The Mysterious Black-&-Blue-Party-Of-Two

It's a strange habit of mine— which I never could and still cannot explain— to visit the Ernest Hemingway section of every used bookstore I walk into. I'm reminded of the Mel Gibson movie Conspiracy, where his character collects copies of Catcher In The Rye (an aspect of the film intended to demonstrate that he's crazy, which is of little comfort to me with my own similar quirk). I find a copy of The Sun Also Rises for only $2 and immediately begin to see why. Coffee stains, tears, and writing in the margins on nearly every page. At first I look at the copy with disdain. "Why do stores even carry books so 'tainted' like this?" I'm a book snob. While working for the labor movement, being a "registered" Democrat, and growing up in a middle class family have taught me not to be snobby about much, I am snobby about books— and even at that, I feel a tinge of guilt at being so. I almost let my book snobbery get the best of me. The Sun Also Rises may have been $2, but that didn't mean it was worthy of my $2. And yet, different from all the other times where I've found writing in a book and promptly re-shelved it, I found myself reading one comment scribbled on the edge of a yellow page. And then another. And another after that. As I continued reading the scrawls between the lines, it hit me that this was no ordinary person making casual remarks about the story he's reading. The individual who once owned this copy saw Hemingway mirrored in the fictional story that he wrote. As I continued reading the comments in the margins, I noticed that there were two colors of ink: black and blue. Two people, it seemed, were conversing with one another, as if they were swapping the book back-and-forth, reading a chapter, making comments, and then giving it to the other person to do the same. At times these comments became quite intimate. Before I knew it, I had been drawn in to this mysterious world of the Black-&-Blue-Party-of-Two...

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