By Dan Hagen
The orange card was still in the pocket of the hardcover copy of John Cheever’s The World of Apples that I picked up at the Mattoon Library sale yesterday.
It’s a thin yet somehow substantial-feeling third edition, illustrated with a painting of an enormous green apple filling a room. Printed in June 1973, this short story collection proved to be a popular companion, and was first due back home at the library in July 1973.
The library loaned it out 34 times, those lendings filling the front of the orange card and part of the back.
“Put down your lendings,” the naked off-Broadway theatre cast and audience chants at the embarrassed narrator in the collection’s first story, The Fourth Alarm. He was willing to get naked with them but unwilling to surrender his car keys and wallet. So he walks, alone and rejected, back out of the theatre into the freshly falling snow, grateful after all for his clothes and his snow tires.
The book’s lendings ended Nov. 4, 1991. Now, wanted again, it will find a retirement home on my bookshelf, no longer wandering the world, no longer feeling the rough, interested caress of literate strangers.