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It started as a trip to Homegoods, and a fruitless search for dorm decor.
I was wading through a center aisle, knee-deep in a melange of pleather ottomans, outdoor garden ornaments, and kitschy teacups, when I spotted a worn book on a shelf ahead: “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway. I lifted it from the shelf and turned it over, only to find the back blank, the dust jacket non-existent, and the cover glued to the “pages.” The book was a prop, a fake, meant solely for decoration.
Enraged though I was at the thought that someone who could care less about the content would display a faux-Hemingway on the living room shelf, I realized that I was being a bit hypocritical: I myself had not read the book. Returning home sans rug, lamp, and anything else I had actually been looking for, I rummaged through my family’s old collection of classics, found the book, and ensconced myself in our reading chair.
Thanks to Hemingway’s lean, clean prose, images of Boulevard St. Germain and the Café des Amateurs filled my days. Stories of the writer hobnobbing with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald on the tree-lined streets of Paris made my café au lait-deprived heart turn the pages for more.
Hemingway steered me through his time in Paris at a snappy pace, without belaboring any one point. This vision, however, is Paris without Dior sunglasses and Chanel-infused air: the café’s “yellowed poster stating the terms and penalties of the law against public drunkenness was fly blown and disregarded as its clients were constant and ill-smelling.”
Though today’s Parisian squares may be marred by a Starbucks or two, Hemingway’s credo still holds: “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.” For the less fortunate among us, Hemingway has packaged up the Paris of his eye. It’s so accessible, it even trickled down to Homegoods! Well, sort of.
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