From the Shelf

“I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

There are two books that I’m currently submersed in; Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” and Roman Payne’s “Rooftop Soliloquy.” There’s no specific reason I chose to dive into both books at once. A coincidence, to be sure; while I was aware of the content Roman Payne’s novel (the adventures of a mysterious man as he makes his way through Paris, enjoying drink and girls with equal fervor, and searching for inspiration to complete his heroic opera), I knew little of Hemingway’s, aside from it being a tale from the earlier years of his adult life. I was intrigued by the prospect of getting to know a younger Hemingway, which is a contrast to my limited knowledge of the man. I loved “The Old Man and the Sea,” but outside of that, I know only of the entertaining quotes found on a plethora of internet memes, and the tale of his tragic end by his own hand. That, and the iconic image of the silver-bearded man with the world-weary eyes and the thick wool turtle-neck sweater. I know of “Papa Hem.” This younger fella, he’s new to me.

Thus far, I’ve been impressed with the similarities between the two books, if not in direct content, then certainly in tone. Both are the day-to-day accounts of men who find themselves immersed in cultures not their own, though very much their own. Both are considered works of fiction, and yet you can feel the true stories seeping through the cracks. Two men sharing experiences generations apart; Hemingway of the “Lost Generation,” and Payne of my own generation, the absently labeled “X.” I’ve never much cared for that label, though it’s better than the “MTV Generation.” I suppose it basically means the same thing, which is probably why I despise it.

Hemingway’s writing style is far simpler than Payne’s; Payne is a poet first, and that becomes apparent in the eloquence of his prose. Within “A Moveable Feast,” Hemingway describes his own writing as a bare-bones approach to story-telling, stripping away the flourishes and saying only what needs to be said in the simplest manner possible; a style that, amusingly enough, Gertrude Stein considered idiotic.

I’m anxious to finish the books, and fortunately, neither is prohibitively long. Perhaps I’ll revisit this post, add to my thoughts, expand on their similarities, reveal their differences. Perhaps I’ll leave the thoughts open, adrift, floating around in the ether. There’s clearly room for more in this particular well, though not every well needs to be filled to be complete.