Literature Study GuidesA Moveable FeastThe End Of An Avocation Summary

A Moveable Feast | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast | The End of an Avocation | Summary



Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson call their hobby "racing," but really they're gambling on horses. Racing feels like a "demanding friend" to them—dangerous but occasionally profitable, and the profit motive keeps Hemingway devoted to it. Hemingway begins going to races alone and getting more involved. He describes how to watch the horses to ensure the best bets, finding it a full-time job. After a while he decides it is taking too much of his time and gives it up, feeling glad but empty.

On the day he quits he meets his friend Mike Ward for lunch. Ward, who doesn't like betting at the track, prefers bicycle racing and invites Hemingway to join him, which Hemingway does much later. Bicycle racing, with its many variations, intrigues Hemingway; he's tried and failed to write a story about the drama of the six-day races.


When Ernest Hemingway admits he's "so righteous about people and their destructiveness," he may be aware his youthful self was too hard on other writers. Hemingway's narrative cruelty toward Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford, and even F. Scott Fitzgerald has been interpreted as both simple viciousness and a critical examination of Hemingway's younger self from an older, kinder perspective. He recalls how other writers hurt their careers through substance abuse, lack of discipline, making enemies, or writing bad books—perhaps hoping he can learn from their mistakes.

He admits to one of his own vices: gambling, by another name. He describes racing as an intoxicating woman: "she could be profitable." Betting on horse races, like his writing career, takes work, research, and risk for any type of payoff, but the results are exhilarating.

The Lost Generation of 1920s' writers was known by its detractors for a hedonistic life, pursuing pleasure at all costs. Hemingway can fill the vacuum left at the end of a good experience only by "finding something better." Paris is the perfect city for him to chase different pleasures. The joy and magic of sports appeal to him: the competition, the anxiety and hope, the possibility of danger, the drama of an uncertain outcome, and the racing toward a goal. He wants to distill the energy and excitement into his writing but confesses he can't quite make writing approximate the experience here, especially not in English, because he says French is the only language to write properly about racing.

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