Moveable memories

More or less by chance, Susana picked up and now we have both reread this charming, gossipy posthumous book by "Tatie," as his then-wife Hadley calls him in the book.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. 1964. Victoria, Australia: Penguin Books Australia, 1973.

I remembered so little from an earlier reading years ago, just a little of the Fitzgerald stuff, that this felt like a totally fresh experience. Finished it the day before yesterday, and I loved it. Then today I was in the Strand used-books store and saw "the restored edition" introduced and edited by EH's grandson Seán Hemingway. As the Wikipedia article makes clear, there's room for lots of controversy about the editing of EH's manuscripts, which he had never put together in a final form before -- despairing over memory loss, likely due to shock treatment he had received for other ailments -- he shot himself ("July 2, 1961, some three weeks short of his 62nd birthday" says the Wiki bio.

Whether EH would have organized the chapters in the same order as did his widow, Mary, and even if in some places she combined paragraphs from different manuscripts, it is still unmistakably (or "unmistakeably," as he would have written it) his prose. And it all feels true in Hemingway's sense. Not necessarily true factually (Ford Madox Ford may not really have smelled that bad, for example), but true emotionally, to the way Hemingway felt as he began to lose his memory about those events of 35 years earlier. (His memory was helped and stimulated by the rediscovery of a trunk full of manuscripts and letters he had left behind in Paris in 1928, according to the intro to the "restored edition".) So this becomes for me another illustration of the complex processes of memory as we age, on which Elkhonon Goldberg has so much fascinating information. I sympathize with Hemingway's view, that what is "true" is what is honestly felt. What other truth can we know? Because all information is mediated by our senses, which may decive us, and captured and recalled through brain circuitry which evolves as we do.

But mainly, besides these reflections on memory, I admire Hemingways artisanry. The book (in the familiar edition edited by Mary Hemingway) is, as Hemingway invites us to consider it, a novel. The story of how a young man seeking fame achieves it at the cost of his innocence. And in the course of telling the story, he gives some good tips on story-writing. Most important for me, just find one "true" sentence and that's enough to get you started, and always be sure you have some idea of what happens next before you knock off work to think about something else. Good tips.

Wikipedia: A Moveable Feast

Wikipedia: Ernest Hemingway)

Ford Madox Ford

See also Elkhonon Goldberg, The wisdom paradox: how your mind can grow stronger as your brain grows older. New York: Gotham Books, 2005. I referred to it briefly in a note on Eros and Thanatos last month.

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