I CAN’T READ.
I don’t mean that I’m illiterate. (To be politically correct, I should say alphabet cohesion impaired.) Rather, I’m incapable of picking up a book or a magazine and reading it cover-to-cover. Which is not good, since I’m a writer.
My excuse is that I’m a writer of short things. And short things, I read. Call it a limited attention span, or perhaps it’s a deep-seated fear of commitment. I’m not alone; most people crave immediate gratification and quick results, as evidenced by the popularity of texting, Twitter, and Facebook, IMHO. I get my daily news from Facebook, which is highly informative: road closings, birthdays, who died this week, and the elaborate details of how poor Katie Holmes’ career is being sabotaged by the press.
I haven’t bought a newspaper in years. Why would I? Browsing the Internet brings me this-just-in news eight minutes after the story breaks. I bet I knew the Oscar nominees before you did.
Sometimes I even read emails, if they’re not too wordy. I got a sales email recently that began with, “I apologize for sending such a lengthy email, but I’ve got a great offer for you.” Then she blah-blah-blahed for a full page. By the time I was halfway through it, I needed a snack.
So then I got distracted looking up a recipe for cupcakes on Epicurious.com, which led me, as usual, to the cocktail section, and this is where I clicked on some ad for skin cream. This site made me worry about an unsightly rash I’ve got, so I Googled it, discovering that it is either bedbugs, shingles, skin cancer, or an allergic reaction to Katie Holmes.
By the time I finally returned to that email, the offer was expired by a week.
My mom gave us a subscription to National Geographic for Christmas. Leah reads the articles, but I take after my dad, who tends to treat National Geographic like a picture book. The only thing missing in that publication is comics. Nothing like a good one-liner to leave you feeling complete.
When I do decide to read an actual book, I sneak into the adolescent section of the bookstore with dark glasses and my hat pulled low. If I’m caught by someone I know, I pretend I’m buying books for a fictitious niece. (And they pretend they’re buying books for a fictitious nephew.) I’m talking Twilight and Harry Potter. I’m not proud, but it’s an addiction. I admit that I’m powerless over vampires, werewolves and wizards – and my book choices have become unmanageable. Only a power greater than myself can restore my sanity. Dumbledore?
In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air (yes, I do listen to the radio), author Gary Shteyngart said, “Everyone’s a writer. Nobody wants to read, but everybody wants to write.”
No, I haven’t read Gary’s latest book (Super Sad True Love Story) since I avoid books written for grownups. (The book trailer on YouTube is captivating, however.) Gary also referenced a literary magazine contest where all the writers’ submissions had to be accompanied by a receipt for a recent book purchase. I’d be too mortified to enter since my latest acquisition was Breaking Dawn, the fourth novel in the Twilight series. This would not be a good way to get taken seriously as a writer, unless the contest theme is adolescent fantasy vampire chick lit.
At least I do try to read, even if it is stuff for kids. Short sentences, no big vocabulary words to look up, and easy-to-follow plots. And most of the time, I can read kid books to the end since there’s plenty of excitement, romance and immediate gratification to keep me hooked until they all live happily ever after.