Ernest Hemingway meets Lassie

I’ve added my first collectible Hemingway to my bookshelves: Number 209 of 300 copies of “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen,” a lesser-known short story printed by House of Books, New York, 1933. Hemingway first editions are as far beyond my budget as a McMansion, Ferrari or a house in Spain, but then along came this more-within-my-budget special edition of a bizarre story.

Two “ambulance” surgeons respond to a 16-year-old boy who arrives in the Emergency Room Christmas Eve. The boy loathes his lustful feelings and their sin against purity and so requests to be castrated. The surgeons tell him he’s normal and send him away. He returns on Christmas Day, mutilated by self-treatment. The most incompetent of the two surgeons is working in the ER and can’t find an answer in his reference book that tells him what to do. 

Interesting that NYU School of Medicine posts a summary of this story on its Literature Annotations web page, saying in part, “Two physicians sit in the Emergency Room of a Kansas City hospital on Christmas Day. The narrator’s references to the incompetence or past errors of each is slipped quietly into the text as the story unfolds.” And then this, about the book’s ending: “The self-centered conversation returns to verbal ego-play between the two physicians, without a hint that either has considered the magnitude of the medical malfeasance against the boy.” In the context of a medical school’s website, “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” becomes a powerful cautionary tale.

Also in recent weeks, three paperbacks featuring the famous TV collie, Lassie,  join my book collection of vintage paperbacks. Each are 3 1/2″ x 5″ with colorful illustrations. They bring back memories of the Sunday night show I watched in the 1960s about Lassie and Timmy, who owned the collie. And, of course, there was Timmy’s mom, actress June Lockhart on the show from 1958 to 1964, forever in an apron and standing at the back door. Yes, I now own:

  • Lassie and the Shabby Sheik (1968), in which Lassie performs heroic rescues in Australian bush country
  • Lassie: Adventure in Alaska (1967) 
  • Lassie: Old One-Eye (1975), being heroic in Washington’s Cascade Mountains

The size makes these paperbacks delightful to hold and flip through for the illustrations. The paper is soft to the touch. Best of all, they have the aroma of musty old books. Gotta love it, and I do.