On Paris is a collection of Hemingway’s dispatches for The Toronto Star from Paris when he was a young man, living with his first wife Hadley and hoping to become a successful novelist one day. It is brief, almost just a pamphlet at 70 pages; a person could easily sit down and read it in one setting (as I did, with a nap in the middle, with a puppy in my lap and rain on the roof, ah). The articles, intended for newspaper readers, are very short. Sometimes they are fairly well anchored in “news” but more often they are humorous musings on culture – the French versus the American or Canadian – including food & drink, legal niceties, Parisian manners, the nightlife scenes in various cities around the globe compared, even ladies’ hats. Unlike what I think of as “serious” newspaper reporting today, there is a tongue-in-cheek tone in almost every article. Rarely does he play it straight, which makes this book so fun.
I began to list the funniest highlights, but that is clearly a waste of my time. These are all funny short pieces and perhaps most importantly, I was pleased to note that Hemingway’s “voice” is present even in these early examples of his writing. He is droll. He pens deceptively simple one-liners with deadpan delivery; there is a one-count pause for his audience to get the joke. He makes observations that are incisive and sometimes frivolous. While not his mature work, and not fiction for which he is best known, I found this a very enjoyable little nibble of Hemingway, and I recommend it.
My parents brought me this book as a gift from Paris, as a contribution to the shrine that I was then completing. I can’t remember, but I think they got it at Shakespeare & Co.; I know they went there; Mom, can you confirm or deny? And of course there are other Hemingway “On” books: Hemingway On Writing, On War, On Fishing, On Hunting… but I still have By-Line: Ernest Hemingway too, to serve my need for excerpts of his journalism.
Have you read any Hemingway and what do you think of him?