Whenever friends ask me why, at my age, I still love Hemingway, I smile and think about this book. They say "Hemingway' and conjure up familiar visions of the older, bloated and blighted boozer bragging about his macho accomplishments in the world of war and sports, while I consider the young Hemingway in Paris. I am thinking of a much younger, intellectually virile man, someone far more alert, aware and alive; Hemingway as a `moveable feast' strolling deliberately through the streets of a rain-swept Paris on a quiet Monday morning, heading to a café for some café au lait to begin his long day's labor.
In this single, slim tome Hemingway beautifully and unforgettably evokes a world of beauty and innocence now so utterly lost and irretrievable both to himself, through his fame, alcohol, and dissipation, but also to us, for Paris as she was in the 1920s was a place made to order for the lyrical descriptive songs he sings about her in this remembrance; endlessly interesting, instantly unforgettable, and also accessible to the original "starving young artist types" so well depicted here. As anyone visiting Paris today knows, that magical time and place has utterly vanished. Tragically, Paris is just another city these days.
Yet this is a book that unforgettably captures the essence of what the word 'romance' means, and does so in the spare and laconic style that Hemingway developed while sitting in the bistros and watching as the world in all its colors and hues flowed by him. The stories he tells are filled with the kinds of people one usually meets only in novels, yet because of who they were and who they later became in the world of arts and letters, it is hard to doubt the veracity or honesty he uses to such advantage here. This is a portrait of an artist in full possession of his creative powers, full of the vinegary spirit and insight that made him a legend in his own time, and consequently ruined him as an artist and as a human being. There are few books I would endorse for everyone as a lifelong friend. This, however, is a book I can recommend for anyone who wants the reading enjoyment and intellectual experience Hemingway offers in such wonderful abundance in these pages.
Take my advice, though. Buy it first in paper, read it until it begins to fray and fall apart (and you will), and then go out and buy yourself a new hardcover edition to adorn your shelf, so on that proverbial rainy afternoon when the house is quiet, the kids are gone, and you just want to escape from the ordinary ennui and humdrum of life, pull "A Moveable Feast" down and hold it close enough to read. A cup of steaming tea by your side, return all by yourself to a marvelous world of blue city skyscapes, freshly washed cobblestone and unforgettable romance; return once more to Paris in the twenties, when life was simple, basic, and good.