closing the book

Ken Hohman

As vices go, library fines are generally on the low end of the spectrum. A nickel, a dime, maybe a quarter a day. How bad could it get? Well…

Mt. Lebanon expat Ken Hohman, an advertising copywriter living in Richmond, Virginia, has always been a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan. After hearing Vonnegut’s lecture at the Carnegie Music Hall in February, 1989, Hohman joined the line of autograph seekers for some face time with the acclaimed author. Trouble was, the only Vonnegut book he had on him was a copy of Galapagos that he checked out of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library. His to borrow for three weeks, with an option to renew. Once he got Vonnegut’s ink, he wasn’t able to part with the volume. Its hold on him was strengthening.

Last year, Hohman published a memoir, Paperboy Days, about delivering the Post-Gazette while growing up here in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Earlier this year, Hohman returned to the library to give an author talk, and capped it off with an official return of the book that had been in his possession for three weeks, plus another four presidential administrations. A quarter a day; 10,220 quarters.  No wonder he left the state.

In the end, in the spirit of conciliation, the library took the book back without issuing a fine. Library volunteer David McKibben, who  runs the library’s Book Cellar used book store, expects a signed copy of Galapagos will fetch a pretty decent price, maybe in the $75 to $150 range. Or more, now that it has a cool back story.