There is a scene in the last section of A Moveable Feast where F. Scott Fitzgerald confesses to Ernest Hemingway that he has only ever been with one woman; Zelda. What’s more, he tells Hemingway that Zelda insists her husband could not ever please another woman. “It is a matter of measurements,” she says. Hemingway and Fitzgerald head to the restroom so Hemingway can take a look. Hemingway assures his friend that he is of normal size. As the availability of Internet porn was still more than 50 years away, the two then went to the Louvre so that Fitzgerald could inspect the male nudes for his further assurance. I have no idea why Woody Allen would have left that part out of Midnight in Paris. Less time in Gertrude Stein’s parlour, more time inspecting schlongs at the Louvre please!
Now, I’m very thankful that Ernest Hemingway included the penis measuring scene. It made me sad that I hadn’t read A Moveable Feast years ago and I will definitely recommend this book to anyone I can with a big wink about the last chapter because I’m very immature. So now that we’ve established how great this scene is, let’s talk about everything that’s wrong with it by running through a few scenarios.
1) Hemingway made it up.
It all seems a bit implausible. For one, Hemingway was inspecting Fitzgerald’s flaccid penis. Likewise for the sculptures in the Louvre; Michaelangelo didn’t generally carve dudes into marble in their most excited state. So how would he even know if it was a normal size? Is Fitzgerald a grower or a shower? We’ll never be sure.
2) It actually happened and Hemingway included the anecdote to illustrate what an awful person Zelda was.
He was never her biggest fan and if the anecdote is true it makes Zelda look cruel. It makes it look as though she is holding her husband hostage in their marriage. But Zelda isn’t the problem here, our man Ernest is. A Moveable Feast is a memoir of Hemingway’s life, not Fitzgerald’s and the inclusion of personal information about Fitzgerald’s marriage is what is really cruel.
3) It actually happened and Hemingway included the anecdote as an insult to his friend’s masculinity.
Aren’t these guys supposed to be friends? Fitzgerald was long dead by the time this book was published making the inclusion of the anecdote doubly petty. It’s also not the only instance in the book when Hemingway shares personal information about one of his friends that might damage their reputation. He includes a mention that Gertrude Stein was a lesbian – not an insignificant detail in the early 1960s when the book was being composed.
Ernest Hemingway was a jerk. He was one of the most successful writers of his time and didn’t have to resort to dick-size comparisons for the sake of his self esteem. Let’s leave those for Ford Maddox Ford.