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10 “A Moveable Feast” or “a miserable time actually”? Ernest Hemingway, Kay Boyle, and Modernist Memoir Verna Kale • There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. . . . But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy. —Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast There was death from hunger and disease among the expatriates in Paris. . . . The lives of the very few who survived have now become barely recognizable in the distortion of time and memory, and constitute the fragile substance of myth. —Kay Boyle, in Robert McAlmon, Being Geniuses Together ForeverywriterofGertrudeStein’s“lostgeneration,”thereexistsaseparateParis. Like modernism itself, Paris of the 1920s resists definition, and memorializing their own version of Paris was something of a cottage industry for the aging Left Bank writers who survived the 1920s. Along with Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and Malcolm Cowley’s Exiles Return, Ernest Hemingway’s posthumouslypublished AMoveableFeastisprobablythemostfamousofthese memoirs. But there are others. Four years after A Moveable Feast, Kay Boyle published Being Geniuses Together as a revised and expanded edition of poet and publisher Robert McAlmon’s 1938 memoir of the same name. Boyle’s 1968 edition heavily alters the late McAlmon’s memoir, cutting entire chapters and 127 Cirino & Ott.indb 127 3/23/10 9:34:48 AM 128 verna kale significantly paring down those that remain.1 In their place Boyle adds chapters describing her own expatriate experience contemporaneous to McAlmon’s. By alternating McAlmon’s chapters with new chapters of her own, Boyle inserts her voice into the pages of his narrative, creating a dialogue with her late friend and mentor that rewrites the Paris mythos memorialized by McAlmon, Stein, Cowley, Hemingway, and others. Boyle’s 1968 edition may be an attempt to “tighten the sense of community shared by the American writers discussed in the narrative” and thus to “outline modernism” (Monk 486). But the 1968 edition of Geniuses is more than just another account of the lost generation.2 Boyle’s darker palette tempers the rosy hues of works like A Moveable Feast, and despite the sense of community implicit in its title—which she retained from the 1938 original—her chapters tell the story of a perennial outsider. Though it may seem odd to compare two memoirs in which the authors seem almost totally unaware of the other’s existence—Boyle barely mentions Hemingway in Geniuses, and Hemingway does not mention Boyle at all—it is precisely in this omission that the exigency of such a comparison is to be found. In reading Boyle’s little-known Being Geniuses Together against Hemingway’s commercially and critically popular A Moveable Feast, the argument can be made not only that Hemingway and Boyle have disparate, gendered perspectives of 1920s Paris but that these gendered perspectives further complicate the synchronic experiences that create 1920s Paris as a tropological space rather than a historical reality.3 Thiscomparisonthustakesonbothofthe“significantenterprises”thatmake up the “rubric” of the new modernist studies as outlined by Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz: “reconsider[ing] the definitions, locations, and producers of ‘modernism’” and “apply[ing] new approaches and methodologies to ‘modernist’ works” (Bad Modernisms 1). This first enterprise is accomplished not only by the inclusion of the critically neglected Kay Boyle as one of these important“producers”butbytheinclusionofthelate-careerErnestHemingway as well, an author whose mainstream success, long career, and popularity with the first generation of postwar scholars seem to have discouraged interest of recent scholars of modernism. This is also achieved by expanding the reach of modernism to include the memoirs of the 1960s as modernist works themselves , open to critical scrutiny, rather than reading them only as documentary evidence produced after modernism was deemed officially over. Methodologically, rereading A Moveable Feast alongside Being Geniuses Together provides an examination of the tropes of the two concomitant memoirs and considers the ways in which these tropes reflect “the issue of gender Cirino & Ott.indb 128 3/23/10 9:34:48 AM “a moveable feast” or “a miserable time actually”? 129 as an important element in defining the aesthetics and politics, the theory and practice, of what we now call Modernism” (Benstock 4). Doing so also recognizes the modernist “preoccu[pation] with . . . collage and translation,” a preoccupation visible in the way both authors admittedly offer up their memories as fragments of a whole imperfectly recalled (Mao and Walkowitz, Bad 2). Comparing these memoirs and the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781612775050
Related ISBN
9781606350423
MARC Record
OCLC
745697163
Pages
208
Launched on MUSE
2012-08-07
Language
English
Open Access
No
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