June 16, 2005

Vicious Gossip

I do not often speak bluntly and unkindly about my fellow human beings. Not on this blog, and I try not to in life as well. TRY being the operative word. Gossip is my very favorite sin--it's probably the one that will put me into hell. One day I'll slip this mortal coil and go tumbling out of my body, all the way down, and while I am being prodded experimentally by the pointy sticks of the toasting demons, one of them will hold up my ledger and say, "Tut tut It says here you tried to be a good wife and mother, you were kind to little old ladies, you gave to charity, but then on the other hand, you LOVED you some sloth and some gluttony, and your books had all that cussing and the somewhat graphic ex-say---not to mention the VIOLENCE *tongue cluckings*, so you were teetering on the edge, and then look, right here. The gossip. It JUST tipped the scales. Now let's go strap a thousand pounds of luggage to your back and, you know, set it on fire, and then I will show you to your room."

All that freely admitted...I met an idiot on Tuesday. God love him.

I was in a book store, so he kinda blindsided me. Book stores are not the idiot's natural habitat. But there he was, bless his heart, clutching an oversized paperback that lists all the literary agents in the U.S to his chest and watching me with an odd and carnivorous gleam in his eye.

I was out of town for the last two days (hence the no blog entries) and on the drive home I passed a bookstore. I went in, as is my wont, and introduced myself to the folks that worked there and offered to sign the copies of gods in Alabama they had and etc. They were a nice bunch and one of them HAD READ THE BOOK AND REALLY, REALLY LIKED IT! TRA LA! SO. That's always fun. I was having a good time. The woman helping me went to find the "signed copy" stickers, and when she left me, the idiot who had been creeping through the stacks on his sly underbelly saw his moment, and he pounced on me.

Idiot: *touches book* You wrote this*
Me: Yeah, I did.
Idiot: I saw this in Entertainment Weekly---'sposed to be a really good book.
Me: Well, I'm proud of it.
Idiot: What's it about?
Me: *Tells what book is about and ends with...* so I hope you get a chance to read it.
Idiot: *whiffs his nose in faint surprise and then looks at me as if I had just suggested he eat an alive kitten* Oh, I won't READ read it...*leans in confidentially* See, I'm a WRITER.* *holds up the book of agents. He was showing it to me as proof of his writer-ness? I think?*

We stood talking for a little---he grilled me pretty relentlessly about my publishing house and agent, wanting to know how he could best approach them. Let's put aside for a moment the PERSONAL here. Which, okay, yes, It's plain old-fashioned BAD MANNERS to say to a writer, "Oh I am not going to read your book, good grief, why would I want to do THAT? But can I say I met you when I approach your agent?" But... quite frankly, that has happened SEVERAL times without me feeling the need to blog about it. I answered him the way I have answered the three or four others who have shamelessly said the same thing to me; I told him the process for querying my agent (or any other) which he already knew. Then he told me all about his writing. He likened himself to a more literary Michael Crichton, but then admitted he hadn't actually READ ANY MICHAEL CRICHTON. Let's pause here and boggle for a moment. OKAY! We have now left bad manners and gone directly to stupid. Talking to him, I got the distinct sense that he didn't really much LIKE TO READ. At least, he hadn't read much of anything that I could determine, excepting, of course, a HOST of books about how to write books and a separate whole nother host of books about how to sell books. He had spent hundreds of dollars in book stores and had emerged from the experience UNSCATHED by the READING OF ANY ACTUAL BOOKS.

I find this to be so MINDBOGGLING I can hardly go on. It's a little bit like having someone tell you that it is their lifelong ambition to be a cowboy, and then having them add, "Of course I think horses are stupid, and cattle don't smell that great, and I'm very fair, which means I BURN easily, so I've never been what you might call 'out-doorsy,' but Lordy, honey, my be-hiney looks mighty fine in some butt-less chaps."

So I told him what I think is the absolute truth: If you want to be a writer, you need to love books. I do not KNOW a successful writer who isn't an avid reader. Writers need to eat books and make out with books and shower with books and cuddle books and only go to sleep so we can dream books. You need to read every good book you can get your hands on, and you need to read some spectacularly BAD ones as well ---- NOT ONLY because you will learn more about writing a seamlessly shifting POV by spending some delightful hours with TO THE LIGHTHOUSE or CUJO (depending on your tastes) than you will learn by reading one thousand articles called "How to shift POV,' --- but because it is such a glorious and ceaseless and reliable and unending source of learning, and beauty, and NOT LEAST AMONG READING'S MYRIAD PLEASURES, entertainment. AND DO NOT give me that crap (as this young man did) about "OH BUT IF I READ BOOKS WHILE TRYING TO WRITE BOOKS WON''T THAT MESS UP MY OWN VISION." No. It won't. In fact, that's why God made books outside your genre. If you are writing hard-boiled mysteries, Jane Austen is NOT going screw with you. In fact, IF YOU PAY ATTENTION, she will teach you to infuse a scene with sly humor. *tries to climb off soapbox, fails, pops back up*

People ask me why I don't have a WHAT I AM READING icon on the side of my blog, and it's because to change that side menu you have to muck with the CODE and that always ends with me wrecking the whole site, and then Scott has to spend four hours fixing it, and the icon would change too frequently for me to ask Scott to keep up with it. This week, for example, I read the second in a series of VERY FINE mysteries by Julia Spencer-Fleming (A Fountain Filled With Blood) right now I am ALMOST done with Jim Fergus' CHARMING and intensely readable speculative western, One Thousand White Women. I should finish that this afternoon, at which point think I am going to reread some Kaye Gibbons or start on Marshall Boswell's series of interconnected short stories called Trouble With Girls depending on my mood. OKAY! NOW I AM DONE. *Gets; off soapbox.* Well...almost done.

I got on my soapbox and told the idiot all this, and I closed with something like, "I swear to THE LORD I'm not trying to make you buy my book here. I'll shamelessly tell you that it is a good book, but hey, it may not be your cup of tea, whatever. That's okay---but you need to go find out what your cup of tea IS. Put that reference book back and go spend the 30 bucks on, I don't know, why not start with writers named Michael. Off the top of my head i can think of Connelly and Chabon and Cunningham and if you are comparing yourself to him you need to read Crichton and those are just the Michaels that have last names starting in C and HEY! while you are at it, buy some freaking DICKENS."

I do not think he heard me.

I told a friend of mine this story on the phone yesterday, and she didn't think I should blog it. She was worried that, besides being tipped over into hell by the snark-gossip-factor, the guy might come to my website and find this long entry discussing his idiocy and feel terrible. But good grief, this is a BLOG, which last time I looked was a text based medium, and the guy, by his own admission, DOES. NOT. READ. I'm safe as houses.

See you in hell.

Posted by joshilyn at June 16, 2005 8:34 AM
Comments

Well, I think you simply told him the truth. Although he probably wasn't listening closely, something may have sunk in.
It was a good deed, be proud.
And IF he reads your blog, your just repeating what you said to him face to face-right?
Wow-it is mond boggling!

Posted by: julie at June 16, 2005 8:49 AM

"See you in hell."

Oh dear, I hope not. Because if there is a hell, I don't think it's anything to do with pointy sticks and burning luggage. I think it's being trapped in a room with Stupid People Who Don't Read and the room has no doors, windows, or handy secret passage.

If you are really, REALLY bad, like say you rip the tags off pillows without buying them, or you don't use your doggie-doo scooper in the park, or get in the express check-out line with 25 items in your cart, then you are trapped in a room with so-called "Writers" Who Don't Read. (shudder)

I personally think you showed tremendous kindness and restraint in both dealing with StupidMan and in blogging about it.

But then I'm sort of a b*tch. :-)

Posted by: DebR at June 16, 2005 9:02 AM

I read somewhere recently that 85% of the American population wants to write a book (or, at least, thinks they can write a book--ha ha). If that's true, why isn't 85% of the U.S. population reading books? In fact, why aren't they gorging themselves on books?

I'm so with you, Joshilyn. I have forbidden the baristas in my beloved coffee shop to tell anyone that I'm a writer, because I'm sick of personal lurkers intruding upon my beloved writing space. See you in hell!

P.S. I love the meme via Pam McNew--I just posted my outrageous bio and am looking forward to reading what my blogging friends come up with for theirs.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at June 16, 2005 9:52 AM

I hate to say it, but one of the other favorite haunts of these wanna-be writers is writing conventions. They'll go to all of the "how to" sessions, but they'll skip over the readings, autograph sessions, dealers rooms with literally tons and tons of books that you just want to play with and take home with you, etc. And then they'll pester the guests of honor for contacts because their latest idea (if they've even committed any of it to bits or paper) will be the next best-selling what-ever-the-genre-is.

Avoid these people. They are a pox.

I'm one of the other 15% -- I don't think I have a book in me. But boy, I'm happy to read other people's books!

Oh, before I forget. Have you considered keeping a running list of books you've read that you would recommend? I'd be ever so handy!

Posted by: Beth at June 16, 2005 10:36 AM

Aliens among us, indeed. I know there are a lot of stupid people in the world, walking around all unsupervised and everything. Yet, even knowing that I am still shocked when I hear of yet another encounter.

I have a friend who exclaims - "Of course I'm going to hell, all my friends will be there and it will be the party of a lifetime! I wouldn't miss it."

Now, a reader who does not write is one thing. But a writer who does not read? Oh, my.

Posted by: PJ at June 16, 2005 11:03 AM

I'm with Beth, aside from reading your book, which I loved, I read two other books you "mentioned" and loved them too.

I'll be in hell because I teach sociology.

Karen

Posted by: Karen at June 16, 2005 11:08 AM

I read all day long, books and mags piled all over the house for frequent housework breaks, and my husband said to me "when are you going to stop reading and write something?" (I write every am before dh gets home from work and before the children are up and at me!)

Stupidity reigns supreme, but some of them actually do buy books.

Posted by: Patti at June 16, 2005 11:13 AM

I've never tried to write a book. I took a college playwriting class once, and I learned that I have nothing I want to say to the world, so the ability is moot. I have no ability, but even if I did... moot.

As for hell, I think DebR may be right. I can't imagine anything worse than you and Mr. Idiot as two of the lead roles in a Sarte play.

Posted by: Mr. Husband at June 16, 2005 11:24 AM

You were TEN SHADES nicer than you had to (or even arguably should have been) to that complete an total tool.

I would have directed him to the pop-up book section of the store with a creative gesture involving my middle finger.

Heaven's doors are wide open and yearning to accept a soul who can show that much poise in the face of an ever-growing short-bus collective. :)

Posted by: Peter B. at June 16, 2005 11:53 AM

* Safe as HELL - yes you are...
* See you in HELL - I doubt you'll be there
* Sure as HELL - I envy that you get enough time in your life to read to your hearts content. (envy's a sin right? drats!)

I think all men would get a good laugh if they could read Austin, she is (yes I know she is long gone) awesome. My husband only reads Calvin and Hobbs, and the newspaper, although he was tempted by gods of Alabama. (seriously)

I don't think writing about idiots is as big a sin as being an idiot by choice. Just as writing about murder, ex-say, and prejudice does not make you a murder, an ex-say addict, or bigot.

If they can write "how to" books for would be writers, you would think someone would write a "how to" books for thinking, personality, and manners. Oops, sorry Emily Post. I've tried to critique more than one book for "writers," looking to make their indelible mark on the world, who have stumped me on how to find something nice to say about their story and ability, as I rip appart their baby. (sorry I do continuity critiquing - amazing some people don't get continuity.)

I am one would be author who still dabbles, but has long since realized my contribution is to NOT attempt writing the next great American Novel (or anything longer than a short story,) but aid the author(s) doing so.

You are leading by example

Posted by: Cele at June 16, 2005 12:31 PM

LOL ...too much LOL to think of something to say. I get e-mails like this all the time. "Tell me how to get straight to published." "I have to...READ?" ;)

Posted by: AGK at June 16, 2005 12:42 PM

Just doing a little blog hopping and came across this post. Man, I feel instant kinship with you already. I'm new to the published author world and I get this and I'm tired of it already. On a book signing, I had a husband to ask his wife at the signing table if she would like him to buy my book for her because she was admiring it so much. She declined, but then proceeded to bombard me with writing and publishing questions. Even gave me her email address so that I could contact her to provide her with more information (needless to say, I accidently tossed the card. Darn!). Go figure. Yes, and then there's the reading. That's what's funny. I'm an avid reader. Sometimes I think reading is going to be my downfall of meeting my deadlines. But yes, I see other aspiring writers all the time who read more books on publishing and selling than anything.

Posted by: Cherlyn at June 16, 2005 1:14 PM

Mercy! Where. To. Begin., as you and Mir would write. What IS a writer who doesn't read? Is that even a sentence? You were ever so nice to him, whereas I would have let my jaw drop and said, "Begone, large moron."

D'ya think he even reads cereal boxes?

Posted by: Jilly at June 16, 2005 1:20 PM

Maybe reading would make him realize that it takes talent to write. I read all the time and frankly most of the good books I read make me feel more and more like I will never be able to write that well.
I laughed and laughed at your post. That's a complete riot!

Posted by: Mary-Frances Main at June 16, 2005 2:00 PM

Sadly, From your description I would guess this person has a bit of a chemical issue with his grey matter.

Posted by: Shawn B at June 16, 2005 2:49 PM

I'm with Beth and Karen, except I don't teach sociology. I'll read read read read read, and will never write a book, ever. I am seemingly incapable of abstract, original though.

Posted by: laura at June 16, 2005 4:07 PM

Cannot BELIEVE the rudeness of that guy!

Re: writers who don't read or write.

My favorite comment (oh, how I can laugh now!) in a grad creative writing workshop was by a guy who was getting constructive criticism for his short story. He was arguing with his fellow student over the nerve of someone critiquing his (obviously genius) work, when he said this line: "I have a lot of great books in my head. I just haven't written them down."

Posted by: Jennifer Manske Fenske at June 16, 2005 4:13 PM

So... ummm... you can blog THIS, but not the lady with the monkey hairdo? Hmph!

I'd have to agree that this particular person maybe didn't do much reading because one or two of his other personalities was in charge of actual book selection, or something. He sounds a bit touched in the head.

I cannot imagine grilling an author while refusing to read their work. Heck, I cannot imagine grilling an author unless invited to do so, AFTER having read their work, and having gently kissed their toes and brought them chocolate. But maybe that's just me.

Posted by: Mir at June 16, 2005 5:37 PM

Eighteen replies so far. Boy, you found a live one there. I can't believe you didn't either burst out laughing or club him to the ground with a book. Not 'gods' of course -- something with mass. Like maybe a pair of stone tablets?

Posted by: David at June 17, 2005 12:14 AM

At least in Hell we'll be neighbors...;)

Posted by: Amy at June 17, 2005 12:46 AM

From one of the book obsessed, I say Amen sister!

Posted by: Denise at June 17, 2005 9:20 AM

Crazy, crazy, crazy. I feel badly for people who don't read. What do they do instead? Stare at walls and think great thoughts? I hope so. However, I doubt it. Even though this guy should read some Emily Post or at least some Edith Wharton...for manners. I'm afraid everything I know comes from books.

Oh, Joshilyn...if hell isn't a idiot guy, who doesn't read being pushy in one of my favorite places, a bookstore...I don't know what is. Hell is now.

Posted by: Waylon at June 17, 2005 10:04 AM

You did mention he was "young," right? If only we could write off his inane behavior to his youth...but sadly, those kinds of people tend to keep their inherently stupid traits forever. You were a trillion times nicer than I would have been in a situation like that. As for blogging about it, a good healthy dose of snark is what makes your posts so much fun to read!

Posted by: Marilyn at June 17, 2005 12:51 PM

A wannabe writer who doesn't read -- that's like saying a wannabe cook who doesn't eat. Wow.

Posted by: Miz Rufel at June 17, 2005 1:51 PM

Can I stick my hand up meekly and say I'm a writer who rilly, rilly wants to read more and devour books... but I'm a slowish reader, a single mom, a full time employee, a 'rest of the time' writer (non-fiction)... and I'm trying really hard to fit the reading in so that I can start learning the fiction craft but this damn SLEEP thing gets in the way! (And I'm addicted to writing books, lol)

But I understand what you are saying... he makes no effort and is just the TINIEST but cocky!

Posted by: Heather McCutcheon at June 17, 2005 5:17 PM

I meant tiniest BIT cocky.. not tiniest but cocky.. or tiniest BUTT cocky for that matter, LOL.

Posted by: Heather McCutcheon at June 17, 2005 5:17 PM

I DO TAKE MY BATH WITH MY BOOK!!! :o)

Posted by: Cindy at June 17, 2005 5:53 PM

I must confess I am baffled. It is true there are those that do not read unless they have to. I've never understood them, but to each his/her own, I say. But to hear of one of these people wanting to WRITE?? Oh, I can understand the stupidity angle easily. The world is full of morons, after all. I can even understand the horrible manners that should have provoked a much more scathing response from you, a SOUTHERN LADY. But how in the world does such a shining example of ineptitude ever develop the DESIRE to write? If you don't love to read..then how does it even occur to you that writing could be a good thing? Shouldn't he be off trying to get a job as a video game tester or some such thing, like all of the other lazy young sots who want to get paid to do something, anything, other than work? Surely he can't be thinking that writing is an easy job that even someone missing a few bricks in their wall could do? For it truly seems he must. Go figure. I blame his parents. :D

Posted by: hiai at June 17, 2005 7:59 PM

Preach on Sistah!!!!

I never get that my sister loves to write poetry but cannot quote a single poet to me. I just don't get it.

Then again, I don't get how ANYONE can not have orgasms when they walk into bookstores. LOL!

Posted by: Heather at June 17, 2005 9:07 PM

I agree with the person who said you should have laughed in his face or beat him to the floor with a stone tablet! I read everything, cereal boxes, recipes on cans and books of all sorts. I look forward to reading your book. I's a Texas in Exile who currently lives in Alabama.

Posted by: Sybil at June 18, 2005 8:39 PM

This is too funny. It's annoying meeting people like that but it's SOOOO funny to write about after.

Posted by: katie at June 19, 2005 10:09 AM

---speechless with laughter-----

Posted by: arlee at June 19, 2005 8:30 PM

I used to work in the bookstore where we had not one but three of these people. I live in a small South Georgia town, and we had to have three of them. It would astound me that they'd spend all their money on the "How-To" books, talk about going to the conference on St. Simons (or up to Atlanta), yet never read anything.

Posted by: amber at June 20, 2005 4:50 PM

Thank you, thank you, thank you Heather McCutcheon via Kiwords for bringing me to Joshilyn's blog. I'm passing this blog info along to my friend Southern Girl Speaks because she was told by a VERY FAMOUS writer friend recently that bloggers were for amateur nimwits who were wasting their writing talent. Now I certainly know that isn't true. Just received "gods in Alabama" in the mail yesterday (via a recommendation from Katrina Stonaker's blog). Three chapters in and absolutely love it so far! Would have stayed up all night finishing it, but had to get up and go to work today. Aagh! Becoming engrossed in a great book like this is better than the most tantalizingly delicious dessert or mind-blowing, body-spasming....well, you know!

Posted by: K. Brown at June 21, 2005 7:49 AM

OMG! We have a guy VERY similar to this one in our WRITERS group. No, seriously. I'm not making this up. He a.) doesn't like to read and b.) claims it would "pollute" his writing. Uh-huh. Yeah, he used the word pollute. Oh, and he doesn't read any of our submissions to the group either. [But God forbid you fail to read HIS oversized submission, which--should I even bother to state the obvious???--is horrible.]

It takes all kinds, I guess. If only they'd BUY books even if they aren't going to read them. I mean... they should try and give SOMETHING back, don't you think?

LOL Thanks for blogging this. It was great fun to read!

Alicia

Posted by: Alicia at June 21, 2005 7:54 AM

Actually it was http://jensgalore.blogspot.com/ that led me to you. Too many links to keep track of out here, but wouldn't to ensure I gave credit where credit is due.

Posted by: K. Brown at June 21, 2005 8:00 AM

I have to add my two cents here even though this blog is archived and will probably only be read when we all laugh and cheer at our blog-sharing, journal-burning celebration in Hell Central.

One of the reasons I'm divorcing my husband is that he NEVER READS. It's not the not-reading per se that is causing me to kick him to the curb but that he doesn't have all the STUFF that people who read have. Like KNOWLEDGE.

He doesn't even read NEWSPAPERS. Worse, he never read anything I ever wrote. Not even the published stuff.

Talking to him is like talking to a WALL because all of his lurnin' stopped when he finished high school.

He wonders why I know STUFF and INFORMATION and even the odd QUOTE. He's never been to a library in his entire adult life. He only goes to the bookstore because Starbucks is there.

Last night I was, just for fun, taking a mini-Mensa test online. When I told him what I was doing he asked what Mensa is. Oh. My. God.

He might pick up a book if he already saw the MOVIE version because he knows that the book is never as good as the movie and he can say so without ever finishing the book. Oh, yeah, this man exists. And he existed with ME for tweleve long years. And both of the children read. Just because. Thank the Lord above!

Posted by: Carolyn Hueston at June 24, 2005 2:00 PM