“A girl came in the café…”

With the completed sale of our house in the Catskills (our real estate agent there Saturday emailed us that the younger couple with kids who bought it obviously feel safe enough now to admit having bought it they LOVE it, which is a nice feeling for us – selling it to people who LOVE what we had built) now behind us (and if you have ever moved house, you know how tiring and stressful that can be), we decided to fly off…

[Lehigh Valley Airport, Pennsylvania. Photo by me, April 30, 2022.]

…for a week break here to northeast Florida, to Amelia Island, where we have been before.

[Looking at the Atlantic. Evening on Amelia Island, Florida, April 30, 2022. Photo by me.}

When on any holiday, I must also have a book or two with me. I had started re-reading Ernest Hemingway’s 1964 (posthumously published) A Moveable Feast in England a couple of weeks ago. On the flight down here, to pass the time I continued with it…

[A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, 1964. Photo by me, May 1, 2022.]

Some people who are unfamiliar with it seem to approach the book for the first time apparently expecting it to be something of a cross between maybe a Rick Steves Paris travel guidebook and “Emily In Paris.”

Don’t.

It is definitely neither.

[Mid-flight, April 30, 2022. From A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, 1964. Photo by me.]

It is not a “lighthearted” Paris read. (If you want to have some laughs, scroll through the 1-star reviews of it on Amazon as I did back in 2021. That scrolling resulted in a blog post I wrote here.) The book is a memoir. Hemingway is writing about himself – particularly about his experiences in the 1920s there as a struggling young writer… and about people he knew there:

[From A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, 1964. Photo by me.]

One example, you may never have heard of Ezra Pound. He was a well-regarded early 1900s, American-born poet who moved to London and then Paris (where Hemingway met him) and helped Hemingway early in his career. In 1924, he moved to Italy.

In Italy, Pound became enamored with Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Greatly upset by World War I, which he blamed on “capitalism” and a hodgepodge of other sources (such as Jews), in radio broadcasts (for which he was well-paid) from Rome starting early in 1941 that were given the blessing of Mussolini’s regime, he assailed U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt… just for starters. Doing that in peacetime is free speech; but once Mussolini declared war on the U.S. on December 11 those sorts of radio broadcasts by a U.S. citizen living in that now clearly enemy country (Italy) were deemed treasonous. He was indicted in a U.S. federal court in 1943, was found by U.S. troops in Italy in 1945, sent back to the U.S., and then spent 12 years in a Washington, D.C. mental hospital after psychiatrists found him unfit to stand trial. (After his release he returned to Italy, where he died in 1972.)

Pound made the mistake of imagining a dictator is somehow a solution to… whatever. He was, and is, hardly alone in that. We see much the same in 2022 from some on Fox News and elsewheres who evidently see a certain Russian strongman/dictator in much the same badly misguided way Pound saw Mussolini (and Hitler) – as some “enemy” of “capitalism” and Western wokism “decadence,” etc. (Hemingway, who never forgot those who had helped him when he needed help, felt Pound had just gotten really screwed up, and been used by the fascists, and sent money to him in captivity.)

[Amelia Island, May 1, 2022. From A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, 1964. Photo by me.]

“A girl came in the café…” Seeing that early bit of the book again, I recalled too once more how I have come to discover this is one of the funnier things about being a fiction writer: Writers of course get ideas from the world around them; no book is entirely “fiction.” Assuming that above is a true experience, of course; in the introduction Hemingway also suggests the reader view the book, stuffed with real people and him using their real names, as “fiction,” so how much is actual fact in it overall is really anyone’s guess. (For instance, he also recreates rapid-fire conversations in small detail, when – unless he had been taping them, which was basically impossible, or recorded them in shorthand as they happened – there is no way they are anywhere near “100 percent” accurately remembered by him when writing this some thirty years after those events.)

In my family, we had regularly referred to my (now late) uncle – somewhat humorously and mostly behind his back – as “Hemingway.” I had back in my teens and early twenties not quite realized how much of his writing style – which was sharp and cutting and not big on description – he must have “learned” from reading Hemingway. Based on what I see too in A Moveable Feast, he may have read that memoir and identified with Hemingway’s takeaways on how an author writes.

Reading my uncle’s books taught me some things, too. Also the line you see in one book uttered by the fictional uncle and crime novelist – “Fiction comes from fact, and lots of fact makes great fiction when you re-write it as fiction.” – is a straight lift from what my uncle once told me many years ago. I realized that comment neatly summed him up… and summed up what I was now trying to do as a writer myself…

[From my Tumblr header’s current home page.]

So that tag line on my Tumblr page just above?: “I don’t think you were in that book, but there’s always the next one.” Indeed, though, maybe *you* somehow inspired something, or someone(s), in it and I am being less than candid in writing that above? All told it can be great fun at times in that sense to be a writer because only YOU know the truth about it all. 😉

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. 🙂

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