Style Imitation: Ernest Hemingway

And you claim to be a writer, too. You’re only a newspaper man. An expatriated newspaper man. You ought to be ironical the minute you get out of bed. You ought to wake up with your mouth full of pity.

— Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

It was spring that night in Paris. I walked down the street and went into the bar on the corner.

“A beer,” I said, sitting down on a barstool. The bar was pretty empty. The only other people there were an old man and a middle-aged couple. The couple was staggering around and laughing. I stared at my beer.

“The beer’s good,” said the old man next to me.

“Yes.”

“Was better thirty years ago.”

“Was it?”

“Yes.” He paused. He drank his beer.

“What did you do?” I asked. “Thirty years ago.”

“Wrote,” he said. “Still do. I wrote some damn good books, too.” He turned his head. “What do you do?”

“I work at a newspaper,” I said.

“It’s a nice job,” he said. “I worked at a newspaper once … It is very important to discover graceful exits in the newspaper business, where it is such an important part of the ethics that you should never seem to be working.”

I laughed. “It’s true, you know.”

“Yes,” he said. He waved his hand at the bartender. “Another beer.”

“You still live here?” I asked.

“No, America. Nice to meet another American in this town. Nice to talk to someone in English.”

“It’s a fine town,” I said. “But it is nice to talk English.” The old man nodded, and drank his beer. We sat awhile in silence.

“Why did you move back to America?” I asked.

“Memories. Too many memories. If I could forget everything then maybe I could live here again.”

He sounded very tired. I wondered what it was that was making him sound so sad. I was sure he had loved Paris once: the bright lights, the sidewalk cafes, the artists starving in the hope of immortality.

“Hell,” I said, “Move back anyway. It’s a fine town, maybe it’s changed. Maybe it’s different.”

“Can’t.”

I couldn’t decide whether he meant that Paris couldn’t change or that he couldn’t move back. Maybe both.

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