Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My Life In Books.


I've been reading since I was four. Voraciously. Throughout the sometimes tumultuous railroad of my life, books have been lovers, friends, companions, incurring inspiration, frustration, contempt and disbelief. But most of all, offering me an escape to an alternative universe.

I've always had a few books on the go. Sometimes too many and that doesn't work. Three is a goodly number.

A few are well-loved old companions. Read, and re-read. Lent out. Don't come back. Re-purchased. Loved up again.

One of these is Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast."

Sometimes one can't explain the hook, the addiction, to a movie or a book.

I just can't articulate why this book has consistently grabbed me since I was in my early twenties and it was first published. One of the highlights of my life was being inside the room where he wrote it, summarizing a lot of his diary entries of his early Paris years. He lays it all out here: his poverty, his moments of mad love and despair, his catty resentment of James Joyce, his love/hate relationship with Gertrude Stein, his solitary walks around Paris, his cold water flat sans even a toilet.

He takes me with him through his writer's block, his casually succint observations of strangers, his meals, his fishing and his visits to Shakespeare and Company. I inhale yet again his advice to himself about always leaving the writing when you're flushed with your own inspiration and going back at it again much later when the rush has percolated throughout your body overnight.

I want the pleasure of his company - warts and all - to go on and on and on.

25 comments:

  1. I'm not a lover of Ernest Hemingway, except in parody, but I feel the same way about Somerset Maugham.

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  2. Twain:
    I would be so lost without them!
    XO
    WWW

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  3. Nora:
    I should have mentioned I don't much care for the majority of his ouevre at all.
    It's just this one that has hooked me over and over. It's like I'm with him. In his Paris. That is so much better than my Paris. If that makes sense.....
    XO
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  4. And Nora:
    Maugham. Absolutely yes.
    The Painted Veil. Again and again.
    XO
    WWW

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  5. Some of my best times have reading about the lives of others.

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  6. Love the books too. When I came to Canada, I could afford to ship either my books or my furniture. I gave the furniture away to my friends.

    I feel the same way about George Orwell's "Down & Out in Paris and London." I've read it a bajillion times and been to most of the places he describes in London, but not yet in Paris. Hemingway? Meh. But I like the sound of the book you describe and will try it.

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  7. Haven't read Hemingway, at all (shame on me). Someone told my husband that he looks like him - LOL! Can't see it.

    The only books I've read more than once: "Little Women", and some of the sequels, and Nevil Shute's "A Town Like Alice" - these appeal strongly for some unknown reason.

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  8. I have read Jane Austen so many times it isn't worth the trouble to pick up the books any more. I can turn the pages in my head. Trollope too. And Middlemarch. I also go back to some contemporary Canadian writers -- Alice Munro and Carol Shields. But not Hemingway. I will try "A Moveable Feast."

    I saw the Hemingway house in Key West and it was kind of interesting.

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  9. Marcia:
    Yes, I agree. Did you read Alan Bennett's "Untold Stories" - highly recommended.
    XO
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  10. Tessa:
    I will add that Orwell to my list, thanks.
    I'm with you on the books though had to donate thousands when I moved from the huge marital home sometime in the last century.
    I'm not a fan of Hemingway either but highly recommend this particular memoir.
    XO
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  11. T:
    I'm with you on A Town Like Alice, can't pinpoint its attraction either ;^)
    As to Himself and Papa, maybe the eyes have it?
    XO
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  12. 20CW:
    Me too, there is nothing like a Jane!
    I'm re-reading some Alice at the mo too!
    XO
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  13. I haven't any such permanently inspirational book. A second reading of a book is usually a disappointment, I notice all the flaws and bum notes I didn't notice first time around. Maybe I'm just too critical.

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  14. Tell me more about the 'bum notes' Nick? ;^)
    XO
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  15. My favorites are odd and mostly not well known books. I like quirky and fantasy and young adult.

    I visited Hemingway's house in Key West so I could see the cats. All 60 of them, living like lords.

    I do like Jane also.

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  16. I soooo agree with you... books are wonderful. I couldn't live without them!

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  17. Zuleme:
    I was thinking more of his house in Cuba with the cat graveyard. I believe it was there he worked on this particular book to the best of my recollection.
    XO
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  18. Nevin:
    Somehow I knew this about you!
    XO
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  19. Well, by bum notes I mean for example something that seemed quite realistic the first time but on second reading seems highly implausible. Or an event that originally seemed crucial but now seems to be irrelevant.

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  20. Ah, thanks Nick. I had visions of you with one of those fanny packs literally crammed with notes about your latest reading...just kidding...
    XO
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    PS Some books should be left out of second readings, I agree.

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  21. Oh there's magic in some books and it's worth going back to them over an over for the thrill of it. I've read some of my 1200 books a dozen times over and still find myself reaching for them.

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  22. I'm not a Hemmingway fan, but it's great when you find a book which does that for you, and that book certainly had an excellent title.

    My favourite is probably Molly Hughes 'A London Child in the 1870s' - you're just there with her and she is so thoroughly modern for a Victorian. In fact she wrote a series of gripping memoirs of her life and times and became an early female Schools Inspector.

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  23. Pauline:
    I often compare it to a favourite old sweater - you wrap yourself up in it and even though you know most of the old threads, they can still gleam in a different light.
    XO
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  24. Laura:
    Most of his work (and I persisted, I read all of his books at one time or another) didn't do much for me, but this is stellar in his depiction of his humility and in how he often bolloxed things up.
    Also his sense of humour shines through it and his admiration for Hadley, his wife of the time and how he would often make formula for his baby in the chill dawn light.
    A very different and personal Hemingway.
    XO
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