Friday, December 30, 2005

on illiteracy

One day in sixth grade, I forgot how to read. I first noticed the problem during a school assembly in the cafeteria—maybe I was trying to read someone’s T-shirt or something, because the assembly itself wasn’t text-based. I saw letters and words, but they suddenly didn’t add up to anything. When we got back to class, I looked at the clock (as I often did in sixth grade, despite the sign Mrs. Graham had posted next to it saying, “Time passes. Will you?”) and it didn't make any sense either. By the end of the day, I had a full-blown flu, so I guess it just hit my brain first. Once I reached barf mode, camped out in front of the TV, I could read again, well enough to know that I should call 1-800-THE-LAW-2 if I needed legal advice.

My reading skills left me again, although not quite as profoundly, one evening last summer when I sort of got spontaneously drunk. My speech slowed and everything was a little fuzzy. Cathy told me it sounded like a migraine sans headache; apparently a friend of hers had experienced something similar.

For the past few weeks, I might as well have had the flu or a weird migraine-that-I-really-hope-isn’t-a-brain-tumor. There’s a Post-It note in the front of my planner that says: “To Read: Annette’s thing, Jane Smiley book, Steve Erickson book, Ms. Goldsmith’s book, Sunshine/Noir, Bronwyn’s book (due Jan. 17).” Some I’ve started, some I haven’t, but even though I’ve managed a little bit of writing, reading anything more complex than “Celebrities—They’re Just Like Us!” has eluded me.

Stressing, as usual, for all the wrong reasons, I thought, “Shit, my blog is supposed to kind of be about interesting artistic and cultural things. I haven’t read anything I can comment on. And now I don’t even have a TV.”

But little by little, I’m recovering from my emotional flu. I’m happy to say I’m 40 pages into Bronwyn’s manuscript. The girl can write. When her book finds its way into the world, I predict it will be not just blogged about but reviewed by really smart people in really smart newspapers. Or at least it should be—I should never try to predict the publishing world. Anyway, Bronwyn, here’s your first bit of critique: Your novel is way more interesting than Hilary Duff putting coins in parking meter. More to follow on January 17.

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