This past Friday I picked up a newlywed couple at Port Canaveral. They had just returned from their honeymoon cruise. The groom was the son of an old friend of ours and my wife let them park in our yard. It was the safer and cheaper alternative to leaving the car in a parking lot for a week. We live only a few minutes from the port so dropping them off and picking them up was no big deal.
After we loaded the luggage in the back of my car and headed for home, we engaged in small talk. As you can imagine it consisted mostly of talking about the cruise, future plans, and occupations. They were both finishing school, he to be an accountant, she to be a dental hygienist. Then it was my turn, what did I do?
I told them I was a technical writer and described what that involved. Then I added that I also write novels and short stories.
“What do you write about?” he asked.
“Well,” I started to explain, “I write the dark horror fantasy kind of thing. Are either of you into reading horror novels?”
“We don’t really read,” he answered.
Aargh! The sheer horror of the moment! I clenched my teeth. We had been getting along so very well exchanging meaningless social drivel. I ruined it all by bringing up my writing.
“What’s your novel about?” she followed. Her voice was stilted, disingenuous, uninterested, mouthing the mechanical follow-on question only for the sake of killing time.
I panicked, flushed with the fear that my explanation would take us somewhere neither of us now wanted to go. Fortunately we were mere minutes from the driveway. In fact I think I actually blurted out something like, “Look we’re here!”
My relief at our arrival was almost palpable. I parked in front of my house, offloaded the cargo, helped them get their luggage into their car, and then they were gone. I was left dazed and dismayed with the awful words still ringing in my ears. “We don’t really read,” he had said.
I would have understood if he had said that they didn’t care for horror or even if they preferred reading about sparkling vampires (eww) or historical romance, but not reading at all? I just can’t imagine it. It brought me to the sudden realization that there may be a whole strata of society I was unaware of ― nonreaders.
Although the experience unnerved me, there may yet be something of value in it. Perhaps there is the germ of a story. How about this, an avid reader is plunged into a world of nonreaders. It is a place where reading is banned, where reading is treated as an addiction ― the terrible world of accountancy. A little dystopian, you say? Picture Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury), 1984 (Orwell), and Brave New World (Huxley) all in contemporary America.
The concept is off the cuff as I write this post and needs work, but it might be doable. What do you think? I hesitate to mix current politics into my writing, but we live in scary times. And in scary times when we feel out of control it is even more essential that everyone be well read.
What do you think? If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any of my posts, please leave a comment by selecting the Leave a comment or Leave a Reply link. I’d really like to hear from you. Thanks.