My junior year at Chapel Hill I took American literature with Dr. King who was notorious for two things: giving A’s generously and wearing his whale tie on the day on the day we kicked off Moby Dick. Dr. King’s class was wildly popular and my friends and I always staked out front row seats in his auditorium lectures.
As we were wrapping up the final lesson on Moby Dick, he prepared us that we would start studying Hemingway in the next class. He went on to cite examples of how deeply passionate people are about Hemingway, including stories of people who traveled to his grave to pay homage, spent hard-earned money on first edition Hemingway books, read all of his stories and the saw the movies they turned into.
Pshaw! That was nothing! Teach me something I don’t know Dr. King.
My father is a big Hemingway fan. I mean huge. We had just spent the previous Christmas holiday in Sun Valley and went to see Hemingway’s grave on Christmas morning. But that was nothing. Oh no, I had the Hemingway fan story to beat them all, and after class I marched to the front of the auditorium and told Dr. King about it.
You see, one time my dad was leisurely reading a biography about Hemingway but started to grow extraordinarily frustrated with countless inaccuracies on the author’s part. Frustration mounted and turned into outright rage at the moron who had written this egregious load of crap. So what is a true Hemingway fan to do? Well, my dad took the big clunky hardback book into our backyard, propped it on the family picnic table and shot it.
Oh you heard me correctly. He shot it. It lives in infamy on the family bookshelf to this day (somewhere near the picture of Frank Smethurst) with a bullet lodged in it.
Needless to say Dr. King was completely bemused by this anecdote and insisted on seeing the book. My dad fedexed it to me and a few days later Dr. King held it up in front of the entire class the day we kicked off Hemingway. I got an A plus in American lit.
A few months later my mother and I took a trip to Key West. I don’t remember why we went or why my dad couldn’t join us, but we were sure to hit all of Hemingway’s haunts. We toured his home with all those crazy cats, we went to a bookstore and found a rare copy of an old Hemingway book for my dad, and one night after dinner we made a pit-stop at Sloppy Joe’s, Hemingway’s favorite bar.
I guess I felt bad that my dad couldn’t be with us on this trip and being such a sweet daughter, I scribbled him a little note on the back of a coaster. All these years later he found that coaster just the other day….