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Wednesday, June 08, 2005
My alcoholic uncle said he would give me all his books.
Foolishly, I fell for that.
When I got to his house, my uncle sat me down.
"Have you written anything lately?"
"It's all crap. I've read your website. It makes no sense. Your father and I read it and we asked each other, 'do you get it?' We didn't get it."
I began eating the grapes in front of me. They were unwashed. I hoped the grit on them might contain enough pesticides to kill me on the spot.
My uncle once said that I should be locked up. My parents, he said, should not let me out until I complete a novel.
On this day, he gave me the exact specifications for the novel I should write during my incarceration.
"Do you read Grisham?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
"What?! No wonder you don't make any money with your writing. You should be aiming for the $90,000-range. I've included most of the Grishams among the books I'm giving you. Read them and that should help you."
"But I don't want to write like Grisham."
"The stuff you are writing right now appeals to no one. You are just writing for yourself. You need to inject a bit of universal appeal in your writing if you're going to have readers."
I told him how, even a bore can be fascinating with the correct amount of detail. I also said that I prefer the offbeat, almost fantasy if you will.
"You are too old to come up with anything fantastical. J.K. Rowling wrote her books in adulthood but she formulated her ideas in childhood. Same with Stephen King. You've already passed your prime for that sort of thing. And you're never going to have enough experience so you'd just better start hanging out in courts. You need to study humanity more."
He asked me a few questions meant to test my intelligence. My answers were all wrong.
He slapped his forehead when I said I read slowly. "You mean you don't read photographically? What, do you read out loud? What takes you so long?"
When I answered his question about the first great civilization ("I think it was Mesopotamia"), he pointed out that it was Sumeria. He asked me how the earth formed and shook his head at my answer.
His prescription: I should read more on religion and philosophy, I should stop wasting words, and I should write less and earn more.
Since I started with a negative adjective, alcoholic, to describe my uncle, I want to conclude with his last statement to me before I left. This is also a negative statement and nullifies all the intelligent things he did say to me that day. My quoting of his statement also proves that I am snarky and petty.
He said, "Did you know that there are people who live in the centre of the earth?"
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