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.