Chapter 10 (of 20) Birth of a New School
Chapter 1 (of 20), A Good Café on the Place St-Michael, will take you back in time to the story that began my French culinary experiences while reading A Moveable Feast, chapter by chapter. From there, each chapter will take you to the next chapter and culinary experience.
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernest Hemingway.
Chapter 10 (of 20) Birth of a New School accompanied by a warm camembert and grape baguette at Paul Bakery-Café, Bankside.
Notes From Chapter 10: Birth of a New School
A WorkLife Book Club For One
Notes on Luck and Being Lucky
The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener, and luck were all you needed. For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit’s foot in your right pocket.
Then you would hear someone say, ‘Hi Hem, what are you trying to do? Write in a café?’
Your luck had run out and you shut your notebook. This was the worst thing that could happen.
I liked learning about Hemingway’s rituals for writing – the basics to get into it each day because that’s what I like about writing – all that’s needed to get into it are the basics.
And I liked learning that he carried something for luck – I’ve never thought to do that. Still, I enjoy learning what other writers do.
Notes on Critics and Criticism
‘Hem, he said and I knew he was a critic now since, in a conversation, they put your name at the beginning of a sentence rather than at the end, I have to tell you I find your work just a little too stark.’
‘Too bad,’ I said.
‘Hem, it’s too stripped, too lean.’
‘Hem, too stark, too stripped, too sinewy.’
I felt the rabbit’s foot in my pocket guiltily. ‘I’ll try to fatten it up a little.’
‘Mind, I don’t want it obese.’
‘Hal,’ I said, practising speaking like a critic, ‘I’ll avoid that as long as I can.’
‘Glad we see eye to eye.’ He said manfully.
‘You’ll remember about not coming here when I’m working?’
‘Naturally, Hem. Of course. I’ll have my own café now.’
‘You’re very kind.’
‘I try to be, ‘ he said.
It would be interesting and instructive if the young man had turned out to be a famous critic but it did not turn out that way although I had high hopes for a while.
When Hemingway first closed his notebook, he tried, unsuccessfully, to hold his temper with the young man who was intent on striking up a conversation when Hemingway was trying to work.
In the end, he gave up and engaged with him as a critic who was intent on offering up his criticism, whether Hemingway wanted it or not.
Hemingway handled the critic and the criticism with a sense of wit and ridicule, although the young man was oblivious to that.
I cannot abide uninvited critics and unsolicited criticism any more than Hemingway could with the young writer. I’m not as quick thinking with my wit or as brave with my ridicule as Hemingway, but in some deserving cases, maybe I need to be!
And now, thanks to Hemingway’s insight that a critic puts your name at the beginning of a sentence rather than at the end, I can perhaps get a step ahead. From experience, I recognise this to be a very true and wise observation.
Words of Wisdom
I did not think he would come back the next day but I did not want to take chances. So the next morning I woke early and worked on the dining room table. I worked better than I had ever done. In those days you did not really need anything, not even the rabbit’s foot, but it was good to feel it in your pocket.
These words of wisdom and Hemingway’s handling of the critic and his criticism connected to other wise words I heard today:
David Aaker, on Design Matters podcast with Debbie Millman, said, “Three hours of solid work each day before procrastinating works.”
Adam Grant on WorkLife with Adam Grant wound up his podcast interview with Adam McKay, saying, “People often say that comedy is tragedy plus time. But sometimes we don’t have time, and I think part of the power of Adam’s work is he teaches us if we can take the tragedy and tilt it 30 degrees, amplify the absurdity. It becomes funny because it’s so preposterous, and as we laugh, we can start to look at the issue it represents with a more open mind.”
I really love how the learning I’m taking from the chapters of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast connects with my day-to-day learning from other sources simply because I love to learn by connecting different things. In this case, the same approach taken by people in very different eras to get good work done and in using ridicule to deal with the absurd.
I’m not sure when I’ll read the next chapter of A Moveable Feast over a glass and a plate.
It most likely will be another spontaneous happening. It may take a little planning to keep the French theme going, or as I walk and explore and discover, it may not. …
The Continuing Story …
I can now share where Chapter 11 (of 20)… With Pascin at the Dôme took me …
Today I enjoyed a warm camembert and grape baguette at Paul Bakery-Café, Bankside.
Se souvenir de toi, Norma.
#FUNFACT1 “According to legend, Camembert was first made in 1791 by Marie Harel, a dairymaid from Normandy, using a recipe from a priest from the Brie region, who was fleeing the anti-clerical French Revolution.” (Source Grapes &Grains).
#FUNFACT2 Paul’s story began in 1889 with a small bakery near Lille, France. In the 1970s, they installed a wood-fired oven and bakery that operated in full view of customers. This was innovative at the time to see bread being made in the traditional fashion – kneading, shaping, proving and baking. (Soruce Paul).
#FUNFACT3 Bankside was once a cacophonous pleasure zone with brothels, bear-baiting, gaming dens and four Tudor theatres: The Globe, The Rose, the Swan and the Hope. Shakespeare and Dickens lived here. Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire light up the London sky from here in 1666. (Source Diary of a Londoness).
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