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There’s been a dark cloud hanging over my house for the last week. I haven’t really felt up to sharing about it, nor do I entirely feel comfortable sharing now. Yet, I want to say something here, especially since it might come up in the future. Don’t worry, this post won’t be all doom and gloom.

Last Friday, Jesse and I found out that one of our good friends was brutally murdered by his ex-wife’s boyfriend. His five-year-old son, of whom he had full custody, is said to be safe, presumably with the ex-wife, but I’m hoping he’s with his grandmother. We learned, and are still learning, the details of what happened to our friend via out-of-state newspapers. Seeing horrific details in print, that describe atrocious actions done to one of your good friends, is surreal to say the least.

Needless to say, Jesse and I are trying to figure out how to cope with our emotions. These aren’t the typical feelings of sadness and loss that derive from losing a friend to a motorcycle accident (which is what Jesse first assumed had happened when he heard about the death). No, hopefully, eventually, those will be the sole emotions remaining. What Jesse (and I, to a lesser extent) is dealing with is extreme, “I want to rip him apart”, anger. Because a great injustice has been dealt to our friend, a very caring and kind person who was the best dad anyone could ask for. And how awful is it going to be for his little boy, having to grow up under these gruesome and unfair events? So, we’re angry, confused, and starting to come out of the shock.

Eventually, there will be a fund set up for his son, and when that goes into effect, you will probably see something about it here. Because, I figure, the only thing to do in this situation, the only way to get past the hate and anger, is to combat it with love. I think I read that over at Lucy’s Football last week, which was definitely well-timed in my situation. So, I’m going to do whatever I can to help that little boy who was so loved and cared for by his father. I’ll probably ask you all to help in whatever way you can as well. Until then, Jesse and I are coping, trying to find some sense of normalcy.

Here’s a song for Brando and his son by Flogging Molly, a favorite of Brando’s:

—-**—-Here is where I transition awkwardly to how I am coping.—-**—-

It’s been very hot in San Diego this week, so I haven’t felt up to doing much of anything. We don’t have AC in our house, nor do most people in SD, because, for the majority of the year, we don’t need it. But, I definitely wouldn’t have minded it this week. So, I’ve been eating popsicles and raw veggies, drinking lots of iced tea, and reading books. I finished The Return of the King this week (I was sad to say goodbye to my friends when it was all over), and have worked my way through about half of Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the Outlander series. Hopefully, I’ll have that finished by next week. Then, I’ll be returning to The Dark Tower series, to finish what I started in January. The Wolves of the Calla is what I’ve got next (one of my favorites in the series).

So here’s something out in left field that I started last night: writing a really crappy YA paranormal romance. Yesterday, my friend Pat invited me to “Book Club”, a group he and another friend started on Facebook. The purpose of Book Club? Reading, analyzing, and writing crappy tween books. Right now, Pat is working on a teen romance between a human girl and a wraith boy. Apparently, it’s tough being a wraith in high school-it’s hard to stay focused. You know, fellow LotR-reading friends, what I imagine…the Nazgul king meets Eowyn on the fields of Pellenor.

She takes her helmet off, and the wraith falls madly in love on the spot.

He sheathes his sword, pulls Eowyn up on his mount, and flies off to his hidden nest up near Mount Doom. After weeks of being holed up with the king, Eowyn starts to notice a softer side to him, and one day realizes that she has fallen madly in love. The love of the wraith and the princess…

Artwork by TAD RVA- tadrva.blogspot.com

coming to a Kindle near you.

 

I can’t wait to see what happens in Pat’s story…it’s definitely going to be absurd. I, on the other hand, started my story last night by pulling out my handy-dandy Field Guide to Demons  book, using a random number generator to choose a page number, and selecting a paranormal love interest based upon the page I came up with. So, I’m writing a tragic love story centering around a human boy and a nixie! There will be a love triangle and my story will be heavily ripping off Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. That’s how it’s done, right? Surprisingly, based upon my struggle with the first 400 words, writing crap is hard!

My nixie wears more clothes and falls in love with the star of the swim team!

Of course, the best way to cope in times of sadness is through retail therapy.

Joking.

But, I have been utilizing my own type of retail therapy. You know that I’m not talking about shoe shopping, right? You guys know me better than that. Nope, I’ve been indulging in book-buying of course! Here are some of the books I’ve picked up this week via thrift stores, used bookstores, and Amazon.

For my Kindle:

Shadow Show Ray Bradbury Joe Hill Margaret Atwood Neil Gaiman

Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury by various awesome authors

as recommended by Heather at Between the Covers

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Hopefully, I’ll be able to read this in October. We’ll see.

From a local thrift store:

Two John Irving novels: A Widow for One Year and The Cider House Rules

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

and Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, author of my ’90s favorite Generation X.

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland Generation X

Grand Total: less than $4!

Then the most exciting purchase from the used bookstore:

The Drawing of the Three Dark Tower Stephen King

A first edition of The Drawing of the Three! With all of the pictures! Only $20!

I’m now one book away from having all of the Dark Tower pictures, (remember when I bitched about that?). I just need The Gunslinger for a complete set!

So, I think next week I will be back to “back to normal”. That means at least three posts from me, lots of reading, and my normal amount of tweeting (which is usually <5 per day). This weekend, I’ll engage in my planned inspired adventure of watching local LARPing for next week’s Return of the King-Inspired Adventures post, which will either appear on Monday or Thursday.

And, this is how I’m dealing. Am I doing it right? Is there a right way to mourn? I figure that the best way to deal is to get back to doing what I normally do. And do as much good as I can for that little boy who is left behind.

As always, thank you friends for all of your support and caring. It never ceases to amaze me how kind people can be.


As many of you know, I took a little break from blogging. Surprisingly, in that time away, I picked up a few new followers. Well, I’m back now, new friends and old, and I’ve changed my look, as you might have noticed. I love it!

Here’s some interesting (at least to me) background info on the look: I was directly inspired by the art print, “Someday, You’re Gonna” by Jordan Crane, which hangs in my kitchen. I wish I could commission Crane to do the artwork for my header, but what can I do? Use silly pictures of myself and the covers of a few of my favorite books, I guess.

Someday, You're Gonna by Jordan Crane

Anyways, back to the topic at hand. Since I have some new followers, and I’m returning after a long absence with a new drive, I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts that best reflect who I am as a blogger, and what you can expect to see here at Adventures in Borkdom. Many thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for providing the inspiration with today’s perfectly timed Top Ten Tuesday prompt!

1. Book Reviews

While I have been slacking in this area, a good chunk of Adventures in Borkdom is devoted to book reviews. When I put in the work, you can expect regular reviews on books of varying genres (I am a mood reader and like to read it all!) and I attempt to make these reviews as unbiased and professional as possible (when I might be biased, I make note of it in the review). I even created a rubric (feel free to use in your own reviews!) to make my methods of judgment transparent. Here are some examples of the positive review: Bleak House and The Waste Lands, the “meh” review: A Discovery of Witches, and the negative review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

When I don’t feel like putting in the work, you can expect posts full of mini-reviews: July Mini-Reviews

If you’re looking for more reviews, I post them up in the “Reviews” page at the top of the blog. *Coming Soon: Reviews organized by genre!*

2. Inspired Adventures

This is a new feature I started yesterday. It will appear twice a week (unless life gets in the way), and will center around a book I recently read, and an adventure or activity that I took part in that was directly inspired by the book. For example, after reading Hatchet, I took a hike in the mountains, and considered what aspects of the area would affect my survival if I were stranded there, à la Hatchet. Here is that post: Inspired Adventures: Hatchet and a Hike.

Upcoming Inspired Adventures include: Anne of Green Gables and Raspberry Cordial; The Return of the King and LARPing; and When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Quitting Smoking.

Check back on Thursday for this week’s second Inspired Adventure!

3. Bookish Featurettes

I enjoy writing posts on books that explore the various aspects of novels and reading in general. This is where I can really analyze certain literary/bookish areas without the limitations of a book review.

Some examples include:

4. Classic Authors: They’re Just Like Us!

These posts are biographical and discuss traits of a classic author that are surprisingly similar to either “us”, the everyday reader, or to the traits of modern-day popular authors. These ones are fun to read if you’re interested in a certain author, but don’t feel like getting bogged down by a long biography. I try to just give you the good stuff!

Examples:

Charles Dickens

Ernest Hemingway

J.R.R. Tolkien (posted over at Snobbery)

5. Fun Top Tens

Occasionally, I compile Top Ten lists that are connected to my reading preferences. I try to make these fun and somewhat informative. Typically, these directly derive from topics originating from the good folks at The Broke and the Bookish (like this post!).

A few of my favorites include:

Playing Hooky With Literary Characters

If Classics Were Set to Punk Rock

Oh Boy! It’s My Day to be a Girl! Here Are My Top Ten Book Boyfriends

The rest of my Top Tens can be found at the top of the blog in the page labeled “The Best”

6. Participation in Reading Challenges

This year, I signed up for a bunch of challenges. Not all of them have stuck (or, at least, I’m not attending to them right now), but I have seen a few of them through.

Two of these are

the horror- centric, annual Readers in Peril (RIP) Challenge, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings

and

Charles Dickens Month, hosted by Fig and Thistle

7. Writings on Current Blogging Issues and/or My Views on Blogging

I don’t often dabble in blogging politics, but on occasion, I’ll come across an issue that I think needs addressing. Here’s a sample of what it looks like when I do:

When Blogging Gets You Down: A Letter to Bloggers (Big and Small)

I have also created a blogging manifesto, which pretty much spells out my views on blogging, and still holds true today: My Blogging Manifesto

8. “Best of” Lists

This shall be an annual event, and since I am only just approaching my one-year anniversary, I only have examples for 2011. Yet, you can expect to see daily posts, during the last week of 2012, that list my favorite books of 2012, broken down into genres. Here are two examples from last year:

Top Ten Books Read in 2011

Top Adult Contemporary and Young Adult Fiction Read in 2011

The rest of my “Best of” lists can be found at the top of my blog in the page labeled “The Best”

9. Readathons

I am a nut for readathons, particularly the big ones. This year, I took part in both of Dewey’s annual 24-hour readathons (held in October and April). I also held personal, impromptu readathons, which I chronicled on the blog.

Here are two posts reflecting my readathon participation:

October Read-a-Thon: And so it begins!

Post-It Readathon

10. The Person away from the Book

Finally, you will get to know the person that is separate from the books I read. Sometimes I write about what’s going on in my life:

She Was a Day Tripper…

Valentine’s Day?

A Slice of Crappy Life

and sometimes I feature the other interests and hobbies in my life:

Gaming:

TV

Movies

Cooking

———***——–

All of this, and writings I can’t foresee, will be featured here at Adventures in Borkdom. Obviously, if you want to know a bit more about me, the writer, check out my “About” page .

Thanks again for reading my blog and taking an interest in what I care about. I hope you enjoy what I put out there.


Man alive, is writing hard!

I have staged a few comebacks here at Adventures in Borkdom, but none have taken as much effort, nor have been as inspiring, as writing a post for my good friend SJ.

SJ, as you may or may not know, has been hosting the most awesome of awesome readalongs with her Putting the Blog in Balrog (PtBiB). This is one thing that I have been very faithful in doing during the last month–my weekly PtBiB readings of Tolkien. While reading along, I have been trying to engage in the PtBiB conversations over at SJ’s Snobbery, as well as drinking along and tweeting with my fellow PtBiBers during our Friday night viewings of the LOTR films. I’ve wanted to contribute more to the group and our effort in the way of writing, so I got to work on a biography post on Tolkien for SJ’s site.

After reading a biography on Tolkien, written by Humphrey Carpenter, I spent most of Sunday and Monday writing the 3,540 word bio-article. And wow! That was rough!

I had forgotten how hard it is to write! They’re really not joking when they say “writing is a muscle that must be exercised regularly.” No shit! But, the work was done, I submitted it to SJ, and she published the first half of the post yesterday. If you’d like to read it, click here: Classic Authors: They’re Just Like Us! JRR Tolkien part one. The second part will be published tomorrow at Snobbery.

While it was a helluva lot of work to do, seeing my writing published and appreciated made me realize how much I missed serious blogging. Committed blogging. Not just random posts every couple of weeks. I think it’s all or nothing for me: I can’t just dabble in anything.

So, I’m going to propose right now that my goal for August is to get back into blogging full time. For reals this time.

I have a plan.

What I mean to do in August is the following:

– write reviews again, both full and mini-sized

– lifestyle posts (what’s going on in my life besides books)

– memes on occasion (they’re fun and good for ideas)

I’m also planning on (and already working towards) a new weekly feature here at Adventures in Borkdom tentatively called “Inspired Acts”. This would be a weekly post in which I detail some sort of activity I take part in that relates to something I have just read. For example, I just finished Hatchet, and so I will be taking a hike in the mountains in honor of the book, and will share details from the event and connections to the book here on the blog. Look for my first installment sometime later this week (I’ve got to figure out when I can fit in a drive up to the mountains!).

I’m pretty excited about August, and I am thankful to SJ for giving me the opportunity to re-enter blogging via her site. She’s always very supportive of me, and writing for her was an honor.

In the meantime, look out for tomorrow’s post, which will be full of mini-reviews on all of the books I have read since my last review (I’m thinking this will cover about 10 books at least). Also, don’t be surprised if the look of my blog changes–the Vertigo theme has been cool, but I think I’m ready to get more bookish again (might even go back to my old look, not sure).

Oh, one other thing…at some point in late August, it will be my one-year blogging anniversary. Therefore, obviously, this is a month of celebration and writing. I’m not sure what the celebrating will look like (probably some book giveaways or something), but it will happen in some way, shape, or form.

As always, thank you, any, and all, readers still reading. If you stick around, I promise I’ll keep putting out stuff for you to read!

– Mandy


Please note: I am inspired by and have taken liberally from the blogging manifesto at The Perpetual Page-Turner. Some of what I am writing here is taken word for word from this post, and I want to say thanks to The Perpetual Page-Turner for the inspiration and content. It was written so well, I couldn’t come up with better words than those written there. Please check out The Perpetual Page-Turner‘s My Blogging Manifesto.

This post is for me and anyone interested in my purpose here at Adventures in Borkdom. I might take snippets from this post and add them to my “About Me” page as this pretty much covers what this blog is all about.

As a few of my readers may know, I have been in sort of a slump for the last couple of days. I haven’t been very happy with myself and have been trying to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. I have been working on solving problems that have been nagging me (completing tasks that I have been dreading and putting off all year) and I think that I am out of the woods now in terms of my self-loathing mood.

Part of my downer mood stemmed from blogging. Not a lot, but I was considering what my purpose was here. So, I took nearly a week off to really consider what I want to do here at Adventures in Borkdom and why I want to do it. It’s kind of ironic that this was an issue, as my last post was all about advising other bloggers how and why to keep writing what they want. What can I say? I’m a moody person.

On Tuesday, I really enjoyed reading a lot of posts which offered advice to new book bloggers. One post really stood out, written by Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish. In my reflective, “What am I doing? and Why?” state, I was drawn to Jamie’s advice to create a blogging manifesto. I clicked on her link to her own blogging manifesto and decided that this was what I needed to do. I needed to lay down for myself what it is that I want to do and why, and a manifesto was perfect. So here I am.

Why I Started Blogging:

I started blogging because I wanted to write. In the summer of 2011, I set my goal to start writing. So, I pushed myself to write a few pages in a journal daily. After a few weeks of this, I looked into blogging and found that a lot of people were out there simply writing about what they loved. And commiserating with other people about what they loved. This sounded like my kind of bag–I love reading, watching movies, playing video games, listening to music, and many other odd hobbies, and I love discussing them with other people. With blogging, I could do all of this and write regularly.

I want to write fiction. However, I continue to find that my writing strength lies in essay composition. I have a very small background in journalism (I was the editor of a college newspaper at one time) and a large background in essays on literature. I get to use this skill when teaching my students how to write essays, but I miss using this skill for myself. I found that blogging could put this skill to use and I wouldn’t have to regret not finishing grad school (at least, not so much). Now, if only I could find a way to put my gymnastics background to use, I’d feel pretty complete!

My Blogging Manifesto:

• My blog will not define me. It is merely an extension of who I am.

I am not simply a blogger. I am not simply a teacher. I am not just “wife” or “daughter” or “sister” or “friend” or “the girl who reads a lot of books”. I am just Mandy. And I will not be defined in simple terms.

• I will not define my blog.

Adventures in Borkdom is representative of all things that I am interested in–bookish and not. Therefore,

• I will not limit myself in what I write.

Every once in a while, I become less interested in one hobby and more interested in another. Hence, my post on gaming, or posts on music or movies or television. In the summer, for at least a week, if not two, I will be attending and writing about Comic-Con, which might not be very bookish at all! But, this blog is about ME and the adventures that I have as a self-proclaimed book dork.

• I will not limit myself in what I read.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll have noticed that I read a lot of classics. Yet, I also read a lot of fantasy. If you were reading my blog back in the fall, you would’ve thought that I only read contemporary fiction and horror. I read what I want, when I want, as my mood suits me.

• I will try new things!

The blog title begins with the word “Adventures”, so I really need to have more adventures. I am proclaiming now that I will start taking more risks in what I read, watch, listen to, do, and write. Perhaps that can be a regular feature…an adventure each month?

• I will always try to write something that matters.

Each post will be composed with careful thought and purpose, and I will not post something just for the purpose of posting. Even if it looks and feels light, there will be some reasoning for each and every post I publish.

• When I take part in memes, host giveaways, give blogging awards, or respond to a tag, I will make the post content-heavy, so it isn’t just another fluff piece.

• I will be respectful to other bloggers and my readers.

• On the other hand, I will be respectful to myself and will write what I will and how I will.

If I include expletives in a post or content in a video that is offensive, sorry sensitive reader. This is my happy place, and I’ll do what I want with it.

• I will do my damnedest to keep Adventures in Borkdom my happy place.

I will never allow blogging to become a burden.

• I will step away for a break the moment it becomes a burden.

• I will not obsess over my blog’s growth, followers, stats, and will not compare myself to others in a negative fashion.

• I will continue to find joy and excitement in the gain of followers and stats and will look to other blogs for ideas and inspiration.

• Above all, I will blog because I love to read, watch, listen, and do, and I want to share my love with others.

So, this is what I am doing here at Adventures in Borkdom, and why I’m doing it.

I feel better now, having written this. If you feel like you’re losing your sense of purpose or focus in blogging, I recommend that you follow Jamie’s advice and compose your own blogging manifesto.


Dear Blogging Colleagues,

I am recovering from a bout of rage I suffered last night on behalf of one of my favorite blogs. It seems that another blogger decided to write a snarky post on their own blog which mocked the content of my friends’ blog. Now, I’m fiercely loyal to my friends and family, so I was immediately up in arms. I was so angry! And so frustrated because I felt that there was nothing I could do about it. It was out of my control. My dad always tells me to only worry about the things I can control. Don’t waste time on the things I can’t. It’s great advice, but I couldn’t put it to practice until I was done seething.

This morning I woke up with a lot less rage, and realized that there was one thing that I could control; there’s one thing that we can all control–ourselves.

This letter is an attempt for me to remind myself and you, my fellow bloggers, that we need to worry less about others and more about ourselves.

I’m a relatively new blogger at just over six months, and I don’t have a lot of followers. Many of the ones that I do have are just as new as I am, or even newer at a few months old. As we spend more time blogging, I have no doubt that eventually we’re going to deal with some sort of negative backlash to what we have created, and we will be confused, enraged, frustrated, and unsure about how to react. This seems to be a rite of passage for all who put their opinions and feelings out into the world via their blogs.

In my ripe old age of six months in the blogosphere, I have seen nearly all of my closest buddies hurt or angered by what another blogger or commenter has written about them on another blog or in their own comments section. Each has been criticized for different aspects of their blog, and each has reacted in different ways.

I have seen bloggers criticized for their opinions, their writing style, their reading choices, and now their self-created awards (how lame is that? how can you criticize someone for creating a way to give love back to their readers?).

I have seen bloggers react to backlash in different ways:

• respond in turn to the negative comment on one’s post, and if they’re completely off their rockers, give them a comment award.

• respond to the negative comment on one’s post and write a subsequent post discussing the issue.

• respond to the negative blog post by writing a responsive post on one’s own blog that provides a link to the critic’s negative post (the downside is that the offender get hits on their own blog).

• respond with a polite comment on the negative blog post which the critic may or may not approve.

All of these are perfectly good responses to the negativity. You could, of course, simply ignore it as well, but responding provides a release for your own frustration, and could possibly end up changing the negative commenter’s mind. Sometimes it was all a big misunderstanding that gets worked out via conversation. Also, all of the above responses result in a learning experience for your other readers and provide ample material for conversation amongst all.

What is NOT a good response to negativity is stopping what you’re doing! Do not stop writing, do not change what you’re writing, KEEP GOING!

You must keep in mind that for every person who doesn’t like what you’re saying or doing, there are five (or many, many more, as is the case with a few of my blogging buddies) who love it, and depend upon you to do what you do. It’s an age-old problem in teaching–the squeaky wheel gets the oil. The good kids are ignored for the one bad kid’s behavior. DON’T FORGET US, YOUR FAITHFUL READERS!

More importantly, don’t forget about you! It’s really easy to get caught up in the stats game, analyzing what readers like and don’t like, and writing more of what is popular with your readers. That’s great that you care about your readers. But, if you’re like me, you got into blogging for yourself. You started your blog because you wanted to write about what you cared about and finally got the guts to share it with the world. In the end, we (your readers) are just lucky that we get to read what you’re writing. You could just squirrel it away in a journal like most people do.

Your blog is yours. Do what you want with it. If it’s authentic, honest, and true, people will read it. Some people won’t like it, either because they disagree with you, or because they’re just rotten and need something or someone to pick on. In the end, you gotta blow it off because it’s not about them. It’s about you, and, in what should be a smaller sense, your faithful readers.

If anything, just realize that I’m writing this letter because I care that you keep doing what you love. I’m rather vanilla here on the blog, so I haven’t dealt with any haters yet (at least, none that I know about). And I know, judging by the other comments I see on your blogs and on Twitter, that I’m not the only one who feels this way about your blogs. If writing makes you feel good, and you have reached even just one person with what you have created, you should be thrilled. As they say, haters are gonna hate. Just keep on doing what you do!

Sincerely,

Mandy


A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

• Hardcover: 211 pages

• Publisher: Scribners, 1964 (first edition!)

• ISBN:64-15441

• Genre: Memoir/Classic

• Recommended For: Anyone interested in descriptive memoirs, classic authors, “the Lost Generation”, and writing tips from one of America’s best authors.

Quick Review:

An excellent quick read that inspires the aspiring writer and paints a lovely picture of Paris in the ’20s. Really brings Hemingway down-to-earth and makes me want to try to re-read some of his novels (never was a fan).

How I Got Here: My sister is currently on her belated honeymoon in Paris, and one of her goals was to see all the sights that she read about in this book. Before she left, she insisted that I also read the book, thinking that it would be inspiring as a writing book. This books satisfies tasks for A Classics ChallengeEnd of the World Challenge, and the Award-Winning Challenge. It’s also number 72 on my list for The Classics Club.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

“If you are lucky enough 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.”

– ERNEST HEMINGWAY, to a friend, 1950

Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway’s most beloved works. It is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, filled with irreverent portraits of other expatriate luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein; tender memories of his first wife, Hadley; and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.

My Analysis and Critique:

I’ve written quite a bit about this book already, and I’m sure it’s obvious that I greatly enjoyed this book.

I was and am surprised that I enjoyed A Moveable Feast so much as I’ve never been a fan of Hemingway’s. I always considered myself in the Steinbeck camp–Hemingway’s style always felt cold to me. Maybe it’s his minimalist, lean style. However, A Moveable Feast was nothing but heart! I saw Paris through Hemingway’s eyes, I could hear every conversation he transcribed, and I could taste the delicious meals and wine he consumed.

The book is composed of the journal entries he recorded as a young man living in Paris in the ’20s, and this is apparent in his stream-of-consciousness style. It was very engaging. Hemingway reflects upon his favorite spots in the city, the start and dissolution of his friendship with Gertrude Stein, his true friends and his phony colleagues. He comes off as a jerk at times, but his writing reflects his youth, and is as forgivable as any youthful misbehavior.

A Moveable Feast is also full of writing tips from Hemingway, as he reflects quite a bit on his writing process, the obstacles that got in the way of his writing, and how he dealt with said obstacles. Any creative person would get something out of Hemingway’s tips. I would place this on the shelf next to my most-prized writing books.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for its wonderful descriptions of Paris, the lively characters that Hemingway reflects upon (including Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald), and the inspiration it stirs in my writer’s soul. A quick read and worth anyone’s time!

Check out my previous posts below to get a better feeling for the writing in the book!

Links:

A Moveable Feast and Paris in the ’20s

Classic Authors: They’re Just Like Us–Ernest Hemingway Part One and Two

Goodreads Reviews


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?”

and

“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.”

and

“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.”

“Yes.”

“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.

Sources:

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