"For reasons sufficient to the writer,” wrote Ernest Hemingway in notes for a preface to his collection of about-to-be-posthumous Parisian fragments (a preface later pieced together by Mary Hemingway as if from Cuba in 1960), “many places, people, observations and impressions have been left out of this book”:
There is no mention of the Stade Anastasie where the boxers served as waiters at the tables set out under the trees and the ring was in the garden. Nor of training with Larry Gains, nor the great twenty-round fights at the Cirque d’Hiver. Nor of such good friends as Charlie Sweeny, Bill Bird and Mike Strater … It would be fine if all these were in this book but we will have to do without them for now.
This tactic of teasing the customer with the hint of splendors withheld—like Dr. Watson’s making us wonder about the untold Holmes adventure of the giant rat of Sumatra—was rounded off with another piece of coquetry, when “Papa” closed by saying:
If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.
This challenge may or may not have been intended as literal. But the first thing to say about the “restored” edition so ably and attractively produced by Patrick and Seán Hemingway is that it does live up to its billing, in that at last it gives us the Stade Anastasie and Larry Gains (a handsome black Canadian heavyweight now lost to history) and thus manages that fusion of food writing and pugilism that is somehow associated with Americans in Paris, and not just because of Papa and A. J. Liebling. The new story “A Strange Fight Club” is well worth having, too. It pictures Larry Gains’s Parisian opponent thus:
The new heavy weight was a local boy who had been employed carrying parts of carcasses in the stockyards until he had an accident which affected his reasoning power.
This capture of the elemental brutishness of boxing—and by one of its aficionados—does a good deal to reaffirm Hemingway’s sometimes mocked reputation as a master of the terse and muscular sentence.
There has always been much speculation about how much the redaction of A Moveable Feast is a product or consequence of its relation to the sequence of Hemingway’s marriages. It was largely written about his time with Hadley, touches on his defection to the arms of Pauline, and after his suicide was pasted together by Mary. If we make the common assumption that Mary desired to downplay her predecessors where possible (there is no way to write the lovely Hadley out of the script altogether), then this would furnish an explanation for the reappearance of two fragments in particular: the marvelous little study of Hemingway’s outings with his firstborn son, titled “The Education of Mr. Bumby,” and the intriguing episode “Secret Pleasures,” in which Hemingway writes with undisguised sexual excitement about the good and bad “hair days” that he shared with his first spouse.