Monday, January 3, 2011

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.
          --Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

This morning, I was sitting in the Hardback Cafe of the Hastings in Helena enjoying a tall Red Eye (a shot of espresso topped with brewed coffee).  As the java jolted into my veins, I looked at the disposable cup and found the above quote printed on the side.

I've previously written about taking out my own notebook and pen and working on character sketches for Fobbit and this quote immediately took me back to that umbrella-topped table at Starbucks (also in Helena--why is it I seem to get so much public writing done in Montana's capitol city?).

I like the direct simplicity of Hemingway's style--always have--and this paragraph from A Moveable Feast shows how he gets right down to business after coming in off a "wild, cold, blowing day" on the streets of Paris.  Hemingway enters the cafe, fingers stiff with cold (perhaps he's blowing on them), he wraps his hands around a cup of coffee, then he prepares to do what he does best.  One word, then another, then another.  The tip of the pencil pulling across the page is the only thing he sees; the lead against the fibers of the paper is the only thing he hears.  We should all be so earnest in the single-minded pursuit of what we love.

Image: photo of Cafe de Flore comes from the website Paris Nights.


  1. I found much of Moveable Feast to be inspiring in a writerly was also extremely witty, as when EH describes the look in Whyndam Lewis's eyes.

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