Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley lived in Paris in the 1920s with their young son Bumby. They were poor, but their lives were as rich as any artist or writer could hope for. They regularly spent time with some of the best known writers of the 20th century, and Hemingway's observations of them are mesmerizing. Using descriptions of people in the book (below), see how Hemingway uses metaphors, sounds, imagery, and creative adjectives to paint pictures of his friends.
On Gertrude Stein:
"Miss Stein was very big but not tall and was heavily built like a peasant woman. She had beautiful eyes and a strong German-Jewish face that also could have been Friulano and she reminded me of a northern Italian peasant woman with her clothes, her mobile face and her lovely, thick, alive immigrant hair which she wore put up in the same way she had probably worn it in college."
"In the three or four years that we were good friends I cannot remember Gertrude Stein ever speaking well of any writer who had not written favorably about her work or done something to advance her career except for Ronald Firbank and, later, Scott Fitzgerald."
"Sylvia had a lively, sharply sculpted face, brown eyes that were as alive as a small animal's and as gay as a young girl's, and wavy brown hair that was brushed back from her fine forehead and cut thick below her ears and at the line of the collar of the brown velvet jacket she wore. She had pretty legs and she was kind, cheerful and interested, and loved to make jokes and gossip. No one that I ever knew was nicer to me."
On Ford Madox Ford:
"It was Ford Madox Ford, as he called himself then, and he was breathing heavily through a heavy, stained mustache and holding himself as upright as an ambulatory, well clothed, up-ended hogshead
"Ezra was kinder and more Christian about people than I was. His own writing, when he would hit it right, was so perfect, and he was so sincere in his mistakes and so enamored of his errors, and so kind to people that I always thought of him as a sort of saint. He was also irascible but so perhaps have been many saints."
On Ernest Walsh:
Ernest Walsh was dark, intense, faultlessly Irish, poetic and clearly marked for death as a character is marked for death in a motion picture. He was talking to Ezra and I talked with the girls who asked me if I had read Mr. Walsh's poems. I had not and one of them brought out a green-covered copy of Harriet Monroe's Poetry, A Magazine of Verse and showed me poems by Walsh in it."
Scott was a man then who looked like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty. He had very fair wavy hair, a high forehead, excited and friendly eyes and a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty. His chin was well built and he had good ears and a handsome, almost beautiful unmarked nose. This should not have added up to a pretty face, but that came from the coloring, the very fair hair and the mouth. The mouth worried you until you knew him and then it worried you more."
On Dunc Chaplin (baseball player):
"I had not followed Princeton baseball and had never heard of Dunc Chaplin but he was extraordinarily nice, unworried, relaxed and friendly and I much preferred him to Scott."
Zelda had hawk's eyes and a thin mouth and deep-south manners and accent. Watching her face you could see her mind leave the table and go to the night's party and return with her eyes blank as a cat's and then pleased, and the pleasure would show along the thin line of her lips and then be gone."
"She was smiling, the sun on her lovely face tanned by the snow and sun, beautifully built, her hair red gold in the sun, grown out all winter awkwardly and beautifully, and Mr. Bumby standing with her, blond and chunky and with winter cheeks looking like a good Vorarlberg boy."
Did he keep a journal or notes of all of these encounters and then go back and use them later? Did his imagination play on them for years until the people became caricatures of their real selves?
It doesn't really matter. Reading such descriptions make you see the world differently and respect words for their inherent power. Thanks, Hem (as his friends would say).