I just finished reading Ernest Hemingway’s blog. Now that I think about it, that is an odd sentence. How do you finish reading a blog? The very idea implies that there will be no more entries; but how can one be sure? In Hemingway’s case, it is obvious—he is dead and to the best of my knowledge, despite the fabulous technological innovations in human history, nobody has yet invented the ability to do posthumous blogging. Then again, what if someone took up the Mantle of the Dead Person and continued the blog? Is it then the same blog or a different blog? Is Shoe (the comic strip) the same comic strip as the one I read when I was young (crafted by Jeff MacNelly) or its it now (MacNelly died 14 years ago (but you knew that)) a different comic strip with the same name and the same characters? Curious. Maybe blogs can’t really end.
Nevertheless, I did just finish reading Hemingway’s blog, which I can say, despite the philosophical quandary above, because in the present case the blog in question is really just a blog in substance, not form. A Moveable Feast is actually a book (note the clever plot twist in this here blog post!) in which Hemingway, in a series of short anecdotes relates his life (or more properly, what he is pretending to be his life (more about that anon)), in Paris in the early 20th century. Having read this book, I am perfectly confident in saying that if blogs had existed in the 1920s, Hemingway would have been a blogger.
This book has the same formula as a decent blog: one part tedium, one part narcissistic self-promotion, one part interesting aside. (Yes, Dear Reader, I hear your complaint that the present blog has only the first two components and the accompanying plea that maybe Your Humble Narrator could occasionally add some element of the third. Your faith, Dear Reader, in the abilities of your Humble Narrator are touching, to be sure. I regret that you will once again be sadly disappointed.) The tedium (of Hemingway’s book, not the present blog) arises from the fact that most of the 20 entries in this book are dull. Yeah, Hemingway was poor and hobnobbed with lots of famous people and had mindless conversations with said famous people. Yawn. The narcissistic self-promotion comes from the fact that it is hard to believe this is even remotely an accurate portrayal of either Hemingway’s life at the time or the assorted conversations; it’s all too cute to be real. Cf. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris—if you think that is really what life in Paris must have been like at that time, then you’ll think this book might just be accurate. (Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the movie. But it also was too cute to be real. (Yeah, OK, the time traveling bit was obviously not real, but even the life in Paris was all a bit too glamorous and cute.) By the way, speaking of the movie, Owen Wilson did a marvelous job portraying Woody Allen in that movie—far and away the best of all the imitations in the movie.)
(Back to Hemingway’s book/blog): As for the interesting asides? Hmmm. Maybe I was being generous. I can’t remember any right now. Which makes me wonder—perhaps the interesting asides aren’t really there at all. Hemingway writes well. (I may have just won an award for understatement.) I enjoy reading Hemingway, and so I enjoyed reading his prose in this book. But, if I think back over all the Hemingway books and stories I have read, this is easily the worst. Now that is saying quite a lot, actually—if something akin to A Moveable Feast was the worst thing ever published under your name, you would be doing very well indeed. If this is right, then the sole virtue of this book, and the reason you might want to read it someday, is the joy in rolling along with Hemingway in a book akin to hearing someone telling tall tales round a campfire.
I suppose there is another reason people read this book—fascination with celebrity. The whole conceit of the book is that Hemingway is repeatedly saying (in effect): “Hey look! I am having a perfectly meaningless conversation with another really famous person. Don’t you wish you were me sitting around talking with famous people? Don’t you wish that the famous people would invite you into their homes for a conversation? Don’t you wish you were me?” Alas, I have never been enamored with celebrity. When asked that parlor game question, “With which celebrity would you most want to have lunch?” I always draw a blank. I have no idea. I can't think of any famous person with whom I would be excited to dine simply for the sake of saying I was able to dine with them. (Is that odd? I really don’t know.)
There was one part of the book which did leave me wondering. Hemingway writes:
It was a very simple story called “Out of Season” and I had omitted the real end of it which was that the old man hanged himself. This was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.
A curious theory. Does it apply to blog posts too? If I were to go back and delete some part of this blog post, would the resulting post be something stronger and better and leave the Reader thinking the post is actually better than it actually is? Maybe I’ll do just that and see. (Determining whether I did so, and if so what was deleted, is left as an exercise for the Reader. (That is what you, Dear Reader, get for complaining about the lack of anything interesting in this blog. (I am ignoring your retort that this exercise also isn’t interesting, so your complaint was fully justified, indeed actually exemplified by this pathetically transparent attempt to create the illusion that there is any reason anyone should ever read this review (laughable, that—in what sense is this a review?) of Hemingway.)
Ok, so that isn’t the most inspiring account of A Moveable Feast. But, as Bogart (almost) said, ‘We’ll always have Taxi Girl.”