I must, dear reader of my blog, begin with a confession. There lies, in my character, an inherent flaw, a disingenuous tendency to make myself more than I am, to publicly overvalue my accomplishments while privately dismissing them, to spin my failures into fraudulent gold and more, still. I pretend to great intellect and depth of education, implying my own superiority in these areas through a fussy insistence on grammatical precision and near constant demonstrations of my own master of the language.
Even as I hate myself for these behaviours (and I assure you that each of them brings up in me that self-same loathing which drove the bullies of my childhood to beat me on the playgrounds and sidewalks of Schuylerville, New York) I hate myself more for my awareness of their deceptive nature. In truth, while I do have a facility for language – my own, that is, I have had neither the patience nor the talent to master even the most rudimentary conversational skills in any other – I rely heavily on that natural ability and demonstrate barely the least bit of discipline in my work. I write when I am inspired, haphazardly applying myself now to poetry, now to blogging, now to a spec script and so on. My published works, two novels for the young adult market, a novella and an e-book, have not made the best-known best-seller lists (as my father is quick to point out) and so I speak of their publication as though that alone is a mark of greatness. An award I won for playwriting some few years ago was so small in nature that the prize barely covered the expense necessary to travel to the ceremony at which the award was presented and yet I speak of that award as if it were of value as great as a Tony or an Oscar which, as my father is quick to point out, it is not. The litany of minor accomplishments which I inflate to bolster my public image could carry me well into the night, pen in hand, as I reveal them one by one but let me make short this paragraph by saying this: I speak of my five CDs and do not speak of the minute advance I negotiated for the contract or the meager sums I receive in royalties; I speak of my work on radio and do not mention the miniscule listenership or the stipends I receive for my writings and recordings; I speak, in short, to the aggrandizement of a career that stumbles in its faltering way toward a legacy of obscurity. The best consolation I offer myself, as I huddle in bed beside my beautiful wife who works hard to support us despite the expense of my unprofitable efforts is that after my death, perhaps, some person or persons among those few who have become aware of my efforts might in passing, at a some party or other, make mention of me and say that I was under appreciated in my time.
Now, in an attempt to make good on the promise of the man I claim to be, the man I pretend to be, I have taken it upon myself to read those books that I skimmed or failed entirely to read when I was assigned them in prep school and in college. Admittedly, I do still alternate, reading first a novel from the adventure fantasy rack at the local book store, pure self-indulgence and delight for me and then one of those classics with which I have, for all these years, only pretended to have been acquainted.
As each line passes beneath my eyes, as I become at last educated to the masterful writings that I had dismissed in adolescent arrogance as unworthy of my time and find the treasures I had so long denied myself, the hatred I feel for my own moronic pretense of erudition grows until it burns like a candle’s flame within my very soul. The self-recrimination as I realize the extent to which I have unmanned myself with ignorance while trumpeting my intellect troubles my sleep. I lie in bed at night, asthmatically gasping, suffocated by the pressure of my own detestation, my own failure even to be even a shadow of what I have claimed.
I sit, now perhaps in a park during the day, now at a coffee house in the evening, reading and am aware of the eyes of those about me, their judgment apparent in their sneering, hostile faces as I take in texts I would have been expected to have read long ago and huddle down. I hope to be invisible behind my book but still, I know they stare at me and I know their angry and superior thoughts as they watch me read.
As you may by now have surmised, as I assume you to be better read than I, my current literary endeavor has taken me, at long last, into the works of Dostoyevsky. I was supposed to have read him years ago. Damn, he’s good.