Hemingway Lives on Hillsborough Street

I was browsing a local used book store on Hillsborough Street. I found a beautiful copy of Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway. A classic. I looked inside, and it was a holy first edition. Cost: 4 dollars.

I took it home, proud of my find, and then I heard jazz on university radio. I sat down. Listened. Then I searched the Internet and located several Hemingway first editions for sale: 2,000-10,000 dollars!! Sheesh. Is mine worth…?


I read the description… “light blue cover” (mine had a light blue cover!) “silver in-lay title” (mine had silver in-lay title!) “1952” (mine said 1952!) and then… “The letter A printed below the date” (Mine had the letter W) Damn.

Apparently, I found the first edition printed for the book club. Market value: 20-100 bucks.  But it’s still a treasure. (John Coltrane’s “locomotion” roared in the background…..) The content of the book is what counts: Man and fish. The stubborn, albeit lonely, hero. The relentless fight. His hands are bleeding for god’s sake. He’s fighting off sharks with a pocket knife. He’s an old man. He’s dying.

Then Coltrane ended the tune with a punch.

I realized, suddenly, that no one had ever read this particular copy of this particular book before. At least, I don’t think so. The pages were crisp, perfect, like new. Not one wrinkle. Then I thought, wow, even Hemingway was so easily ignored, thrown aside, on a shelf for 57 years.

I feel strongly that books were made to be read. And I am the first to read this book. I think the book feels happier now. Can you imagine not being touched for 57 years? How would you feel? I could tell the book was happy now. So I put it on my shelf.

I suddenly imagined at that moment that there might be a book out there somewhere that no one has ever read…maybe it is the best book that has ever been written…maybe it solves the mystery of life…I am convinced that it does solve the mystery of life…and it’s on a shelf somewhere, tucked away, on Hillsborough Street. Maybe it was written by Hemingway. Maybe it was finished the night before he looked into a shotgun.

Or maybe Coltrane found it and read it, and it was so beautiful and so horrible that he burnt it. But before he did, he transcoded it. And the only way to know what it says is to write down what you are thinking while he plays that horn.



I am currently writing my final papers…. I have succeeded, I think, in detailing what I mean by “reverse intertextuality.” This is a paper for “Visual Rhetoric” 798. I presented the completed paper to Dr. Gallagher yesterday, and the response was overwhelmingly favorable. This felt like a small victory for me, since I was struggling with the scope of that paper and how far to extend the argument. I will send the paper out to a journal sometime over the summer.


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