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The Reused Muse: Satire in Past Voices


Ernest Hemingway, born 120 years ago next week, powerfully influenced the imagination and literary style of his time. His 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature lauded fiction that “reproduces the genuine features of the hard countenance of the age.” He produced a dozen novels and many shorter works. He considered parody “a step down from writing on the urinal wall,” yet one of his own early novels was itself a biting parody (for which he later apologized). He likely would not have contemplated President Trump, preferring to explore the character of humbler heroes, but who really knows? One of his best-known heroes was Santiago, the title character of The Old Man and the Sea, who during a multi-day battle hooks, subdues, and loses a monstrous fish, resisting defeat even when destroyed. Though it might seem a stretch, it is possible to imagine the present U.S. president engaged in a similar struggle. 

The Old Man and the Tweet  (with apologies to Mr. Hemingway)

He was an old man who tweeted alone sitting on the gold bathroom fixtures but he had gone three days now without sending a tweet. On the first day and most of the second day Jared had been with him and busying him with the gossip. But at the end of the second day Jared had left to gather more and on the third day he had not returned. The old man wondered if he would miss Jared but found that he did not. He found he missed no one now except the crowds at rallies. Those people he missed. This was why he tweeted, to speak to them and miss them less. But he had not tweeted on the third day either because his phone was not charged and then when it was charged it still angered him for being uncharged earlier. He shook his head at it and called it a loser and did not pick it up for the rest of the day.

The old man was tall and wide and bullish and loud but old despite the volume. The bronze color on his cheeks had come from many rounds of play on unshaded golfing ranges followed by tanning rooms with angled mirrors to direct rays to the folds and creases. The eyelids and sockets were of a different hue because of protective goggles worn during the indoor exposure but not worn outdoors such as when looking upward at an eclipse.

Everything about him was old except his hair which was orange and cheerful and undefeated. It offered a Bernoulli effect to his head as he walked making him step more lightly. In his bathroom now he recalled the joke with one of his wives, the joke about light-headed. But he no longer remembered which wife and, had he ever known sadness, this might have added to it but that was not his concern now.

Now it was the time for tweeting and now the sadness he had avoided, the non-sadness of Jared’s absent gossip and of that wife, was to be turned for profit. For you did not tweet without profit. There could be pleasure in it, but you did not tweet for it. You tweeted when there was profit in it and because it was the main thing a man had.  A tweet had to come from a place of knowing and not knowing, or knowing by not knowing. The tweets were best when short and bursting and irritable as his own voice but sometimes the thought would extend and he would craft the tweet for minutes and in multiple 140-character or 280-character sections, with multiple points made as clearly as the fake newspeople could craft their organized but fake news.

This was the tweet he had typed now, the biggest he had ever typed or even heard of, a tweet that included greatness and MAGA and the best words and the complvfefe ungreatness of Pelosi and there had never been such a tweet, almost ready to paste in segments and send, stretching for eighteen segments from nose to tail, but before he could paste and send the phone died and he had not saved and the tweet was gone. And as Jared was returning but still not near the door he heard roaring that sounded like lions.




 

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