The Bookworm: A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. 219 pages. Scribner. 1964.

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.


What can I say? Reading Papa is an experience like none other. I started A Moveable Feast last Wednesday after I got on the bus. Twenty pages later I was walking campus on a cool overcast morning to my building, in awe.

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

His writing floored me. As I strolled the Ring Road at UCI I couldn’t comprehend it, couldn’t grasp it. The world seemed fresh and new to me, like I had been reborn and was seeing everything for the first time all over again. It was beautiful and anything was possible.

I haven’t read Hemingway in about two years and, needless to say, I forgot how incredible his writing is.

Published two years after his death, A Moveable Feast is an account of Paris as Hemingway knew it when he lived there in the mid-1920s with his first wife. He recounts the cafés, the horse races, the restaurants, the wine, the food, and the people. Talk about literary name-dropping. Stein, Joyce, Pound, Fitzgerald, Ford. Shit. Hemingway didn’t go to college, a fact he was always proud of, but Paris in the 1920s was these best college for artists…ever. Plus, it was a lot of fun.

A Moveable Feast is commonly considered a memoir, but in the preface Hemingway writes:

“If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.”

Some of it reads like fiction, as if Hemingway was instead writing about his quintessential protagonist and not himself. But I mostly read it as memoir. However, there are aspects of the book that should be taken as fictional filler. His recollections of meals and bottles of wine — what he ate and drank with so-and-so at such-and-such — are so precise and vivid I wonder if he remembered them as they were or fictionalized them based on what he can remember, what he thinks he ate and drank. I’ve had a few impressionable meals and nights of drinking during my life, so I wouldn’t put it past him.

When he wasn’t drinking or eating or drinking (or making it up) or going to “class,” Hemingway was writing. The time he writes about in A Moveable Feast was the time when he was making a name for himself, was becoming known and famous in the American and European literary circles. It’s an enjoyable read, and I think it may now be one of my favorites.

New word I learned: It’s more of a saying, actually: “Grüss Gott,” which is German for “Greet God.” I went to Zee German for this one. He said it’s the most common greeting in Austria and the southern parts of Germany.

A Moveable Feast creates a small, but welcome, problem for me. My little Ikea bookshelf (a hand-me-down, of course) is becoming so overloaded I’m unsure if I can find room for it. I need a bigger bookshelf, but I’m too cheap to get one.

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