Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The Blog Also Rises.

After posting yesterday's material, which dealt largely with Hemingway's birthplace, I noticed that yesterday was the 104th anniversary of writer's birth. July also happened to be the month that he did himself in, but that's another story.

In any case, I read The Sun Also Rises the summer I turned 20, and have re-read it every few years since then, most recently in 2001. It's one of those books. It has staying power. I'm not sure why: a loose band of expat drunks and their blowsy meanderings in France and Spain in the mid-20s. Then again, I know why: the virtuosity of the writing amazed me when I was young, and it still does. More so now, I think.

Besides, it contains my favorite line in literature. To set the scene: Jake, the narrator of the story (and who was emasculated by the Great War) and Bill, who offers the book's comic relief, are walking through the streets of Paris one evening. Bill, of course, has had a lot to drink already. They pass a taxidermist's shop.

"Here's a taxidermist's," Bill said. "Want to buy anything? Nice stuffed dog?"
"Come on," I said. "You're pie-eyed."
"Pretty nice stuffed dogs," Bill said. "Certainly brighten up your flat."
"Come on."
"Just one stuffed dog. I can take 'em or leave 'em alone. But listen, Jake. Just one stuffed dog."
"Come on."
"Mean everything in the world to you after you bought it. Simple exchange of values. You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog."
"We'll get one on the way back."
"All right. Have it your own way. Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs. Not my fault."

Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs. I guess you have to be of a certain cast of mind to appreciate a sentence like that; so surreal, so funny. Over the years, on those rare occasions when I've passed by a taxidemist's in the company of someone else, I say, "Let's get a stuffed dog." No one ever gets it.

A bit earlier in the book, Bill and Jake wander past a monument -- I'm paraphrasing here -- "a couple of men in flowing robes." Bill says: "Gentlemen who invented pharmacy. Can't fool me on Paris." Occasionally I pull that one out, too, when I see a monument I can't readily identify: "He invented pharmacy." People have taken me seriously when I say that.


Post a Comment

<< Home