THREE KINDS OF HUNGER
I had a bookstore job in college, and because I was shy and lived on campus it took a few months before the bookstore employees became my family. It was also well into the second semester before I learned you could eat all you wanted at the dorm cafeteria, so I lost a considerable amount of weight between August and December.
It was during one of those quiet weekends, just me and a box of Wheat Thins, that I first encountered Knut Hamsun's Hunger (1890).
Someone at work recommended the book, and I read it all in one dizzying weekend. Was it the right translation? No. I had the Robert Bly edition, with the forward by Isaac Bashevis Singer. I picked up the George Egerton copy years later, but I've never sat down and compared the texts. The Bly translation may not be faithful to the original Norwegian, but the story, about a starving writer, left a real and lasting impact.
What I knew at the time was that Hamsun won the Nobel Prize in 1920 for Growth of the Soil. What I learned later was that he sided with Germany in both world wars, and sent Goebbels his Nobel medal in 1943.
Flash forward a few years. I'm married, and my wife's younger brother is visiting. He's about to spend most of the next two decades in the clink, but none of us know that yet. He sees my copy of Hunger on the bookshelf and pulls it out to take a look.
"This was a trippy movie," he said, nodding his head in appreciation. "Is the book any good?"
The movie he was referring to, of course, was Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983). Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) dabbles in Renaissance art, Egyptian pendants, priceless antiques, and various sex partners.
Yeah, that's right. She's a vampire. Miriam can't figure out why her husband John (David Bowie) suddenly ages two hundred years overnight. What's Miriam supposed to do, other than hit on Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon), a sleep researcher who may hold the secret to immortality? Brace yourselves, prudes: there's a sex scene. I haven't watched the movie in years and years, but I have it in case the mood overtakes me.
Which brings me to The Hunger (1981) by Whitley Strieber. It was Strieber's second novel, the one he published after The Wolfen and before Communion (1987).
I was browsing the other day and happened to see three copies of The Hunger sitting on a bookstore shelf. Two were book club editions, but the third was a first printing.
I paid for it with my credit, took it home, cleaned it up. It'll go in a box, I suppose. I should probably bundle it with the dvd and sell them as a set.
Maybe I'll hold onto them. Who knows, maybe I'll run into my ex-wife's brother.