over this. Winner take all.

  2. msnowe said, on May 8, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Alive, dead, or zombie–I can take him. (And just wait till he hears what I say about his thoughts on Zelda Fitzgerald).

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