One of my local libraries has a great used-book store. I stop by about once a month and I always find a must-have title or two.
My latest haul included the September 1949 Bantam Books first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, for which I paid the princely sum of … one dollar.
A quick bit of research confirmed my suspicion the paperback is worth considerably more than a buck. (Copies in good condition, like mine, fetch seven or eight times that much. So, no, I won’t be buying that villa in the South of France any time soon. As a matter of fact, I’m starting to let go of the whole South-of-France fantasy, even though Bob Johnson is all about it. I made the mistake of mentioning to him that France is famous for, among other things, its cheeses, and now Bob Johnson thinks the streets of France are paved with cheese. He is a silly dog.)
I’m a book geek, though, not a book broker. I will not sell my semi-precious volume, even if the price goes north of $10. When I’ve finished reading it (by the way, it’s a terrific novel, much funnier than I remembered – Young Hem is The Stuff), I’m going to give it to someone who will appreciate it as much as I do. I don’t know who that will be, but I’m sure this person’s identity will be revealed to me in good time.
Ideally, this lucky individual will repeat the gesture, and the ghost of Ernest Hemingway will be pleased. Has anyone ever written a piece of fiction featuring Ernest Hemingway’s ghost? You could have some fun with that …
The ghost of Ernest Hemingway first appeared to me when I was fifteen. He’d somehow managed to make it past the rest of the family (they were in the den, watching Johnny Carson in oversaturated color) to the foot of my bed, where I was reading the latest issue of National Lampoon and thinking mostly impure thoughts.
It was Hemingway, all right. The robust old man, beard and vices intact. He was smoking a cigar, but it was a ghost cigar. You couldn’t smell it.
“Wow dang,” I said. “Ernest Hemingway. Dead as a doornail but somehow not.”
He grinned, taking in my room. I immediately regretted the Frampton Comes Alive! poster. I was way beyond Frampton by that point, but it remained a treasured if somewhat embarrassing souvenir of my first concert.
‘I’m into the Ramones now,’ I said, as if the ghost of Ernest Hemingway would next be visiting, say, Lester Bangs.
He had a tall glass of something in his other hand. I assumed it was ghost booze. He was swaying a little, feeling no pain.
“If my mom comes in here she’s going to freak out,” I said. “Just so you know.”
Hemingway laughed softly.
“They can’t see me, kid,” he said. He took a swig of his drink and chased it with a mouthful of ghost smoke. “This is a hell of a place.”
I don’t think he meant it as a compliment, but I liked the way he said it.
Okay, somebody else can write the rest of that. Sophia, it’s all yours.
I know what you’re thinking. You already wrote this piece, Hicks. Saul Bellow? The 25-cent copy of The Dean’s December? Come on, now!
Thanks very much, Quality Control. But this isn’t about Hemingway or great but insanely cheap American lit paperbacks.
It’s about (thunderous two-beat symphonic crash) … Facebook.
That’s right. And that’s just what you need, another freaking opinion about the most massive opinion generator in the history of the planet. Like Lil Wayne needs a Glock.
I like Facebook. I don’t love it. I love people, varmints and rockin’ good times. But there is much to like about Facebook, especially when you live on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.
Earlier this week, I scanned the cover of TSAR and posted it on Facebook.
Within a few hours, I had two thumbs-up responses and several comments.
The comment thread was kicked off by my longtime songwriting partner and occasional bandmate, Big Train, who signified his high regard with a brief, pungent obscenity. (Dude, you are way ahead of the pack in the giveaway sweepstakes.)
This was followed by posts from two towering figures of my youth, C. and A. Without putting too fine a point on it, these were the guys who showed me how much fun it is to get in trouble. (Please keep in mind this was the 1970s, when a kid could get in trouble without fear of being immediately dispatched to some for-profit juvie prison or dosed with Ritalin.)
C. and A. both pointed out the guy in the cover illustration looked like Raymond Burr, and they got off some nice Perry Mason and Ironside smack. (I’m pretty sure he was meant to look like Tyrone Power, who, weirdly enough, played Jake Barnes in the 1957 movie adaptation of TSAR, eight years after the first Bantam edition appeared!)
So there we were, three reformed juvenile delinquents from Clinton, Mississippi, writing about faces on Facebook.
I was extremely pleased.
Sometimes the magic works. Sometimes you just get a raging flood of hype, narcissism and cheese.
No, Bob Johnson, not that kind of cheese. Lie down. Good dog.
John Hicks is having some of it, but not all of it.