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January 28, 2012 / Rachel Bednarski

Review: A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

“I’ve seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.” 

Written as a compilation of vignettes, or stories as Hemingway calls them, A Moveable Feast documents the expatriate lives of the lost generation of literati that congregated in Paris in the 1920s and the illicit lifestyles of the literary and artistic greats of the era: The masochistic, yet charmingly naïve narrative voice of Ernest Hemingway waxes ingenuously, presenting a devourable portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald ‘s alcoholism and tumultuous marriage to Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein’s private relationships, T.S. Eliot’s financial misfortunes and Esra Pound’s philanthropism.

Hemingway, though, is careful to suggest that his novel be not read purely as autobiographical – ‘If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may thriw some light on what has been writen as fact.’ – Like every piece of writing, A Moveable Feast is certainly largely constructed and the characters should therefore be read as persona, rather than accurate portrayals of the author’s contemporaries.

Nevertheless, art is always self=reflexive and the novel provides a penetrating portrait of the romantic, early twentieth century literary scene – living on journalism jobs, forgoing food in ordeer to afford to read and write, taking off to Spain and Switzerland and Austria when the fancy arises – the novel exudes romance, albeit a romance perhaps bestowed upon it by twenty-first-century readers nostalgic for the 1920s Parisian artists life.

Yet it is the city which radiates at the novel’s core. The novel has been described as a love letter to Paris, and there is no more perfect a summary than that. Paris is the true hero of A Moveable Feast.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

Of all the gossip that dominates the narrative, it is the relationship between Hemingway and his wife Hadley that really resonates. Their relationship is beautiful, innocent and charming and the reader is left feeling they have invaded a private world:

‘We looked at each other and laughed and then she said one of the secret things … 

How long will it take?” 

Maybe four months to be just the same.” 

Really?” 

Really.” 

Four months more?” 

I think so.” 

We sat and she said something secret and I said something secret back.’

The intimate, ambiguous manner in which the two communicate evokes Hemingway’s signature, poetically simple sentences which always contain so much more meaning than is apparent upon first reading.

Much of the novel is comprised of the fictional Hemingway’s thoughts on and experiences of writing. The arduous, demanding, unyielding experience of writing, which only serves in driving Hemingway to more determination to sculpt an identity and prove himself through his craft.

Yet another testament to the in-necessity of length for length’s sake, A Moveable Feast is perfect in it’s brevity. The writing is hilarious, tragic, didactic, both indulgent and tortuous, and is a manifestation of Hemingway’s irrefutable genius.

 

Caution: I advise not watching Midnight in Paris whilst reading A Moveable Feast, it’s a sure-fire way to give yourself an unfavourable dose of Golden Age Thinking.

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January 28, 2012 / Rachel Bednarski

Not a Good Idea

This is what happens when you decide to do Jillian Michael’s No More Trouble Zones in front of a bookcase that’s balanced on very wobbly floorboards:

Not good.

Luckily no books were injured — just me, my Reader’s Digest copy of Wuthering Heights was particularly nasty. I love my books but I can’t say I enjoy being unexpectedly buried under them when I’m in the middle of doing my reverse crunches.

* A good advert for eReaders I suppose.

January 8, 2012 / Rachel Bednarski

Read This

January 8, 2012 / Rachel Bednarski

Reading Forecast

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet The Sound and the Fury (Vintage Classics)The FountainheadWhite NoiseExtremely Loud and Incredibly CloseThe Master and MargaritaThe Complete PersepolisA Tale of Two Cities (Bantam Classic)

There are lots of books on my reading list for the year ahead, the above are (currently) at the top. I’m also hoping to be going back to uni in September so I’ll have the reading lists for my modules too, meaning I really only have a few months to fit in my personal reading this year. I read the first couple of pages of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a few months ago and I wasn’t actually particularly intrigued, but this –

is being released in the UK in February and I really want to see it but I have a thing about watching adaptations before reading the book, which means I’m going to pick up the book again before February.

And it’s not an adaptation but I’m also looking forward to seeing The Artist this year. It looks like I’m going to love it.

Orange Wednesdays were made for Oscar season.

December 29, 2011 / Rachel Bednarski

A Good Haul and A Round Up

Someone must have told Father Christmas that I enjoy finding books in my stocking.

 

 

Don’t be jealous of my photography skills. Or my bed hair.

I did so many effects on that picture to try and make it so you’d be able to see the book titles but I’m still going to have to list them here: The Amber Spyglass, DaisyMiller and The Turn of the Screw, A Tale of Two Cities, Rebecca, The Beautiful and Damned, Crime and Punishment, Brideshead Revisited, Jane Eyre, Tender is the Night, The Master of Petersburg and the Sound and the Fury. I started Rebecca on Christmas day and I love it. And I thought I’d sneak my shiny new eco cup in there too seeing as I featured it in an earlier post. Hinting works apparently.

Anyway, as the end of the year is fast approaching I thought I’d treat you to a summary of my reading year. Here you are:

The Best Book I Read in 2011

Considering that for 6 months of 2011 I was in my final year of uni, I didn’t actually get chance to do much extra-curricular reading this year. That said, I did read some cracking books, my favourites were:

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende

Youth – J.M. Coetzee

The Most Disappointing Book I Read in 2011

I’m sorry to say it, but I found Cloud Atlas to be horribly overrated.

Books I Recommended Most in 2011

I would recommend Douglas Coupland’s Generation X to anybody. And anything by J.M. Coetzee. You should all read these authors.

Best Series of 2011
Definitely NOT those Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ones…

Most Un-put-down-able Book of 2011 

Perhaps Memoirs of a Geisha. Or Rebecca.

Favourite Author of 2011

Hmm… I have to give this one to Dickens.
The Book I Most Anticipated in 2011

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I was very excited and a little let down but mostly just excited.

Favourite Cover of a Book I Read in 2011

Being but a lowly and unemployed Literature graduate, I unfortunately have to buy  whichever editions of books are cheapest rather than prettiest which means I am the owner of some ugly looking books.

However I often find some much lovelier-adorned editions of my favourites which I hope one day to own.

I wish my Wuthering Heights looked like this:

Incidentally, considering my most disappointing book of the year, I bought The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet yesterday purely because of this beautiful cover:

Based on this cover alone I am willing to give David Mitchell one more chance.

I LOVE book covers.

Most Memorable Character of 2011

It’s got to be Patrick Bateman. He hung around in my brain for a long time after I finished American Psycho, for obvious reasons. And maybe the narrator of Rebecca – as much as I don’t want to admit it, she reminds me a lot of me.

Most Beautifully Written Book of 2011

Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and Generation X.

Book I can’t Believe I Waited Until 2011 to Read

I read Wuthering Heights in my second year of uni but I didn’t consider myself to have really read it until I reread it after graduating, as I don’t think reading a book just to write an essay on it is quite the same. So Wuthering Heights. And also The Handmaid’s Tale – I’m very ashamed of myself for not having read either of those until this year. There’s really no excuse.

My Favourite Passage/Quote from a Book I Read in 2011

“I’ve seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”

-Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast

A Book I Read in 2011 that I Would be Most Likely to Reread

Madame Bovary.

 

I borrowed this End of Year Book Survey from http://mattviews.wordpress.com/ because I liked reading his so much.

 

 

 

December 22, 2011 / Rachel Bednarski

The Year of Dickens

 

It looks as though I picked the right Dickens novel to read this Christmas – As well as a three-part BBC adaptation of Great Expectations which is being shown over Christmas, look who’s playing Miss Havisham in Mike Newell’s film version. It really had to be her.

 

Get involved in the Dickens celebrations: http://www.dickens2012.org/

December 12, 2011 / Rachel Bednarski

A Book Lover’s Christmas

Tumblr_ldouzdag7f1qapkj4o1_500_large I know, I know, I’ve been a bad Book Blogger of late – my having to work looong hours for university fees book money is to blame for my short hiatus but don’t fret (I know you were), I have still been reading and have lots of lovely reviews coming up once work dies down. On the bright side, it’s finally December! Which means it’s officially okay to get all Christmassy and play My Only Wish and watch Elf and The Polar Express and Shrek the Halls over and over again and no-one’s allowed to comment on the fact that you’re in your twenties and watching children’s films. Even WordPress has started snowing in my absence!

As everyone’s now truly in the swing of Christmas I thought it’d be prudent to mimic many other bloggers and dedicate a post to book-related Christmas gifts and stocking fillers. As I’ve gotten older and, incidentally, as I’ve read more – novels such as American Psycho and Generation X – I’ve kind of fallen out of favour of Christmas as a festival of consumerism, the best things in life aren’t things as we all know, so I kind of feel a bit wrong opening and giving countless interchangable objects for the sole purpose of opening and giving. That said – everyone enjoys a stocking with a few choice gifts. I think the following would make anybody happy on Christmas Day (it appears I have a new obsession with the Folio Society):

Charles Dickens is the real Father Christmas as we all know, so you can’t go wrong with Dickensian gifts, I feel. This illustrated copy of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is really really beautiful. I have the Penguin Classics Hardback edition which also contains Other Christmas Writings but I think if you’re going to purchase any copy, it should really be this one.

(If you have a weakness for beautiful books and a tendency to purchase books online willy nilly then I suggest not visiting their website – you’ll find yourself financially and temporally bankrupt before you know what’s happened. Take it from me.

That said, just have a gander at these:

Mrs DallowayThe Master and MargaritaRebeccaHemingway Short StoriesOn the Road

Look at the brilliance of the inside illustrations:

Okay, I’ll stop now. I may have to do a whole blog post on the brilliance of these books.

This one’s not strictly book-related, but I think reading and hot beverages go together very well which is why I’ve included this next present, I also think it’s very important we look after our little Earth. The current trend in our busy busy commuter lives for being seen to be drinking coffee means that a heck of a lot of paper and plastic cups are being disposed of every day, which obviously isn’t good, which is why I’m lauding the campaign to get people filling up their own ceramic cups at Starbucks et al. so we can all reduce our carbon footprints. If you are loyal to your brand of coffee shop many are selling their own versions, but I don’t think you’ll find a lovlier cup than this:

Eco Cup For Tea Lovers - Styles and Colors May Vary

These make fantastic little gifts, and must also be commended for making me want to tear off their covers and hang them as art on my walls:

And the books top of my reading list for 2012, which I’m *secretly* hoping to find in my stocking:

The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

The Stranger’s Child – Alan Hollinghirst

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (I have read this one but don’t own a copy)

I will leave you with this

And a recommendation to go and listen to Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow, sharpish.