Hello, Sweet Dusty Friends

September 8th

I recently read, “A Moveable Feast,” by Ernest Hemingway and it was such a pleasant and  entertaining read. I think authors like Hemingway can be immortalized to the point of intimidation, keeping readers at bay. I’m glad I’ve pushed past the pretense to explore his writing — this story is odd, funny, sad and more than anything else — human.

It is a memoir of his early days as a writer when he and his wife Hadley were struggling to pay the rent and figure out what their next meal may be. He writes longingly of food, of spending time with wealthy friends and envying their ability to buy clothing and art (and food). But more than anything, he writes about this city — one that I’ve had a long-distance love affair with for years.

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

He knew they would one day have money, so he writes of poverty as though it’s a cold, not a chronic disease. Nonetheless, he hates that he cannot provide more comfort for his young wife and son.

“I had been stupid about other things too. It was all part of the fight against poverty that you never win except by not spending. Especially if you buy pictures instead of clothes. But then we did not think ever of ourselves as poo. We did not accept it. We thought we were superior people and other people we looked down on and rightly mistrusted were rich. It had never seemed strange tome to wear sweatshirts for underwear to keep warm. It only seemed odd to the rich. We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”

I’m not surprised those two excerpts in particular ring true at the moment. We are all struggling in our own ways, so it seems. While I am far from hungry, or worried about feeding a family, I am finding the simplicity of happiness in drinking and eating cheaply as long as you can curl up with those you love by the moonlight. This weekend, my gaggle of friends gathered to play cards, catch up and eat homemade favorites. It made me think of the countless stories I’ve heard my parents tell of their first decade of being married. Friday nights were cheap pizza and beer with friends around a card table — playing whatever suited their fancy at the moment — snacking on handfuls of popcorn and worrying in their own ways how they’d ever be able to take care of the sleeping babies in the next room.

Some worries and some sources of happiness are universal. Hem had them in Paris. My folks had them in Mesa. Today, they haunt and dance around me in Tempe.

A Moveable Feast” is a timely and excellent read. It’s a classic that certainly doesn’t need my stamp of approval, but it is damn good. I really enjoyed “The Green Hills of Africa,” by Hemingway also, that I read this summer. For those interested, I’m now knee deep in “Stern Men,” by Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame and it is so creative and witty.

I won’t be giving these books away. I normally inhale and instantly pass off books I’ve enjoyed, knowing they’ll carry goodwill to the next sets of hands who partake in a literary feast. In visiting my friend Dena’s home last weekend, I found myself ignoring a house full of people (dressed like cowboys no less) to spend time with her giant bookshelf. She’d collected and organized her books in such an elegant way. And so, Hem, this book stays put. I want to share it with friends and family who visit, but always keep a place in my home for your incredible art.

I am happy to be reunited with my lovely, dusty literary friends.

~K

Posted in
Journal, Media
Follow the comments.

8 Responses

  1. Ha! Seems like our parents (and probably thousands of others) all had the same idea back when we were tots. My mom talks about spending their Friday nights on the front stoop of our house with beer & pretzels, talking and laughing with the neighbors. The night would always end with a card game of pinnacle or canasta. It is so romanticized in my head, that I think it has made THIS recession more tolerable for me. Hey, think of it as a “rite of passage”. 🙂

    BTW, I took the purse you made me to Cincinnati, and got several compliments from family members. I told them about your wonderful abilities and they are anxiously awaiting your website launch. 🙂

  2. I loved that book many years ago when I read it and it drew me into reading a lot more Hemingway. I also read a book about the women in his life (possibly The Hemingway Women–I just looked on Amazon to see if I could find it). Anyway, I always thought Hadley was his true love although he went on to love and lust after many others, probably because of the impoverished years living together in Paris.

  3. Isn’t it wildly romantic that they bought art instead of buying more luxurious items (like cheese or wine)? I loved this book too and suggested it for my book club. The ladies in the book club club were so moved by this memoir that many did extra research to find out what happened to Hadley and Bumby.

    Loved your take on such titles being your dusty literary friends…I can’t let go of my copies either!

  4. I’ve read it so many years ago in school, maybe I should give it another shot.
    Usually even if I lied a book, after reading it I give it to a local little library, sure that they need all the books they can put their hands on, but sometime i enjoy a reading so much I keep the book to myself.

  5. it has been a good long while since i have read that book! thanks for reminding me about one of those dusty friends.

  6. My best memories are of simple meals shared with friends. That book is now on my reading list as well as the one by Elizabeth Gilbert. Have you ever seen the film “Babette’s Feast”? You might enjoy it.

  7. Oh another excellent essay. Thank you for writing and sharing it.

  8. He was a loveable rascal. I’ll have to read that one. I think the only Hemingway I have read is “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. I did, however, have the pleasure of touring his Key West home. As well as a particular favorite haunt of this.

Leave a Comment: