NJWILDBEAUTY Readers know that, for all my deep enthusiasm for natural New Jersey, my heart belongs to France. Sometimes, most of the time, to Provence. Other times, Normandy and Brittany, especially Mt. St. Michel. Before I lived in Provence, however, Paris was my heart’s home.
The tragedy of Nice, of Slaughter on the Beach, alongside my sacred Boulevard des Anglais, haunts me, day and night. This insult to, revenge upon, beloved France, –who bore the brunt of battles to save the free world in the 1940s–, repeatedly astounds me. But even beyond that, –along with the Marathon Massacre in Boston, there has been a travesty against a major ritual of a country — the Bastille Day that honors its transformation into a place of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. What happened in Nice is the antithesis of everything for which Bastille Day and our Fourth of July have always stood. This summer’s meaningless massacres stain beach and Bastille Day forever.
My inner response has been multiple — most recently a series of Hemingway dreams. I am reading, [to relive the glory days of France and of American influence on Paris, on France and upon literature itself], “Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation.” This tour-de-force is a moment-by-moment evocation of Princetonian, Sylvia Beach, and her remarkable Shakespeare & C0mpany lending library.
Within its few small rooms, not only poetry and prose, but also music, dance, theatre; little reviews and major publishing coups (think James Joyce, Ulysses) were catalyzed. The beginnings of Hemingway; the expansion of Fitzgerald; the influence of doctor/poet William Carlos Williams; evenings involving T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Ford Madox Ford and the reclusive/demanding James Joyce. (Whom Hem dared to call Jim!) This level of cross-pollination took place under the dynamic, ceaseless leadership of the little dynamo, daughter of a Princeton minister: Sylvia Beach.
Really important in these pages is the power of women to forward all the arts in that daring time, described by another memoir as “Everybody Was So Young.”
Every time I read my favorite Hemingways, he improves, somehow. Paris, A Moveable Feast preceded Professor Noel Riley Fitch’s tome in my series of pilgrimages to France. Subtitled, “A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties,” I have been re-reading forever, and am only about in 1925.
Even so, this book is having a deep impact upon my dream life. Here are notes on Hemingway as I never, of course, actually experienced him. Stroll (no one walks fast in France) with me into the Paris cafe and celebrate the impact of this amazing city and inoubliable (unforgettable) country on the world as we know it today. Honor her glory, which no evil can erase, not even Hitler’s!
HEMINGWAY DREAM Notes:
1920’s. Hem’s earliest days in Paris. Knows no one. Seated at small hard white round table. Could be marble. Cardboard beer advertising coasters, –much used–, echo its circular shape. Although new to town, Hem is in rare form. [usual form in those years]. Cocky yet subtle. Looking all around. Taking it all in.
Cafe pretty empty, it’s that early. The Dome? Place of smoke-filtered pale winter sunlight. His hair is dark, unruly. Suit rumpled. Elbows on the table. Glancing around, grinning, though expecting to know people there. Waiters quietly scrub and wipe other tables, preparatory to lunch Pretty quiet.
Hemingway’s gaze veiled yet intense. Although he strives to look as though he knows someone there, I (standing in shadowy corner) realize he is looking around to see who HE is.
Hem’s right shoe rests upside-down upon his left knee,– audacious pose that would not have gone over in Oak Park or River Forest. He maintains the backwoods air — though not large, a Paul Bunyan in a Paris suit.
In the dream, I boldly sit across from Hemingway, [as I once did at an Outward-Bound-like event, with Roy Scheider of Jaws], because Hem is alone. He nods without words, orders me a biere. I sip reluctantly, because it is warm and tastes soapy. He doesn’t care if I like beer or not.
Hem wants me to know who he is, to ask “How did the writing go this morning?
What I say is, “Tell me about Michigan! Speak of trout, of birch-studded forests. Of the Indians who were there when YOU were, but not for me. Why did you have to rearrange the setting of the Big Two-Hearted River?”
The beer I do not like acts like a tonic, a potion, opening doors.