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'Fitzgerald and Hemingway: Work and Days' and 'A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition'

BOOK REVIEW

July 26, 2009|Matthew Shaer | Shaer last wrote for The Times on the German writer Hans Fallada.

Fitzgerald also appears in another "tortured accumulation of history and ideas and personal experience": Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast," newly reissued in a "restored" edition introduced and edited by his grandson Sean. The original -- left unfinished when Hemingway killed himself in 1961 -- was prepared by the author's fourth wife, Mary.

This new version is meant as a corrective, drawn from Hemingway's typed manuscript and featuring several previously unpublished vignettes. Pauline Pfieffer, Hemingway's second wife -- and Sean Hemingway's grandmother -- is cast in a more favorable light, and the chapters have been returned to what Sean claims is the proper order. "This is a truer representation of the book my grandfather intended to publish," he writes.

Not everyone agrees. According to A.E. Hotchner, a friend of Hemingway's, the author had all but finished "A Moveable Feast" at his death. Furthermore, Hotchner argues, Mary "had very little involvement with the book." A new edition is, therefore, not only unnecessary but also dangerous; from now on, the logic goes, relatives of famous authors will have license to muck about with the canonical texts.

Yet Hotchner's argument is somewhat specious: Hemingway left a contradictory record when it came to this book, and he may not have wanted it published at all. "A Moveable Feast" was certainly not finished in the way that "The Old Man and the Sea" was finished, and scholars such as Jacqueline Tournier-Courbin have shown that the original manuscript was significantly refigured before it was released in 1964. If traditionalists prefer that edition, it remains in print. Meanwhile, students of Hemingway have "The Restored Edition," which casts fresh light on the novelist's Paris days.

The book Sean Hemingway has worked up is clunky in spots -- the ending becomes overly abrupt -- but it is also more nuanced when it comes to Hemingway's relationships, including his friendship with Fitzgerald. The big moments remain: Hemingway still evaluates Fitzgerald's manhood ("You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened," he explains, helpfully) and the pair get their grand adventure in Lyon, where Fitzgerald has a fit of hypochondria. (Hemingway, presenting his charge with a bath thermometer: "You're lucky it's not a rectal thermometer.")

But there are two new glimpses of Fitzgerald in this edition, one in Paris and one back in the States, where Hemingway is forced to take care of his drunken friend. After Hemingway and his son encounter an agitated Fitzgerald at a cafe, the boy asks whether "Poor Monsieur Fitzgerald" will be OK. "I hope so," Hemingway replies. "But he has very grave problems."

Fitzgerald did have very grave problems, but so did Hemingway, and despite his bluster, he saw something of himself in his friend. A few years Fitzgerald's junior, Hemingway nonetheless acts in "A Moveable Feast" as his guardian, and his crutch -- when Zelda torments Scott, Ernest is there to hold him up. Among the most telling changes here concerns Hemingway's famous comparison of Fitzgerald to a wounded butterfly. In the first version of the book, Hemingway writes that Fitzgerald "could not fly anymore because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless."

In "The Restored Edition," though, Hemingway does not see Fitzgerald as permanently grounded. "He was flying again," he writes, "and I was lucky to meet him just after a good time in his writing if not a good one in his life."

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When famous writers feud

Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald are not the only literary friends to see their relationship go cold. Indeed, the history of literature is a history of betrayals, of writers turning on each other and collaborations falling apart. Below, we give you five other failed literary friendships and feuds.

Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne

Melville and Hawthorne were friends for only a couple of years, from 1850, when they met, until 1852, when they stopped corresponding. As to why this was, one possible reason is Hawthorne's inability to get Melville a job with the U.S. government, which, notes the website "The Life and Works of Herman Melville," left the "Moby-Dick" author "embarrassed and chagrined."

Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ivan Turgenev

There was no love lost among these three 19th century Russian giants, despite the fact that they had much in common, aesthetically and politically. According to a 2008 piece in Salon magazine, they spent many years sniping (Dostoevsky satirized Turgenev in his novel "The Possessed") -- an enmity that came to a head in 1861 when Tolstoy challenged Turgenev to a duel.

Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine

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