A Movable Feast, Hemingway's memoir of life in Paris in the 1920s, is probably not the most reliable memoir of the time. When I read it, I couldn't help but notice that Hemingway was at pains to denigrate writers whose reputations threatened to eclipse his own (Fitzgerald, Stein, Ford Madox Ford, all of whom were conveniently dead), while at the same time boosting the reputations of writers he deemed harmless. I for one don't for a second believe Hemingway's story about Fitzgerald's penis. (Which, if you don't know it, will send you straight to the library for a copy of the book, I'm sure.)
However you want to quibble with what Hemingway wants us to believe as fact, A Movable Feast is a beautifully written book. It's lovely, and a lovely reading experience.
But issues of reliability, and literary beauty, are separate from the fact of authorship. According to Hemingway friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner, Hemingway had completed the manuscript and submitted it to Scribner before his death, and what was published was Hemingway's own work, with a little editing.
I'm an author. I'm sensitive to this issue. I don't want someone messing with my works after I'm dead, and I don't want other writers messed with, either. I especially don't want my work made "less offensive," especially especially if the person being offended is someone's Grandma who is dead.
We put the words in that order for a reason. Maybe it was the wrong reason, but it was our reason, and it's our names on the cover helping to sell the book.
And why the hell is Scribner a part of this?
All publishers, Scribner included, are guardians of the books that authors entrust to them. Someone who inherits an author’s copyright is not entitled to amend his work. There is always the possibility that the inheritor could write his own book offering his own corrections.
Ernest was very protective of the words he wrote, words that gave the literary world a new style of writing. Surely he has the right to have these words protected against frivolous incursion, like this reworked volume that should be called “A Moveable Book.” I hope the Authors Guild is paying attention.
I hope so, too.