A Moveable Feast

Well,  we head to Switzerland and France tomorrow for a two-week trip. I’ve never been to either. My husband is giving a presentation at the Hemingway conference in Lausanne, then we’ll head to Villefranche-sur-mer for a few nights, and then–the best part–a week in Paris!

I’ll try to update regularly during the trip. I’ve actually had a light schedule the last couple of weeks, so I’ve had the chance to do the kind of reading and researching and language study that I always want to do before a big trip and almost never have the time for.  I’ve been practicing French a couple of hours a day: diving into another language is always once of the best parts of a trip for me, even if I feel like I keep mucking up the pronunciation.  I enjoy trying. I love reading about the ins and outs of cities.  This time, aside from the usual Frommer’s and Lonely Planet, we’ve both been soaking up novels and essays set in Paris. (Also Tender is the Night, set in a hotel near Villefranche.)

Right now I’m reading A Moveable Feast, a collection of remembrances about Ernest Hemingway’s early years in Paris, and Hemingway’s voice–and skill–blows me away. He’s one of those writers I hated in high school and somehow never got around to picking up again. Since my husband loves him, I decided to give him another chance. (Hemingway, not my husband.) It’s been a great lesson in how you can grow into books and authors and how sometimes when you aren’t enjoying a book ,YOU are the problem, not the book. (Especially, I think, if the you in question is a teenager.) To paraphrase Doris Lessing, come back to it later. Wait until you are at a different point in life and see how much more a book might speak to you. I worked my way through the complete collection of Hemingway’s short stories and loved the depth and complexity of them. And there’s a humor and a playfulness and a joy in A Moveable Feast that I never before associated with Hemingway.  I promise, it will make you desperate to go to Paris.

It’s also made me realize I should pick up Steinbeck again (I KNOW I’d like Grapes of Wrath much better now) and possibly I should give Melville another chance. Anybody out there have once-hated books that you’ve come to love later in life?

More later from Lausanne.

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