A few months ago, in a production meeting at work, the marketing director said, in regards to an article I had written, “We’re not writing Hemingway here.”
My retort went unvoiced: “No, I try and write like Fitzgerald, thanks.”
Ernest Hemingway. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Two of the great American writers of the 20th-century. Both ex-pats, both Parisian residents in the early 1920s. Both whose lives defined an age. Both read today, a century after their births. And only one appeared in an episode of Animaniacs.
I would be hard-pressed to say which author I like more, because they’re so different. Fitzgerald probably had more range as an author — he wrote everything from The Great Gatsby to historical fantasy. Hemingway’s work, on the other hand, is so similar to other pieces that it’s incredibly easy to parody. I really do like them both.
Hemingway has come to mind this morning because of the new issue of The Atlantic. Christopher Hitchens reviews A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition,” to be published in July, in the magazine.
A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s memoir of his life as an ex-pat in Paris in the 1920’s. I remember when I first read A Moveable Feast; it was 1996, and I was swept away into Hemingway’s memories of his youth. There was something irresistably romantic about his recollections, and I saw myself as a Hemingway-like figure. I was going to be a brilliant writer, a man of action, and I had found my Hadley. Funny how life works out.
A Moveable Feast was written in the late 1950’s, not long before Hemingway’s suicide. The book, as published, was heavily edited by Hemingway’s fourth wife, Mary, with sections rearranged, chapters deleted, and certain elements, like Hemingway’s relationship with his first wife, downplayed to some degree. (Mary Hemingway’s edits, however, were not as extensive as the edits on The Garden of Eden for its publication in 1986, in which much of Hemingway’s manuscript was discarded.)
The restored edition of A Moveable Feast is closer in conception to Hemingway’s original intentions with restored chapters, restored passages within chapters, and what I presume is the original intended order of chapters.
Did Hitchens like the revised Moveable Feast? I don’t think so, but I get the impression he didn’t much like the original either, calling it a “slight book.”
Does that matter to me? Surely not! I know what I’ll be reading this summer. I’ll be reading some Hemingway.