Confessions of an Illiterate, Part Two

Not reading books has changed me. Once a championship speller, my speling is now terribole. My grammar has deteriorated. Sometimes I’ll mumble a word if I’m not sure about it, or recast a sentence in a different tense. That used to be one of my favorite things to do with words, only now, well, I’m not so sure my new sentence would be correct.

But grammar and spelling are mechanics. Not reading books has cut me off from Book people. I miss talking about books. I miss browsing in bookstores. Hanging out in libraries. Meeting the author. The world of books was always my home. I feel diminished. I feel cast out.

What I’ve learned from all of this is that reading has profound, positive effects on us. This isn’t news, of course, but it’s been a strangely reaffirming experience, seeing the truths about reading proven true firsthand. When you stop for a while, things start to fade away and the world seems a lot more ordinary, the mind, less sharp. Perhaps more than anything, I miss my escape.


Some of you have suggested I try Books on Tape. It’s a good idea. It feels a little too passive for me, but I’m giving it a try with Go Set A Watchman.


Next time I’ll talk about what I do read.

Confessions of an Illiterate

As a result of medication, depression, ennui, or all-of-the-above, I haven’t read a book in about eight years. I read the Harry Potter books, Twilight, ten pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, and The Road. Other than that, I have not read a fucking thing.

I didn’t decide to stop reading books. I loved reading. Even when I work full-time, I read at least two or three books a week. Since I was small, books have been my refuge and my delight. etc. You know the drill. In the my more recent years of what I call “bad reality,” I think books did save my life. A lot.

I stopped reading because I had a Seizure. Medication-related, I’m convinced. I was in my backyard. I was on the ground. I was in the  ER. No diagnosis. After that I took to my bed for six weeks and watched every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on videotape. My personal collection. When I finally emerged, the printed word no longer interested me.

Not just books. Newspapers, magazines, The New Yorker, Yes. The New Yorker..

Not-reading taught me a lot.

I’ll get to that.

Welcome to My Blog, Not My Novel

I was going to write the novel first, before I started the blog.  A novel would be more lucrative, and I wouldn’t have to tell the truth.   Fiction would be my ticket out of Joe Job-ville, my Get Out of Jail Free card.   So I set to work.   For months, I carried around a stack of character and plot 3 x 5 cards so I could take notes wherever I was.  Sure, I could have used Evernotes, but this was a novel.  Paper was needed.  Eventually those cards, taped together, would give birth to my novel.  That was one truth I believed.

The truth is sticky and complex, without clear resolutions.  In the novel, I would take those truths and bend them to my will.  There would be no sorrow without forgiveness, no pain without redemption.  Of course, there are some truths even I can’t change.  People die, people are born, and I wasn’t writing a zombie novel.  I would follow the laws of nature.

And sex, oh yes! The pages would fairly drip with bodily fluids.  All non-judgmental sex, of course,  highly erotic, with no regrets  or complications, unless they moved the plot along.  I vowed to take from life and from fantasy to assure every reader was sated.

I envisioned the novel as the ne plus ultra of beach books, a mash-up of The Group, Scruples, and Desperate Housewives, with a little Boogie Nights thrown in for good measure. This book would send my son to college and buy me my freedom.  This book would be my shelter from the storm. This book would be my porn-laced lifesaver.

Then, after the novel, I would start my blog.  I would have so many experiences to talk about, so many insights, and the time to share them.  Surely it was to everyone’s benefit to write the novel first.

I didn’t write the novel.  The character cards are buried at the bottom of a purse.  I use the blank ones for grocery lists. What happened? Ultimately, the novel terrified me.  It loomed large before me, swimming with characters and plots, disconnected and chaotic. Finally, I had to stop thinking about it, and sought out a less intimidating replacement.  Which brought me to this blog.

With this blog, I can keep writing, something I’ve been doing for nearly 40 years.  With this blog, I can write the truth, or at least my truth.  Whether that is a less intimidating task than being a novelist will become evident. Above all, with this blog, I can communicate directly with my readers. As a published author, the thought of that is truly thrilling.

So welcome to my blog, not my novel.  Please read, and let me know what you think.