Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I am an idiot

Sometimes I'll be at a party or a school event or simply outside in the real world and somebody will ask me what I do for a living. I tell them I'm a copywriter. That I write TV commercials and such for large ad agencies. What I don't say, or try not to, is...

"I'm a writer."

That is a loaded response, fraught with all kinds of death traps.

You see, when you tell people you're a writer they make the assumption that you are smart. I'm not smart.

I'm smart enough to make a comfortable living. Smart enough to keep myself and my family out of financial trouble. Smart enough to convince Facebook friends that I have a good grasp on geopolitics, current events and the tenets of modern secularism. Smart enough to use a multi-syllabic phrase like tenets of modern secularism.

But make no mistake, I'm not smart.

People also assume writers are readers. I wish I were a reader but sadly I'm not. My wife, an avid reader, jokes that I am the least well-read writer she has ever known. That's when I remind her that I'm a copywriter. Big difference.

I'd like to read more. The problem is there's so much to read, I hardly know where to start.

Years ago, I had a job in Irvine, CA. A 53-mile commute that would take an hour in the morning and an hour and a half at night. To make the most of this time, I started listening to books on tape. Not just any books, mind you. I was determined to put as many classics under my belt as possible. And I notched quite a few: Frankenstein, Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, Beowulf, Dracula, The Fountainhead, The Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World, and about three dozen more.

I was beginning to fill the literary vacuum that had haunted me since the discovery of Cliff Notes in high school. But then the job ended. And with it, my pursuit of a basic 11th grader's reading level.

Recently I tried to muscle my way through Salmon Rushdie's Satanic Verses. This guy is to prose what Guy Fieri is to nacho cheese, he can lay it on thick. I made it through 52 pages and still couldn't tell you what the hell was happening in the book.

Which makes it all the more interesting that thousands of illiterate Pakistanis managed to pick up Rushdie's subtext and thematic treatment that they would call for the author's death.

I enjoyed listening to Rushdie on the Bill Maher show, maybe I'll go back and give him another try.

But it is difficult. Because time spent reading is time not spent on the Internet and finding gems like this:

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