Saturday, July 17, 2010

Off the Shelf: "A Moveable Feast"

Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast," will never be put in a box in my house. I keep it on a bookshelf where I can get to it or at least see it as a reminder. I'm not given to re-reading books particularly, but I like it as a visual prompt, something to kickstart my cranium.

Writing is a solitary (read lonely) pursuit, as is running and a lot of the things I find myself drawn to. At the same time I am drawn to chilling with like-minded folk and being a part of a creative community. That's part of the reason the Rise Up Runners group has had such a big impact on me, my pursuits, circle of friends, etc. When I can share experiences and accomplishments with and of others--finishing a marathon, a PR, finding a new trail, stumbling upon a sublime scene--it somehow deepens the whole deal.

That's harder to come by in writing, being able to find that sense of shared, creative community. Those folks who, by their own writing and inquiries and commitment and curiosity and enthusiasm, also push/encourage others to do the same. "A Moveable Feast" tracks Hemingway (he wrote it, so I guess more accurately he tracks himself) in Paris in the 1920s after he's made a BIG decision to kick journalism to the curb and dedicate himself to writing his own truth, his own art. How many people come to a point in their lives where they opt not to make that tough choice? Imagine all the stuff high school and college English students wouldn't have to read if Hemingway had not made that call ;)

Hemingway describing Paris and the other writers and cats around him is eye opening for anyone who has only come to know F. Scott Fitzgerald by reading Gatsby or Ezra Pound by scratching their head through the Cantos. H (we'll call him "H" to save time) runs into them, parties with them, talks shop with them, those who have made the call to make the attempt to be writers and who would all end up being widely studied and read by all of us that follow. They became their own creative community. H describes them and the whole experience with the irreverence with which we talk about our own peeps. Refreshing and inspiring for a 20-something wanna-be writer who picks up the book just after graduating as an English/philosophy student, who has always thought about writing and has only know the Paris-in-the-20s luminaries through their books an people writing about their books.

I like thinking about them on the ground floor, as they went about their business. The same as I like thinking about the Founding Fathers of our country in the way Joseph Ellis does in "Founding Brothers"--as cats that wake up in the morning and go about their business and make decisions the way any of us do. They had a conviction that those decisions and actions might amount to something, but no guarantees.

So when I wake up and knock back some coffee and contemplate what I will do with the morning or the day or the weekend, I look over at the bookshelf and I catch a glimpse of "A Moveable Feast." Perspective. A kick in the arse. The rest is up for grabs.

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