Monday, February 15, 2010

Memoir Monday: Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is this week's Memoir Monday. It's considered a work of fiction, but is shelved and better known as Hemingway's memoir. I imagine it is considered a fictional story because it was written more than 35 years after the dates it covers, which was the years young Hemingway spent in Paris (1921-1926) and he admits to omitting many events and people.

Hemingway writes about his time in Paris, his work schedule, and the great writers and artists he knew. This is before he had written a full length novel and he expresses many times how worried he is that he won't be able to, or that it will not sell. What also comes out very clear is how superstitious Hemingway was. He carried a horse chestnut and a worn rabbit's foot in his pocket for luck. He liked to feel the rabbit's foot poke him through his pocket while he wrote to remind him that the luck was there.

Besides his superstitions Hemingway followed some good writing practices.
  • He would reward himself after a good day of work, usually with a drink.
  • Although he is known for his drinking he writes about his discipline in that area too. He never drank after dinner, before or while writing and when he had something due.
  • He always stopped his day of writing knowing what was going to happen next, so he could pick right back up on his work the next day.
  • ...never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

Hemingway believed in mot juste, using exactly the right word or phrase for the situation and he learned to distrust adjectives. Although he had written some of his work far ahead of the times, which made it inaccrochable (according to Gloria Stein) he refused to change his work to make it publishable. He considered that to be like whoring his work, something he was very openly against any writer doing.

The story Gloria Stein told him was inaccrochable was Up in Michigan. It was about date rape, a sensitive subject now. Hemingway wrote it in 1922 and did not see it published until 1938. The only things he changed were the real names of the people he wrote the story about.

I think the best lesson Ernest Hemingway's memoir expresses is to stay confident in your own writing. He suffered some set back, addictions, and rejections, but remained confident in his writing abilities. This kept him going each day.

I have read most of Hemingway's work, short stories and full length novels. He is one of my favorite authors because of his straight forward dialogue and his ability to bring you right to the places he writes about.

A Moveable Feast was published after Hemingway's death along with 3 other books. The first book I read of his was Islands in the Stream (also published posthumously). I found it very hard to follow. It seemed to cover too much time and hop from place to place. I liked the tighter time frame of A Moveable Feast and that most of it was in Paris. It was a good look at the early years of his career and included helpful advice for writers today.

Have you read A Moveable Feast? What did you think of it?

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to leave a comment if there is a specific memoir you would like to see covered in a future Memoir Monday.

Kristin : )

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