The Writing Lesson

As I prepare for my upcoming trip to Paris (for fun) & Toronto (for family; also fun), I am doing what I always do prior to a trip to the City of Lights.

I’m rereading A Moveable Feast. On every visit to Paris, I go to what I believe is the most wonderful bookstore in the world, Shakespeare & Co.; a few years ago, on one such visit, I purchased a copy of my favourite book. This store is a must-see if you ever have the opportunity to visit Paris, and you like reading even just a little bit. And if you make a purchase (and how couldn’t you given the seeming miles of selections) they will imprint the inside of the book cover with their famous stamp. A perfect souvenir.

The Writing Lesson

Rereading a favourite book is visiting with a long-lost friend. You immediately fall back into the charm of the relationship and wonder why you have been apart for so long. That’s exactly how I’m feeling these days as I flip through the story I know so well. What is different for me this time is that I’m viewing Hemingway’s memoir as a class in writing, an unofficial tutorial by the master himself.

A style of his own

He easily switches from first-person to second-person narrative in a way that has me wondering if he was talking to himself as a younger man or to me directly. And his writing style is unlike any other I know, fluid and rambling but without embellishment. Hemingway is the only writer I’ve read who regularly, successfully writes paragraph-length sentences.

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

So, I am using A Moveable Feast as a textbook, a training manual of sorts to guide and inspire my writing practice here and once I’m in Paris. I’m making notes in the margins and studying its lessons. And although I would never presume to ever come close to the extraordinary prose that Ernest produced, I will enjoy more deeply the practice that I share with him.

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