It was awful. Not the worst book I'd ever read, but that didn't mean it wasn't awful. His plot had disintegrated halfway through the book; I didn't even read the second half for fear of what meandering nonsense it may hold. And who edited this thing? His wife? Punctuat(more)ion was at the level of a clever eighth grader and whole paragraphs were repeated verbatim six chapters apart. I did try to keep reading. I started underlining cliches just to keep my attention. It didn't help. No matter how many times his characters were "sweating bullets" or "stuck like a dear caught in headlights", I couldn't go on.
But he would be back. He would come into my bar and demand to know what I thought of his book. And then I would say...
... what? That's the part I'm really worried about. To be fair, I had told him that I was also a writer. It was really his mistake asking another writer to review his book. And I can be awful, I know. Would I tell him that I couldn't even finish it? Would I show him the notes? Maybe it would help him; probably it would lose me a good tip every week. Maybe I'd tell him how amazed I was that the thing even got published.
But he did publish it. He wrote it and loved it and got it bound. He had signed copies at the Barnes & Noble. ("Sign as many as you can," he'd told me. "That way people can't return them.")
And I? I hadn't done any of that. My writing sat in notebooks, computer files, and yes, even blogs. So he had me one better. He had the nerve to see it through. And for that I'll sing his praises.(less)
You graduate from college on a balmy June Sunday. There is a large tent providing shade from the unrelenting sun. Your president speaks at commencement commending your achievements, but not your achievements, really the achievements of your class. Your parents sit five rows back, twelve chairs to the left(more) for mom and four to the right for dad. They're looking at you, but they don't look at each other. Feel the sweat drip down your cheek, your chin, the nape of your neck, and fall silently onto your gown--a black spot surrounded by blue. The president is expounding on her theory of lifelong learning and the future of liberal arts. Liberal arts? You may know where your breakfast comes from tomorrow, but in a week, a month, a year? Applause jars you back to the scene and out of your head. The people around you stand and toss their caps in the air; you stand, remove your cap, and drop it on the ground.