Friday, 11 December 2009

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast: Pencils and Sharpeners

In his autobiographical A Moveable Feast Ernest Hemingway reminisces about the time he roamed Paris, an unknown writer in the 1920s, writing in cafes, having lunches and cream coffees, poor, happy and in love - sharing Paris with such literary stars as Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce.

I knew I must write a novel. But it seemed an impossible thing to do when I had been trying with great difficulty to write paragraphs that would be the distillation of what made a novel.

Amongst his meetings, lunches, drinks and writings, there are references to pencils: Hemingway's favourite writing instruments. And sharpeners.

"I belong to this notebook and this pencil."

"The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were all you needed."

"A pencil-lead might break off in the conical nose of the pencil sharpener and you would use the small blade of the pen knife to clear it or else sharpen the pencil carefully with the sharp blade..."

And finally,

"You have to go?"
"Have to and want to."
"Go on, then," Pascin said. "And don't fall in love with typewriting paper."
"If I do, I'll write with a pencil."

 "The completely unambitious writer and the really good unpublished poem are the things we lack most at this time. There is, of course, the problem of sustenance."

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