Sunday, May 18, 2008

Feast or Famine

In preparation for our trip to London last year, I read a lengthy history of the British Empire. In preparation for our upcoming trip to Paris, I decided to look for some novels featuring the city of lights. My first choice was Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, but they didn't have a copy of it available when I went to the library and I wasn't about to embark on a transcontinental flight without some reading material, so I picked up Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, a book that I found a recommendation for on a random literature blog. It's the debut novel by Faize Guene, a Algerian-French college student. As I thumbed through the book in the library, I realized that I couldn't recall the last book I read that was written by a woman. Perhaps breaking this streak with a book written by a teenager wasn't the greatest idea. It was a light read and heartwarming without being too sentimental, but it didn't do a whole lot for me. With the exception of about three pages, none of the story actually took place in Paris. Instead, the book paints a fairly vivid picture of the much less glamorous immigrant neighborhoods on the outskits of Paris. Since I doubt we'll be making it out there on our trip, this book at least gave me a taste of what life is like for people stuck between France and their homeland.

I did eventually get my hands on a copy of A Moveable Feast, which I just finished reading. Not all of the stories in the book take place in Paris, but the ones that do are quite evocative. I fear that the stories may have romanticized the Parisian cafe well beyond what any establishment could hope to offer, however. I probably learned more about Hemingway than Paris from the book. I've always pictured Hemingway as impossibly rugged and gruff; uncomfortable unless he was in a bull fight, boxing match, war, safari, or some other sort of manly pursuit. His persona in A Moveable Feast doesn't really fit this description. The Hemingway of A Moveable Feast is rather docile and domestic. His persona does start to change in the final story, which contains some of the anger and philandering that I have always associated with Hemingway.

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