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A Full-Body Massage at the Opera

Ernest Hemingway would have a large following on twitter.

The author pours a vibrant sensuality into A Moveable Feast. Perhaps because his memoir of 1920s Paris was published posthumously, and therefore not buffed into the writer’s final form, there’s a rawness to the details that he records, even to the point of translating French literally: “It goes?” (p. 102, Scrivener, 2003)

The work reflects habits that would reduce a modern formulaic editor to pleading frustration, such as the frequent use of the verb to be and reliance upon conjunctions: “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.” (p. 58)

But its stream-of-consciousness tone puts the reader by the writer’s side: “I was writing about up in Michigan and since it was a wild, cold, blowing day it was that sort of day in the story.” (p. 5)

His metaphors are fresh: “[W]hen they have passed and taken the nourishment they needed, [they] leave everything deader than the roots of any grass Attila’s horses’ hooves have ever scoured.” (p. 208)

Occasionally, a profound observation conveys the thoughtfulness nurtured by the events described: “All things truly wicked start from an innocence.” (p.210)

The earthy details help paint portraits of the other writers of Hemingway’s circle: “I cannot remember much about the flat except that it was gloomy and airless and that there was nothing in it that seemed to belong to [the Fitzgeralds] except Scott’s first books bound in light blue leather with the titles in gold.” (p. 179)

By recording specific details amid foggy memory, the author hints at what impressed him, what made this a special time in his life, and what made Paris “the town best organized for a writer to write in that there is”. (p. 182)

The precise details and extemporaneous monologue tone make reading the memoir a sensual experience. A Moveable Feast is like a full-body massage, at the Opera.