Slow-smoked Memories


I’ve noticed it takes much longer to write about my life than it does to live it, and that is a frustrating bit of math. I spend an inordinate amount of time crafting the events in my life into something worth reading. I’m not sure if that is a reflection on my writing ability or the lack of distinctiveness of my life. Bob Dylan – who has led a significantly more interesting life than me – when reflecting on having written his autobiography, made the point that the time spent writing about life is time spent not living it. A quandary, to be sure.

Being frustrated with the time and effort I require to write a memoir, I think it is only fair that a reader should spend at least as much time reading a book as it took to write it. I especially want the really fast readers to slow down. It strikes me as disrespectful when someone labels a book a “quick read”, as if that’s a compliment. Then again, in addition to being a slow writer, I am a slow reader, so it’s easy for me to feel judgmental and self-righteous about the pace of both activities.

Crafting a book reminds me of barbecue. As I have blogged about several times before, a good barbecue meal takes many hours to prepare but can be consumed in minutes. A ravenous barbecue crowd can destroy a twelve-hour brisket in seconds. In the spirit of my aforementioned reading-writing pace formula, I suggest that barbecue diners should spend twelve hours eating a brisket in an expression of respect to the chef. Then again, that’s not eating so much as digesting, which I suppose is the true parallel between barbecue and writing. The reader may make a quick snack out of a book, but, if the book was well-prepared, they will digest the words for weeks, months, even years. Just as I hope my guests savor the memory of the meal I serve them longer than it remains in their guts, I hope my words linger in the reader’s mind long after the book has been put back on the shelf. And I really hope my readers can wait for the next book. It’s going to be a shockingly long slog to write about three weeks in Europe.

It’s also going to be a few months before there’s any more barbecue, as grilling season is officially over at my house. The rains have come, and I packed up the barbecue gear. As I wrote about in an earlier post, I think waiting six months for smoked ribs is good for the appetite. I hope it’s also good for my writing habit. If grilling season is over, I suppose I should declare the official start of writing season. Wish me luck.


2 thoughts on “Slow-smoked Memories

  1. Nice piece, old chap. Being some what of a writer myself, I had to appreciate your first line. A frustrating bit of math indeed. And in a nod to your parallel, I am still digesting it. Thank you.

    I find Bob Dylan’s thoughts the same when I venture on trips afield, vacations and what not, where I spend so much time clicking the camera and writing in the journal, trying to remember, that I sometimes suspect I have missed out on something. But then if I don’t write it down or take a picture, you can bet in a couple of years I will have forgotten all about it. What can you do!

    A quick read indeed. Yeah that can sting a bit. You pour your heart into a piece, and give it everything you have, going back and re-writing paragraphs and entire chapters, tweaking, massaging into the wee hours amid the gentle glow of the lap top, getting it just right. Then you plate it up for the public to consume, and they label it a quick read. And devour it in no time flat. That is brisket smoking indeed. And I guess we just ought to accept it.

    Enjoyed this one, good sir!
    Take care

  2. Preach!

    I remember watching Martha Stewart craft the perfect poached egg for Eggs Benedict, including patting it dry with a loving hand, and snipping the ragged edges off with a pair of scissors. I remember watching that and thinking, WTH? An hour’s work and it’s gonna be gone in three bites!

    I realize now that, instead of thinking Martha was crazy for her perfectionism, I should instead be tsking her breakfast guests for bringing too much enthusiasm to the table.

    Then again, maybe Martha’s breakfast guests _do_ take an hour to eat her Eggs Benedict.

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