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Photograph of Ernest Hemingway by ManRayWe all know the legends of Ernest Hemingway–the drinking, the fishing, the safaris, the suicide. But, before Hemingway was known as “Papa”, he was “Hem”, and he was not that different from you and me.

Here are ten ways that Ernest Hemingway and other authors are remarkably similar to us!

Part One of this post can be found here.

1. They misplace their old journals!

2. They find writing to be “hard” and struggle with writer’s block.

3. They enjoy engaging in book talk with fellow readers!

4. They read fluff for enjoyment…but are wary of gambling with bad books.

5. They support indie authors!

6. They can’t afford books and hang out at the library.

7. They wish they could read their favorite books again for the first time.

8. They lose their luggage!

9. They put up with annoying people.

10. Their happiest times were when they were penniless.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

 *All information, quotes, and paraphrases derived from Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast, unless otherwise noted.

Sylvia Beach Shakespeare and Company Hemingway Paris6. The best library EVER

“In those days there was no money to buy books. I borrowed books from the rental library of Shakespeare and Company, which was the library and bookstore of Sylvia Beach,” (35)

Hemingway was a young, struggling author in Paris, but he loved to read and Beach’s bookstore served his reading needs more thanHemingway in Shakespeare and Company adequately.

“I was very shy when I first went into the bookshop and I did not have enough money on me to join the rental library. She told me I could pay the deposit any time I had the money and made me out a card and said I could take as many books as I wished.”

Hemingway immediately takes her up on the offer, grabbing six books, including Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler and Other Stories.

He frequented Shakespeare and Company often, where he had a friend in Beach, and could engage in conversation with other writers such as James Joyce and Ezra Pound. In addition, he received all of his mail at the library.

Sounds like the perfect library, right? Hang out in the back room and read any and all books you like, take as many as you want home with you, the proprietor is a sweetheart, literary discussion is encouraged, and you could pick up your mail! Where’s my local Shakespeare and Company?!

7. If I could turn back time…

Remember what it was like to read your favorite book for the first time? The wonder and excitement you felt? Don’t you wish you could do it all over again? War and Peace by Leo TolstoyHemingway and his pals did, and they mourned the loss of that reading experience.

Here is Hemingway discussing with his poet friend Evan Shipman the re-readability factor of certain novels:

“[War and Peace] comes out as a hell of a novel, the greatest I suppose, and you can read it over and over.”

“I know,” I said. “But you can’t read Dostoyevsky over and over. I had Crime and Punishment on a trip when we ran out of books down at Schruns, and I couldn’t read it again when we had nothing to read[….]”

“Dostoyevsky was a shit, Hem,” Evan went on. “He was best on shits and saints. He makes wonderful saints. It’s a shame we can’t reread him.”

“I’m going to try The Brothers again. It was probably my fault.”The Brothers Karamazov

“You can read some of it again. Most of it. But then it will start to make you angry, no matter how great it is.”

“Well, we’re lucky to have had it read the first time and maybe there will be a better translation.”

“But don’t let it tempt you, Hem.”

“I won’t. I’m trying to do it so it will make it without you knowing it, and so the more you read it, the more there will be.” (137-138)

I wonder if these guys had ever tried my re-reading method: wait ten years until you’ve forgotten the details, then try it again. This usually works for me!

8. “It’s okay honey, don’t cry. At least I still have the carbons….YOU WHAT?!?”

En route to Geneva, traveling to reunite with her husband for the holidays, Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife, lost her suitcase.

No big deal. Just some clothes and toiletries, right? Wrong! Hadley traveled to Geneva with everything Hemingway had written in Paris so that he could work on them during their holidays in the mountains.

Again, no big deal, there were copies, right? Wrong! Hadley brought the originals AND the copies. “She had put in the originals, the typescripts and the carbons, all in manila folders,” (73).

Hemingway only had two stories left–one that had been rejected from a publisher and one that he had buried in a desk drawer because Gertrude Stein hadn’t liked it.

Hemingway was crushed, but brushed it off to his friends saying, “It was probably good for me to lose early work,” (74).

Literary scholars don’t think so. They are still hopeful that one day the suitcase will turn up.

Kenny Bania Seinfeld9. The Kenny Bania generation

Have you ever dealt with a hanger-on who won’t leave you alone and just won’t get the hint no matter how rude you are? Hemingway did, and he was so annoyed that he included an entire chapter covering this very hilarious incident. I related to it so much (although, I could never be as rude as Hemmingway was!) that I have read the chapter “Birth of a New School” a few times.

I’ve discussed this scene in a previous post, and I still think this guy reminds me of Kenny Bania, Jerry Seinfeld’s annoying fellow comic, on Seinfeld. So, since Hemingway doesn’t give his annoying guy a name, I will simply call him Kenny.

Here’s the play-by-play of how Hemingway fights against annoying people:

Hemingway is writing at his favorite cafe, getting a lot of good work done, he’s feeling good, and then he’s interrupted with a dumb question:

“Hi, Hem. What are you trying to do? Write in a cafe?”

Duh, Master of the Obvious!

Hemingway’s first tactic is to lose his temper:

“You rotten son of a bitch what are you doing in here off your filthy beat?”


“Listen. A bitch like you has plenty of places to go. Why do you have to come here and louse a decent cafe?”

Kenny, the interrupter, doesn’t give two figs for the insults, he continues to engage with:

“It’s a public cafe. I’ve just as much right here as you have.”


“I just came in to have a drink. What’s wrong with that?

Kenny has a reply for every insult that Hemingway throws at him! He won’t leave this way. All Hemingway wants is some peace as he works. Next tactic: ignore the guy.

[Kenny continues:] “All I did was speak to you.”

I went on and wrote another sentence. It dies hard when it is really going and you are into it.

“I suppose you’ve gotten so great nobody can speak to you.”

I wrote another sentence that ended the paragraph and read it over. It was still all right and I wrote the first sentence of the next paragraph.

“You never think about anyone else or that they may have problems too.”

I had heard complaining all my life. I found I could go on writing and that it was no worse than other noises, certainly better than Ezra learning to play the bassoon.

“Suppose you wanted to be a writer and felt it in every part of your body and it just wouldn’t come.”

And Kenny goes on, ‘waa waa waa I can’t write!’…but Hemingway has successfully tuned him out and it was a while before he actually hears Kenny again.

“‘We went to Greece,’ I heard him say later. I had not heard him for some time except as noise. I was ahead now and I could leave it and go on tomorrow.”

Hemingway is done writing now, so he turns back to his initial tactic insults.

[Kenny:] “Don’t you care about life and the suffering of a fellow human being?”

“Not you.”

“You’re beastly.”


“I thought you could help me, Hem.”

“I’d be glad to shoot you.”

“Would you?”

“No. There’s a law against it.”

“I’d do anything for you.”

Noooo! This guy has no self esteem! This is why he won’t leave. The only true tactic in dealing with someone like this is to give them what they want–a little bit of confidence.

Hemingway does this by suggesting a new line of work for Kenny: being a literary critic.

“Do you think I could be a good critic?”

“I don’t know how good. But you could be a critic. There will always be people who will help you and you can help your own people .”

Hemingway goes on, describing all of the things the annoying guy could do as a critic, and Kenny now has a purpose and hope for some success.

“You make it sound fascinating, Hem. Thank you so much. It’s so exciting. It’s creative too.”

He is now a critic in his own eye, and Hemingway can get rid of him:

“You’ll remember about not coming here when I’m working?”

“Naturally, Hem. Of course. I’ll have my own cafe now.”

“You’re very kind.”

“I try to be,” he said.

Success! Kenny can now be avoided–at least at the cafe! That’s a start.

So, did the he become a great critic?

“It would be interesting and instructive if the young man had turned out to be a famous critic but it did not turn out that way although I had high hopes for a while.”

Ahh, poor Kenny. (91-96)

10. “I drank that bottle of wine in the dark…you were crying, I was crying. We just cried and cried…Those were the happiest days of my life, though.”

Ernest Hemingway, Hadley Richardson and Bumby“[T]his is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy,” (211).

Hemingway’s last sentence in A Moveable Feast sounds much like what my parents have always said. You can hear the nostalgia in his voice, the warmth. My parents sound that way too when they look back on times when they were very poor. Once, when I was a baby, my mom and dad couldn’t afford to pay the electricity bill. That night, my mom spent all of the pennies they had stored away in a coffee can, on a bottle of wine. They always say those were the happiest times. Hemingway seemed to feel that way too.

But then we did not think ever of ourselves as poor. We did not accept it. We thought we were superior people and other people that we looked down on and rightly mistrusted were rich. It had never seemed strange to me to wear sweatshirts for underwear to keep warm. It only seemed odd to the rich. We ate well and cheaply and drank well and slept well and warm together and loved each other. (53)

Hemingway’s look-back on Paris, his poorest times spent with his wife Hadley and his new baby boy, are just filled with love. I can imagine Hemingway– successful, aged Hemingway–transcribing and editing these journals in the late ’50s and thinking ‘We really had it figured out back then.’

It makes me think that no matter what, enjoy what you have, the important things. And keep it simple. When you’re poor, that’s all you have–the simple things. What kept Hemingway going at this time was love–love of Hadley, Bumby, and his reading and writing. He had close friends and he was satisfied with a coffee or a glass of wine. He was able to enjoy what he had, not getting lost in all of the details that are so entangling when you get a bit of money.

So, if Hemingway is like all of us, let us learn from his look-back: enjoy what you have, enjoy the little things. Don’t get caught up in the race.


Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. Scribner’s. New York: 1964.


Photograph of Ernest Hemingway by ManRayI don’t usually enjoy reading biographies and memoirs of my favorite authors– it’s all written as a look-back; there’s a lack of tension. Plus, a lot of authors were really rotten, and I don’t want to know! However, I do really enjoy learning about some parts of the everyday lives of these god-like literary heroes. It turns out that they weren’t so different from you and me in their day-to-day habits.

Here are ten ways that Ernest Hemingway and other authors are remarkably similar to us!

1. They misplace their old journals!

2. They find writing to be “hard” and struggle with writer’s block.

3. They enjoy engaging in book talk with fellow readers!

4. They read fluff for enjoyment…but are wary of gambling with bad books.

5. They support indie authors!

6. They can’t afford books and hang out at the library.

7. They wish they could read their favorite books again for the first time.

8. They lose their luggage!

9. They put up with annoying people.

10. Their happiest times were when they were penniless.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

 *All information, quotes, and paraphrases derived from Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast, unless otherwise noted.

1. “Honey! Do you know where I put my draft for the Great American Memoir? I seem to have misplaced it.”

pile of notebooks and journalsAs a young writer in Paris, Hemingway regularly recorded his observations and thoughts in journals. A Moveable Feast is a compilation of these journal entries. However, the classic memoir almost never was, as Hemingway stored these journals away and later forgot about them. Luckily, his old haunt The Ritz Hotel came to his (and his readers’ rescue)!

Hemingway’s friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner recalls their recovery in his New York Times editorial “Don’t Touch ‘A Moveable Feast'”:

In 1956, Ernest and I were having lunch at the Ritz in Paris with Charles Ritz, the hotel’s chairman, when Charley asked if Ernest was aware that a trunk of his was in the basement storage room, left there in 1930. Ernest did not remember storing the trunk but he did recall that in the 1920s Louis Vuitton had made a special trunk for him. Ernest had wondered what had become of it.

Charley had the trunk brought up to his office, and after lunch Ernest opened it. It was filled with a ragtag collection of clothes, menus, receipts, memos, hunting and fishing paraphernalia, skiing equipment, racing forms, correspondence and, on the bottom, something that elicited a joyful reaction from Ernest: “The notebooks! So that’s where they were! Enfin!”

There were two stacks of lined notebooks like the ones used by schoolchildren in Paris when he lived there in the ’20s. Ernest had filled them with his careful handwriting while sitting in his favorite café, nursing a café crème. The notebooks described the places, the people, the events of his penurious life.”

Almost immediately after their retrieval, Hemingway set about transcribing the journals into a memoir he called “my Paris book”. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see its publication, and his fourth wife Mary Hemingway had it published in 1964. The title derived from a remembered statement that Hemingway made to Hotchner: “If you are lucky 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,” (Hotchner).

2. Man, this writing stuff is hard!Hemingway writing Life magazine photo

“[Writing] was very difficult, and I did not know how I would ever write anything as long as a novel. It often took me a full morning of work to write a paragraph,” (156).

Hemingway was still very much a novice at writing fiction when he came to Paris. He had journalistic experience, but what he really wanted was to write a novel. This was a struggle, but he continued to hone his craft with short stories. He sought advice from others and set rules for himself and his writing.

When dealing with a block, he would think “Do not worry. You always have written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know,” (12).

3. Book Club Meeting Tonight! Bring a bottle of wine and one of your Canonical friends!

Hemingway hung out with lots of bookish types- Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald to name a few(yeah, yeah, I know “bookish” is an understatement), and oftentimes they would discuss what they were reading and would recommend books to one another. Here is some book talk between Stein and Hemingway:

“Huxley is a dead man,” Miss Stein said. “Why do you want to read a dead man? Can’t you see he is dead?”

I could not see, then, that he was a dead man and I said that his books amused me and kept me from thinking.


“Why do you read this trash? It is inflated trash, Hemingway. By a dead man.”

“I like to see what they are writing,” I said. “And it keeps my mind off doing it.”

“Who else do you read now?”

“D.H. Lawrence,” I said. “He wrote some very good short stories, one called ‘The Prussian Officer.'”

“I tried to read his novels. He’s impossible. He’s pathetic and preposterous. He writes like a sick man.”

“I liked Sons and Lovers and The White Peacock,” I said. “Maybe not that so well. I couldn’t read Women in Love.”

“If you don’t want to read what is bad, and want to read something that will hold your interest and is marvelous in its own way, you should read Marie Belloc Lowndes.”

I had never heard of her, and Miss Stein loaned me The Lodger, that marvelous story of Jack the Ripper and another about murder at a place outside Paris[…]. (26-27)

Hmmm…book recommendations from Hemingway and Gertrude Stein…I’ll take it!

4. Ugh. I don’t want to think right now. I’ll just read the latest Nicholas Sparks novel and space out, I guess.

As seen from the conversation above, Hemingway did read books simply to keep him from thinking and his mind off of writing, many of which were not considered tPlan 9 from Outer Space movie poster Ed Woodo be the best. Miss Stein scoffed at these reading choices, as they were simply mediocre…and they weren’t bad enough to be worth Hemingway’s time, for she espoused this notion:

“You should only read what is truly good or what is frankly bad,” (26).

Hemingway disagreed, responding with, “I’ve been reading truly good books all winter and all last winter and I’ll read them next winter, and I don’t like frankly bad books.”

I knew I was doing something right by spending Friday nights watching movies like Plan 9 from Outerspace, The Room, and Troll 2!

5. Poor T.S. Eliot. He’ll never get the recognition he deserves…

Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, John Quinn, Hemingway in Paris

Hemingway's pals in Paris: James Joyce and Ezra Pound in center, with two other bookish types: Ford Madox Ford and John Quinn

In Paris, Hemingway met Ezra Pound, whom he continuously described as kind and generous. Pound’s generosity was put to use in helping “poets, painters, sculptors, and prose writers that he believed in and he would help anyone whether he believed in them or not if they were in trouble,” (110). One such poet he believed in and wanted to help was T.S. Eliot, and he enlisted all of his friends to join in, including Hemingway.

“[H]e was most worried about T.S. Eliot who, Ezra told me, had to work in a bank in London and so had insufficient time and bad hours to function as a poet.”

So, Pound founded Bel Esprit with a rich American patroness of the arts, and the idea of Bel Esprit was that all of the members would contribute a portion of whatever they earned to provide a fund to get Eliot out of his day job so that he could write poetry, (111). Hemingway and other members would solicit money from friends, using the “coolness” factor to add pressure to potential donors. “Either you had Bel Esprit or you did not have it. […]If you didn’t it was too bad. […]Too bad, Mac. Keep your money. We wouldn’t touch it.”

Hemingway got into the spirit full-force: “As a member of Bel Esprit I campaigned energetically and my happiest dreams in those days were of seeing [Eliot] stride out of the bank a free man.” Fortunately for Eliot, he did get out of the bank soon after, as The Waste Land was published and won the Dial award “and not long after a lady of title backed a review for Eliot called The Criterion and Ezra and I did not have to worry about him any more,” (112). Unfortunately for Hemingway, he wasn’t the one who got to break Eliot out of the bank, and he was sorely disappointed.

The rest, as they say, is history…

Time Cover T.S. Eliot

Read Part Two of This Post Tomorrow!


Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. Scribner’s. New York: 1964.

Hotchner, A.E.. “Don’t Touch ‘A Moveable Feast’.” New York Times: 19 July, 2009.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest HemingwaySetting is a huge part in any narrative work, be it fictional or memoir. Paris, in Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, is hugely significant– it could easily be considered the main character in this nonfiction work.

A Moveable Feast was published posthumously in 1964 and covers Hemingway’s time as a young expatriate in Paris from 1921 to 1926. As a young man in Paris, Hemingway spent his time writing, fretting over writing, and talking about books, writing, and art with his wife and circle of friends, which included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He also spent quite a bit of time relishing in the cafes, bookstores, and streets of Paris. For a man famed for his to-the-point style of writing, Hemingway paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be in Paris in the ’20s.

I am halfway through A Moveable Feast, and would like to share some images and a short film that illustrates the setting of Hemingway’s life in Paris. All images have been taken from the wonderful blog Hemingway’s Paris and cover the pages which I have read thus far.

Closerie des Lilas

Hemingway loved to write for hours in the cafes of Paris, and the Closerie des Lilas was a particular favorite of his. So much so, that he became very territorial if an annoying peer happened to encounter him and disrupt his writing. Here is an amusing scene when such an interruption occured at the Lilas cafe:

“Hi, Hem. What are you trying to do? Write in a cafe?”

Your luck had run out and you shut the notebook. This was the worst thing that could happen. If you could keep your temper it would be better but I was not good at keeping mine then and said, “You rotten son of a bitch what are you doing in here off your filthy beat?”

“Don’t be insulting just because you want to act like an eccentric.”

“Take your dirty camping mouth out of here.”

“It’s a public cafe. I’ve just as much right here as you have.”

“Why don’t you go up to the Petite Chaumiere where you belong?”

“Oh dear. Don’t be so tiresome.”

Now you could get out and hope it was an accidental visit and the visitor had only come in by chance and there was not going to be an infestation. There were other good cafes to work in but they were a long walk away and this was my home cafe. It was bad to be driven out of the Closerie des Lilas. I had to make a stand or move.

Hemingway continues to insult the man, who is also a writer, and finally gets him to promise to never frequent the Closerie des Lilas again! Incidentally, this guy seems to be riding Hemingway’s coattails and reminds me of everyone’s favorite hack, Kenny Bania of Seinfeld…

Shakespeare and Company

In those days there was no money to buy books. I borrowed books from the rental library of Shakespeare and Company, which was a library and bookstore of Sylvia Beach at 12 rue de l’Odeon. On a cold windswept street, this was a warm, cheerful place with a big stove in winter, tables and shelves of books, new books in the window, and photographs on the wall of famous writers both dead and living.

Hemingway, along with many other expatriate writing greats, spent a good deal of time at this bookstore. He chatted with Ms. Beach, met with other writers, borrowed books, and even received his mail there.

 Along the Seine

Across the branch of the Seine was the Ile St.-Louis with the narrow streets and the old, tall, beautiful houses, and you could go over there or you could turn left and walk along the quais with the length of the Ile St.-Louis and then Notre-Dame and Ile de la Cite opposite as you walked.

In the bookstalls along the quais you could sometimes find American books that had just been published for sale very cheap.

“Seeing Paris” in the 1920’s

This film clip was also featured on Hemingway’s Paris and offers viewers the chance to see live action of Hemingway’s Paris in the ’20s. Check it out!

This post is in response to the March prompt for A Classics Challenge, hosted by November’s Autumn

Free air conditioning--all year long!

It’s another cold, wet, blustery day here in San Diego! One of the perks of being in San Diego is that there really isn’t any reason to have a high energy bill. The weather typically is moderate, so no need for AC in the summer and no need for heat in the winter. However, on days and nights like this, with a house full of wide door jambs and such, it’s not too different from camping. You can feel the wind blowing in right through the cracks of the walls! That makes for a chilly house (but great on a hot, windy summer day)! So, I’m all bundled up in the house in my robe, scarf, long johns, wool socks and sweater. We San Diegans can be wusses about temperature changes, I know! But, it would be ridiculous to try to heat up this old, drafty house with no insulation whatsoever. So, we bundle up!

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

So, the fanfare may commence…I finished The Wise Man’s Fear relatively early (9:00 p.m.) last night! It was so good! If you missed them, I wrote readathon posts on Friday and Saturday, each with reading updates and reflection (and silly videos). Today, I will write my review (to post tomorrow) and begin reading The Waste Lands in continuance of The Dark Tower Reading Challenge (and The Stephen King project). I also need to read a classic for March still, and while I was planning on reading The Forsyte Saga for this month, it’s a hefty book and March is almost over! So, I’m going to push that off until I have a lot of free reading time (Spring Break in April or summer vacation in August). Instead, I think my classic will be A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. My sister has urged me to read it, and the little bits I’ve skimmed while flipping through have shown it to be a very interesting book. So, I’m excited to start that up this week! I hope it counts for some of my challenges…

What else has been going on? Well, I’ve been having an internal debate on whether or not I should accept books for review. I’ve been getting approaches by authors about reading and reviewing their books, and I am skeptical to say the least. I don’t like being given something to read. It’s like someone throwing themself at you. I’m all about the chase. I want to find the perfect book for right now, and read it on my own time. Plus, I’m a horrible snob when it comes to what I read. It sounds pretentious, but I don’t read bad books. I just don’t. Or, if I do, I’m doing it on purpose. I can be in the mood for fluffy crap, but, even then, I seek it out. I seek my crap carefully. Plus, there’s the whole problem with my dislike of contemporary fiction. It’s a struggle for me to even read the Pulitzer winners for the Insatiable Booksluts’ Award-Winning Challenge, and those are award-winners!

So, after careful consideration, and the seeking out of advice from two book bloggers I greatly admire, and finally, after reading this article from the Los Angeles Review of Books, I have decided that I am not accepting books for review at this time. I will place this in my Contact page to avoid further consideration. I’ve just got too many good books of my own choosing to read, and I read enough sucky writing from my students–I don’t need to read potentially sucky books in my free time! So, if you’re looking for reviews of the newest upcoming novels, Adventures in Borkdom isn’t the place! Sorry!

Some really good news…Dewey’s Readathon is returning in April! I participated in my first Dewey back in October, and I had a blast! I read for the full 24 hours, ripped through 4.5 books, and participated in the challenges! If you’re looking for a good time, I urge you to sign up when the official linky becomes available (I’ll let you know when it does)! It could be a like a big fun sleepover, where we are all reading together and blogging and tweeting and rooting each other on! It could be so fun!!! It’ll take place April 21st, the third Saturday in April. Please, friends, set aside the date and sign up! IT COULD BE SO MUCH FUN!!!

Finally, I’ll be tuning in to tonight’s season finale of The Walking Dead! I was very happy when Shane died in the last episode (though, I wish it had been Carl who shot him. He could’ve done that when he was creeping around and saw Shane pointing a gun at his Dad. That would’ve been a huge turning point for Carl’s character! Of course, I’m assuming Carl was there to see the scene between Shane and Rick.), and I’m hoping to see some of Hershel’s red-shirt kids bite the big one tonight. And, if they’re not going to give T-Dog any sort of purpose, he could die too. If we played a drinking game where we drank everytime T-Dog appeared in an episode, we would be negative-drunk. He needs a purpose if he’s going to take up a valuable space on our survivor squad–there are too many stronger characters who could take his place! I’m crossing my fingers that one of those awesome characters will appear in tonight’s finale and set up an awesome new season in the Fall!

A rare sighting of T-Dog...

So, that’s what I’m up to. How ’bout you?

The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside; narrated by Derek Jacobi and Cast

• Audiobook: 0 pages

• Publisher: NAXOS Audiobooks, 2001

• ISBN: 9626342218

• Genre: Nonfiction–Literary History and Analysis

• Recommended For: Anyone looking for a quick overview of the entire history of English Literature, from Chaucer to Ishiguro, in an easy listening audiobook format.

Quick Review: Quick and easy listening to a very, very brief synopsis of the history of English literature. Highly recommended for its quick access to authors and tidbits of English history that one might have forgotten or overlooked. Is also brilliantly read by Jacobi and the rest of the cast, who read snippets from the classics expertly.

How I Got Here: I was returning a book to the library, and decided that I wanted an audiobook for the car. There wasn’t much of a selection, but then I spotted this title and decided it would be perfect for my driver’s short attention span.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

The remarkable story of the world’s richest literary resource, the story telling, poetry, the growth of the novel and the greatest histories and essays, which have informed the language and the imagination wherever English is spoken.

My Analysis and Critique:

This audiobook was perfect for my quick drives to and from work each day! Each track focuses upon one writer from a certain time period, providing a bit of history of the author and the world around them, and then usually providing a reading of a snippet of one of their most notable works. So, usually, I could learn about three to five different authors and works on a one-way trip to my work, and not have to think/listen too hard.

Each disc is also separated into two to three different literary movements/time periods. Being a history, the text obviously moves chronologically. Thus, it is set up as thus:

Canterbury Tales

1. The Age of Chaucer (Middle Ages: Chaucer, Gower’s Sir Gawain, The Bible, and Langland’s Piers Plowman)

2. The End of Chivalry (Mid 15th Century: John Lydgate, Mallory, and Skelton to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and Le Morte D’Arthur to Wyatt’s love lyrics and Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer)

Queen Elizabeth; The Faerie Queene; Elizabethan Age

3. Triumphs of Oriana (Elizabethan Age: Spenser, Raleigh, and Sydney to the trio of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson, and the poetry and essays by Donne and Bacon)

William Congreve The Way of the World Restoration

4. Puritan’s Progress (Restoration: religious metaphysical poetry by Herbert and Vaughan; Cavalier poetry by Lovelace and Herrick; the epic works by Milton; Marvell; Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; the first English novel in Defoe’s Moll Flanders; Dryden’s poetry; and finally, Congreve’s The Way of the World)

Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift

5. The Augustan Age (Age of Enlightenment: Pope’s poetry and essays; Swift’s satirical Gulliver’s Travels; Samuel Johnson’s criticism and Dictionary; the novels of Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, and Smallett; and Gray’s “Elegy on a Country Churchyard”)

The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats

6. Romantic Revolution (poetry by Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge; Shelley’s Gothic Frankenstein; Austen’s novels; and the poetry of Shelley, Byron, and Keats)

7. Faith and Doubt (The Victorian Age: Dickens; the rise of children’s literature and the detective novel; the Brontes; Arnold’s “Dover Beach”; the novels of George Eliot; poetry by Tennyson, Rosetti, and Browning; the works of Kipling)

Modernism War Literature

8. The Age of Anxiety (Turn of the century/wartime: Hardy’s novels; Houseman’s poetry; the works of Henry James (?!); Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Wells’ science fiction; controversial D.H. Lawrence; the war poetry of Wilfred Owen; the Irish writers Yeats, Shaw, Wilde, and Joyce; Woolf’s To The Lighthouse; the satire of Evelyn Waugh; Orwell and Huxley; and the poetry of Eliot and Auden)

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

9. Post-War, Post-Modern(Multitude of voices and styles, as genres mesh: Cecil Day Lewis; Keith Douglas; Dylan Thomas; Ivy Compton Burnett; Jean Rhys; Doris Lessing; Muriel Spark; Iris Murdoch; William Golding; Angus Wilson; Anthony Powell; Kingsley Amis; Philip Larkin; Ted Hughes; J.G. Ballard; Salman Rushdie; Kazuo Ishiguro; Carol Ann Duffy)

While obviously this text is just a brief skim, a tiny overview of the great expanse of British Literature, I appreciated it for its providing me with some authors and works that I need to check out in the future. I also appreciated that it flowed so nicely together that it sounded like a story–the story that is English literature.

I also relished the lessons learned on the evolution of the novel, as well as the information provided in the Post-War, Post-Modern section (I am shockingly poorly read in modern literature! This needs to be remedied!)

Overall, I highly recommend this to anyone interested in gaining some insight on the history of English literature and listening to some classics read expertly by various voices. I’m not sure how easy this audiobook is to come by, as I just happened upon it at my library, but if you can find it, I recommend it!


Goodreads Reviews

I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

– from A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Wow! Thanks a lot Ernest Hemingway! I wish you would’ve brought this to my attention BEFORE I emptied my well! Now, I’ve gotta refill it, and I forgot to bring a bucket. All I have is this coffee cup, and the going is sloooow.

So, what’s one to do when there’s no inspiration? What do you do when you want to write but have no ideas? I realize that I’m not writing the next A Farewell to Arms, just this little old blog, but, still, I want to write and I’m a-strugglin’!

If you’ve ever been in this situation, as a blogger, writer, or any type of creator, I have some ideas on gaining inspiration. Here are some various strategies I have used or have considered using to spur on the creative juices.

• Do some reading! This was actually Papa Hemingway’s preferred method for filling the well (next to the making of the love): “When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing that you were writing before you could go on with it the next day,” (25). Read a book, read a blog, read a newspaper, whatever, just read!

• Look through photo albums. Bonus points: look through other people’s photo albums (buy old photos at swap meets and yard sales).

• Take a long, leisurely walk. Exercise can stimulate brain activity (or so they say).

• Listen to music (see yesterday’s post on how an old playlist gave me inspiration).

• See a performance– be it music, a movie, a play, LARPers practicing, whatever.

• Make an Artist Date with a bookstore, museum, coffee shop, library, any place where you could lose yourself.

• Watch a sunrise or sunset (these actually aren’t overrated).

• Visit an old cemetery.

• Ride the full circuit on the public transit (bus, trolley, train, subway, etc.).

• People watch–airports used to be perfect for this, but a bench in a crowded area would work too. Actually, jury duty is an awesome way to get some good people-watching done. Take notes!

• Take a hike in the woods (if you have woods).

• Go to an author reading or Open-Mic night at a coffeeshop.

• Attend a convention.

• Take a long, hot bath.

• Visit a place that is out of your comfort zone. For example, my husband would go to InCahoots ( a country bar); I might go to HomeTown Buffet. This scene from Vegas Vacation might explain my aversion to buffets:

• Play tourist in your own neighborhood…bring a camera!

• Go to the Swap Meet.

To fill up my well yesterday, I went to a local coffeeshop and wrote like crazy! I sipped on an Arnold Palmer and listened to three guys who were playing an impromptu bluegrass set on the patio. They would take breaks to eat their brunch. I ended up planning out the entire week’s posts! They’re not intricate, painstaking reviews or reflections, but still, I got some work done! Today, I might play tourist in my own neighborhood with a camera. It’s the Weekend of Inspiration, baby!

Reading Update!

What I Am Currently Reading:

The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Collected Stories and Poems of Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside

The Portable Dorothy Parker

The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

What I Recently Read:

Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw

Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw (read review here)


I Want My MTV

 I Want My MTV by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum (read review here)

What I Am Reading Next:

The Waste Lands by Stephen King


The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy