What We Ate in That Year (1964 review of A MOVEABLE FEAST)

From the Bard Observer, September 9, 1964. -– J.R.

What We Ate in That Year

A MOVEABLE FEAST, by Ernest Hemingway, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 211 pp., $4.95.

In the spring of that year, long after he was dead, a book of his was published and it was a good book. He had not written a good book for quite some time and the critics were beginning to worry. They had wanted to say something good about him now that he was dead, but there were no good books to say good things about except for those written twenty and thirty years ago, and they (the critics) had already spoken enough about the earlier ones anyway.

The new book was about Paris of long ago when he and his friends were writing the earlier books. In those days there was Miss Stein and Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis and Ford Maddox Ford and several others. Some were good and some were very good and others were not so good at all. He was not like the others because he was not a homosexual or an alcoholic and he did not have bad breath or look evil. Much of the time he would write, and during the times that he would not write he would walk the shaded avenues or go to the races. There was always the races, and when there wasn’t the races, there was always skiing in the alps or reading the Russian novelists.

He said at the beginning of the book that it could be regarded as a work of fiction but that even as that it might shed some light on what has been published as fact. This was a good thing to say because it let him off the hook at either end. But there is one part about Scott Fitzgerald that might or might not have been really true but was really good in the way that a very good short story was good. And maybe it was true anyway. But what mattered was not that it was either true or not true but that it was good, and all of them were dead anyway, all of them except for Ezra. So one could say that it was a good book to have been written. -– J.R.

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