I have just finished reading “A Moveable Feast”, and now I am laughing at myself. I am amazed by just how extremely distorted my memory of the book was. Hemingway was not eating mandarins every chapter or two. He mentions it only once in the book. There was also a lot more name-dropping than I remembered. However, his wife was a shadowy background figure, and as I read I remembered wondering on earlier readings just how she had spent her time while he was at cafes, visiting friends, and such.
My memory played a similar trick of distortion with a movie I watched on television over twenty years ago. I remembered Robert Morley in a kilt, a possible brief (!) appearance by Peter Sellers, but most of all I had been impressed by the crofters. This movie had shown scenes of crofters spinning and weaving on the Shetland Isles. Well, “The Battle of the Sexes” is a very amusing movie. Peter Sellers is the main character, so has more than a brief appearance. Robert Morley does appear in a kilt (and he seems much smaller than he did when I saw the movie during childhood – everyone has grown so much bigger). However, the crofters were shown for just a few seconds. I think my mother’s acquisition of a spinning wheel at the time had distorted my memory of the movie, or at least what I noticed and then remembered, and I suspect I ate a lot more mandarins during ‘A Moveable Feast’ than Hemingway did.
I tried to read ‘The Paris Wife’. What can I say? It did not match my preconceived notion of what Hadley’s life in Paris would have been like. I imagined something far more mundane, simply because they had so little money (according to Hemingway in ‘A Moveable Feast’), then had a child, and there was a reference to the hats, scarves and jumpers she had knitted from greasy handspun wool. Notice that strange distorting bias has appeared again: I have noticed the Austrian women who were spinning wool in their farmhouse kitchens. Crofters. I’ll be trying ‘The Paris Wife’ again next year, when my expectations have faded and I am able to appreciate the story that has been written.