I have come late to the work of Hemingway. Most of the writers in my circle of friends crossed his path for better or worse in their teens or early twenties; I am 44, and only today finished reading A Moveable Feast. That book chronicles slices of Hemingway’s life as a member of the expatriate community in Paris in the early 20’s — a community that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Henri Matisse, and many others. Published posthumously, it’s a swan-song for an age that has past and for the city that nourished them.
What I discovered in Hemingway’s memories was my own sense of longing: to travel and see sights I’ve only read about in books, to discover the magic of old cities — those truly old, not the noveau antiquitè of American cities. I want to sit in the shadow of Notre Dame and wander the streets of Marseilles; I want to take a train to Venice and listen to the phantom song of La Serenissima. I want to read Homer by candlelight in the shadow of the Parthenon and write in a secluded studio on Rhodes . . .
But, I think the world I want to see no longer exists. It is the world of a hundred years ago — slower, simpler; back when writers were the luminaries of the age, not to be eclipsed by actors or painters. I barely understand the psychology of this longing, wanderlust combined with Golden Age thinking, and I acknowledge it manifests in me so strongly due in no small part to my own insecurities, professional as well as personal. But none of that changes the fact that I want to crawl inside the pages of A Moveable Feast so I might sit in a Parisian street cafe, order a cafe au lait, and fill the pages of a small notebook with tales.