“I’m probably bad at reading.” Heidi Klum
If you’ve got stunning legs, reading isn’t necessary — or that’s what we have to assume with Heidi Klum. Some people are given good eyesight, others gorgeous gams. Heidi has gorgeous gams and possibly lousy eyesight. Other people have lousy legs and should take up reading immediately.
Annie Lennox confesses she has ugly legs. She’s since been named a chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, the first woman to ever hold this position. I suspect her ugly legs turned her into an academic, philanthropist and political activist.
Heidi Klum, by the way, blames baking. It’s very time-consuming, and she can’t drop everything to read a book. Quite a few bakers give the same excuse — particularly pastry chefs.
Fortunately, we seem to be more creative in our reasoning and excuses than most authors are writing actual books.
Annie Lennox once wrote: “This is the book I read” in one of her lyrics, which I assume means she actually read the whole thing.
The rest of us are probably middle ground, having neither great legs nor lousy eyesight. We have to come up with other reasons for not reading. Fortunately, we seem to be more creative in our reasoning and excuses than most authors are writing actual books.
With this in mind, I thought I’d pass along various comments made after my post “I Hate to Read But I Love to Write.” Some came from Facebook and other sites, while a few were private emails. The private emails were intended to be read in confidence, which I can’t do since they’re wonderfully goofy, and I simply can’t keep anything goofy to myself.
One of my favourite comments goes as follows: “I do enjoy reading, but I read a LOT less than I used to and get bored incredibly easy. In fact I pretty much just read work only by one author (smiling emoji). Although I think this is because I couldn’t give two hoots about the lives of ordinary characters when I could be reading about dragons, rather than not reading much because it takes concentration or is too in depth or whatever.”
Another person, Nikhil, responded with: “I get more inspiration from podcasts, TV, movies and news articles than prose fiction these days.”
Wouldn’t Melville’s “Moby Dick” be better if Ishmael and Captain Ahab walked away, saying, “This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Susan attempted to clarify (and possibly agree with) the above thoughts. Her reasoning is both inventive and goofy: “I love reading as well as writing. But the issue I have is starting a book, thinking it’s going to be great, but then it doesn’t go how I would like or expected. I end up putting it down and not finishing and hence going to my desk to write an alternative ending.”
Well, hell, isn’t that something we’d all love to do? Wouldn’t Melville’s “Moby Dick” be better if Ishmael and Captain Ahab walked away, saying, “This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Or what about blowing Moby Dick up like in Jaws (that was a lot of fish parts flying around).
Then there’s Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” Wouldn’t it be more interesting if we got Jake Barnes’ willy operational again — even if it’s just for the bullfight in Pamplona where everyone’s a dick?
This makes sense, since books are often boring because there isn’t a story — or at least one where someone gets charbroiled by a dragon.
Or how about turning Marjorie Rawlings’ “The Yearling” into “The Yearling Meets Godzilla”? This would go over big with the gaming crowd (who won’t even pick up a book if it doesn’t have at least one rabbit getting squished).
Someone pointed out that there’s a difference between “a writer and a storyteller.” This makes sense, since books are often boring because there isn’t a story — or at least one where someone gets charbroiled by a dragon.
This is unfortunate since anyone can tell a story if they put their minds to it. In a passage from “The Lives of a Cell,” biologist, Lewis Thomas, writes: “A solitary ant, afield, cannot be considered to have much of anything on his mind; indeed, with only a few neurons strung together by fibers, he can’t be imagined to have a mind at all, much less a thought.”
Now, ants don’t normally interest us, but at least Thomas shows why ants can’t think, which sounds remarkably similar to why we can’t think. We may have more neurons strung together than ants — but we’re still amazed when an ant can lift a twig five times its size and we have trouble with pretzels.
For all I know, her neurons are strung together like Christmas lights in June.
Then there was respondent who decided my article was a call-out to writers looking to be published. Jade asked: “Is there any sites where you can get paid by each chapter you write? Just curious, I’ve looked it up but can’t find anything. Sorry I post so much, I’ve wrote for a long time but never been serious about it until recently.”
Well, there’s a story right there, although I’m not sure it’s the one Jade wants to tell. Her question seems innocent enough, but even a quick inquiry to a few publishers would have set her straight — or maybe not. For all I know, her neurons are strung together like Christmas lights in June.
Fortunately, people were surprisingly kind to Jade on Facebook, suggesting she finish her book first, since even Charles Dickens had to show a first draft of “A Christmas Carol” before it was serialized. At least he got paid, which wouldn’t happen in a million years with today’s publishers. “It’s a bitch, I know,” someone told Jade, “but finish your book. Live your dream!”
Who can cram “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Flies” into the same evening?
Living one’s dream is all fine and dandy although, as a few people asked with complete sincerity, “How is it people won’t bother to read a book but expect others to read theirs?”
This goes back to neurons again. Some people don’t see the irony. How can they read and write? There are only so many hours in a day. Who can cram “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Flies” into the same evening?
The problem here is twofold: Without reading, it’s hard to build an audience since, even if you plan on being a storyteller, it won’t happen if you’re semi-literate. Secondly, if you don’t expand your vocabulary and insight, you’ll be prone to clichés, which are as common as neurons these days.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
“Look at the majority of Kindle-only publications on Amazon and you might weep,” John wrote to me. “They reflect the minds of people who rarely read books but who have every Buffy episode on DVD and binge-watch something new every weekend.”
As I learned firsthand, this is common occurrence, even with people who consider themselves relatively well read. I’d started my last post with a quote from Will Rogers: “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”
Carl contacted me and asked: “Is this a deliberate Ren & Stimpy reference?”
I’ve since discovered that it is. But that took some research — and reading.
Robert Cormack is a novelist, humorist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.