You guys know I don’t read at my readings, yet I had to read the other night in Harrison, NY. So, by request, Here’s the Essay that I wrote, and read, for that event.
I DON’T READ, By Christopher Moore
I’d like to start this reading, by saying that I do not read.
When I say I do not read, I mean that I don’t do public readings – in other words, I don’t read in public, but because I tell lies for a living, no one believes me. So here I am, at another public reading, even though, I do not read.
I do not – not read, because, like some finicky toddler eyeing a food item he’s never tried, a turnip, say, I fear the unknown and untried. (Even though history has proven that turnips cannot be trusted.) No, I have tried reading. I do not, not read because I haven’t been there, done that. No. It is because I have tried reading and failed miserably that I don’t read.
I mean, I read. In private. When no one is watching. You probably do as well. I think we can all, as adults, admit here, that we have, at one time or another read. But not in public! With a sound system and people recording it. What is public is public and what is private is private and if that wasn’t the case then we might as well all just do porn, our naughty bits in a whirl, our hormones flying to and fro, hither and yon,
and no one wants to see that.
That’s all I’m saying.
Yet, despite my right to privacy, Which is kinda-sorta defined in the Constitution And for which courageous men have given their lives And many public servants have sworn to uphold Several of whom have actually meant it, I stand before you here, tonight, telling you that I do not read.
Last Saturday I was walking by the Liberty Bell. Really. In Philadelphia. Where they keep it. And I saw three cops checking the ID of an East-Indian Man And his two young sons. They didn’t check my ID. When clearly I could be up to something. And they didn’t check anyone else’s ID. (I watched for a while.) Just the brown, vaguely foreign-looking guy. I don’t have a point. I was just reading about rights and freedom and stuff. And I thought it was kind of ironic.
I wish I had been carded in front of the Liberty Bell. Because then I’d be ranting at you, instead of reading,
Which I don’t do.
I might have read,
If I had not been traumatized at an early age When my Mother’s sister Shirley, who lived with us Was reading aloud to the family one night And during a particularly spirited passage of Poe, (From the poem, Annabell Lee, I believe) Skidded off the end of the line And was crippled in a nine adjective pile up. Thus rendering her illiterate for the rest of her life. How sad it was, to see sweet Aunt Shirley, wandering around the house, Asking, “Can I use the blow dryer in the tub?” or “Is this dry-cleaning bag a toy?” or “What’s in the yellow box.”
“Cheerios,” Shirley, “For the love of God, there’s Cheerios in the box! Look at the picture, for fucks sake!”
And then we’d feel bad, when she would follow with, “Then who’s that kid on the milk carton?”
Well, that alone, is reason enough for me not to read, I think. But no, because I developed early, reaching the reading level of blue jets long before the other kids, I was teased, and made to feel a freak. And they made me read. “But I don’t read!” said the sad, but immensely talented little boy. “Read it,” Sister Mary Nicotine, would croak, when it was just the two of us in the cloak room. ”Read it, slow, like you mean it, and don’t skip a word.” Then she would close her eyes and lean back on the cloaks, (which were kept in the cloak room,) and she would make me read it, again and again…”
It’s okay. I’m alright now. That was a long time ago, and although if I see a nun or a cloak now I spontaneously urinate, I’m okay. I don’t read, but I’m okay.
Later, in my twenties, when I was living with a woman who had two young sons, I was asked, once again, to read aloud. And I did. Not because it was easy, but, for the children.
Over and over,
I read, against my own better judgment, the same story, about the Eggs Chartruse and Smoked Pork…
I do not read, in a box, I do not read, with a fox, I do not read in a house, I do not read, with a mouse. I will not read, to a crowd I will not read in public, aloud.
I read it, every night, because the children asked for it, and all would seem to have been harmless, except later, both boys went on to be have sex change operations, one became a crack whore and the other heads the department of heinous weaselosity at the Whitehouse.
I might as well have just kicked the human spirit in the nads.
I might have just tossed a dead rat into the blender with the milk of human kindness and called it a day, but no, here I stand.
I’ve been out on book tour for the last three weeks, going from town to town, plane to plane, not reading. When I show up for a signing the people at the book store ask, “Do you want to read?” Despite the fact that my advance people have been there for days, getting the blue M&Ms and the Bulgarian Spring water in place for my appearance, making sure that sheets with less than a 400 thread count do not abrade my delicate flesh, yet there they stand, asking, forcing me to point to section six, paragraph 5, of the agreement, which clearly states, that as a party to this agreement, they understand, that I do not fucking read.
Now, if I were on book tour, and I said, for instance, that “I didn’t fly,” it’s highly unlikely that my editor would invite me up to the observation deck of the Chrysler building and toss me off because she did not believe me. Otherwise there would have been a Ray Bradbury shaped dent in Lexingotn Avenue a long time ago. No, I think that I can say, with some conviction, that my editor has never tossed Ray Bradbury off.
Yet I have often said, “I do not read,” and here I am, being tossed off, figuratively, in front of each and every one of you.
If I had said, as my tour was being planned, “I do not drive.” Someone would be provided to drive me or I’d be reimbursed for cab fare. Yet I told them I do not read, and here I am.
And not at an amateur level – I am reading at a professional level, with professionals.. You might as well prop your non-driving, cataract befogged grandmother behind the wheel at the Indianapolis 500 and tell her to step on it, and don’t spare the horsepower –, get out of the way, Bobby Rayhall, the pace is now being set by a driver with the reflexes of a house plant. I tried to tell you. At any speed, I am unsafe to read.
I thought when I wrote the book, that it was understood, at least tacitly, that a reader would be provided,
perhaps even several.
Frankly, I think it’s an insult to all of you. You know you could do a better job, I know you would do a better job, yet here I am, doing it for you.
Three weeks ago, in Santa Cruz, California, I was doing a taped interview at the local NPR station, when the interviewer pointed out a paragraph in my new book and asked me to read it for the tape.
I don’t read, I said. I know, he said. But if you could just read this. I know, but I don’t read because I suck at it. I know, he said, but I can edit out any mistakes. So I read. And twenty false starts later Each which I punctuated with, “Fuck!” Twenty takes later,
He said, Wow, you really don’t read. That’s all I’m saying, “I said.
Later he emailed me that he had left in many of the reading mistakes in the show, Sort of like a blooper reel. Some bonus content for the NPR audience during pledge week.
After the show ran, hundreds of listeners sent back their tote bags, their coffee mugs, and their DVD sets of The Complete History of Blurry Old Photos by Ken Burns , asking for their money back.
I told them. But they didn’t believe me.
When I was in Pennsylvania last week, a bear ate a kid. It was sad. But kind of funny. Not that the bear ate the kid. You may have misinterpreted my reading. Although that may be, well — you know why But it was funny because they were going to trap the bear In a live trap Baited with donuts. Which I thought was strange. Because clearly, the bear had already shown his dietary preference.
He had not come out of the woods To eat a donut.
They’re probably going to catch the wrong bear.
They clearly should have baited the trap With a kid. Perhaps holding a donut, for safe measure.
Or perhaps they should have asked the bear to read. Ha! you say. “Bears don’t read.”
Neither do I, yet here I am.
(But for future reference, If you choose to live trap me. A donut will be perfect bait.) You can shoot me with one of those tranq guns. And when I wake up. I’ll be chained to a podium. And you can poke me with sticks. Until I read.
When they asked the gypsies to read, I read nothing, because I was not a gypsy. And when they asked the Jews to read, I read nothing, because I was not a Jew. Then they asked the Catholics to read, and I read nothing, because I was not a Catholic. And when they asked the cats to read, I read nothing, because I was I not a cat, But I listened carefully, Because it would have been cool, you know, if it turned out that cats could read. Because you could leave post-its on the couch. That said, “Hey, don’t scratch this, you furry little mook!” I could leave a note in the cat box, “Hey, don’t kick all the litter out on the floor. And then, the cats would leave me a message back. But, sadly, cats don’t read. And neither do I.
I have a Dream! That someday, A man will be judged by the content of his composition, Not the quality of his elocution.
Imagine if I were talking to you. Instead of reading to you I’d be looking you in the eye Instead of you staring at my bald spot.
And when I looked at you, You’d see the sincerity in my eyes. Because I wouldn’t be wearing these glasses Which I need for reading.
I know what you’re thinking. If not for the hair loss and the glasses And the despair He’d be a fine piece of man meat If it wasn’t for his reading.
I’d do him, you’re thinking. If his reading wasn’t so – weak.
Boy, that Garrison Keillor can sure read. That dulcet baritone rolling sultry out of a Norwegian With the shoulders of a freight train And the face of a Shinto Demon. I’d do Garrison Keillor, if he were up there now. Instead of this fucktard.
I’d be Garrison Keillor’s Prarie Home Companion Good Long Time. You’re thinking. You tramps.
When I get home from this book tour, I’m going to teach my cats to read. I know, they’ll keep insisting that they don’t read. But you know how cats lie.
I know they can type. I’ve often left my office, only to return to find a cryptic message on the screen Where before there had only been the draft of my new book I just don’t know what language they’re typing. But from their behavior, It appears that they are trying to say In cat type. “I’m going to go fuck up the couch And take a nap.”
Now you’re probably saying,
He’s not even reading.
Making stuff up, now.
He could just be looking at the page
He probably doesn’t even read in public.
And it’s that sharp perception, That analytical excellence. That keen intellect That makes me like you.
I’ve always liked you. As an audience, I mean. Not in some sleazy way. You’re the best.
I only wish that I read. So I didn’t have to leave you unsatisfied. Watching me gather my things. And sneak out the door. My shoes in my hand. My underwear in my jacket pocket.
I’ll call you. I say. “Okay,” you say. But you just want me to go. So you can get some sleep. Before work.