In a joint attempt to get out more and also be less of a selfish buttface, I’ve signed up for a volunteer program wherein I am paired with someone who wants to work on his or her literacy. We’ll go through books and little homework assignments together and I will help them to develop and hone their reading skills. I have yet to complete my nine hours of training, though I can’t imagine what that will entail (book opening? Page-turning?), yet I’m hoping they address what I see as a major issue: a supreme lack of cool books for illiterate or semi-literate adults.
Dream: Write children’s books for adults.
Goal: Achievable. And I don’t mean children’s books for adults in a stupid hipster way like, “See Jane. See Jane learn to love everyone in her community.” I get a real stick up my ass when adults consume things intended for children, I just think it makes us dumber. Disregard what I just said if you have kids. If you’re a Mom or Dad, I’m sure you’d rather watch a Disney Pixar thing with your little one because they try to put jokes in there for everybody. But, as I’ve said before, if you’re a grown-ass adult who goes to the movie theatre with your grown-ass adult partner and spend your hard-earned dollars on something called “The Croods”, you’re what’s wrong with society.
Rather, what I mean by children’s books for adults is books written in a simple, easy-to-understand way that is compelling for adult readers. I’ve heard, for example, that procedural tv shows like CSI are big for people trying to learn English. The formulaic nature of the episodes and the strong visual cues mean that it’s easy to follow the plot, even if you miss some of what the characters are saying. Likewise, I’ve heard that Kramer is what keeps Seinfeld successful in foreign markets. For such a verbose, neurotic show built on the minute subtleties of human behaviour, it’s the guy that crashes through doors and falls on his face that have more people around the world laughing at Seinfeld. There must be a way, then, to combine adult situations with more elementary syntax.
Plan: Write it myself. As far as I’m concerned, adult prose for early readers is an untapped market that I could dominate. Besides, the best writing to read is the stuff that doesn’t get all flowery and descriptive anyway. I know it’s the stylized writing that gets all the attention, but a good story and well-defined characters are even harder to convey than murky, complicated prose that shows off your smartishness. With that in mind, here are some passages I’ve been working on for my forthcoming literacy classes and proposals to publishers:
Dave has a car. He loves his car. It is big and loud. Dave’s car is on four big wheels. He drives to all the places. He honks his horn. His horn does not say “Beep beep!” Dave’s horn says “BRAAAP BRAAAP!” Dave drives all over the road. Dave says, “Look at my car.” Dave does not say, “Look at my genitals” because they are small. Dave is not secure about his small genitals. Dave wants a bigger car.
Kip and Kate check into a hotel room. Kate fills a garbage pail with ice and puts beer in it. Kip says, “Why not use the ice bucket?” Kate says, “The garbage pail is bigger.” She is right. Kip turns on the TV. Kip selects the Adults Only menu on the TV. Kate says, “Kip! That is gross!” Kip says, “I am only looking because these are funny! Look at the funny titles of the films! 12 Years A Butt! Ha ha ha!” Kate says, “I’m starting to rethink this affair.” Kip sits up in bed, full of concern.
Inspector Lisa looks down at the body. She sees the blood on the body. She sees the wounds on the body. She sees the blue lips and slashed throat on the body. She says, “This is not a good body. This body has been murdered. This is body murder.” The opens her notepad and writes, “Body murder”, then she underlines the phrase. “This will be a tough case!” she thinks.
Cousin Tom is not my real cousin. He is the son of my Mom’s cousin. I don’t know what that makes him. He talks to me about baseball. I don’t know about baseball. He smells like cheese. The other day, I saw Cousin Tom at the store but I could not tell if he saw me. I hid behind grapes and prayed for death.
What the fuck, Starbucks?
I wish I had a horse. I would ride my horse to work. If there was traffic, I would say, “Giddy-up” and my horse would trample all the cars. I would get to work on time. My boss would say, “You are on time always!” I would say “Yes” and smile. I would think, “Thanks, horse!” From my window, I would see Horse in the parking lot. He would text on his phone. Who does a horse text? I wish I had a horse.
Mom and Dad
Mom and Dad put in a movie. Mom says, “What is this movie about?” Dad says, “I don’t know.” Mom says, “But you picked it out.” Dad says, “I can’t remember. Debra Winger is in it.” Mom says, “Debra Winger is not in movies anymore. You are wrong.” Dad says, “How do you know?” Mom says, “It is common knowledge.” Movie plays for eight minutes of time. Mom falls asleep. Dad watches hockey.
Any one of these could turn into an exciting novel tomorrow! But reviewing my efforts, I see that they come across a little pedantic. What does an ESL student or recovering stroke victim care if I have a horse to ride to work? I’m actually really excited to do this program one or two nights a week. I can’t remember what it was like not knowing how to read, but I’m certainly grateful for the ability every day of my life. Reading is a sanctuary and an escape, and helps us find out how much salt is in breakfast cereal (surprisingly, a lot). I’m attracted to readers and love nothing more than trading a book knowing me and other person are about to be enraptured, literarily-speaking. I’ve been reading Canadian author Alan Bradley’s mystery series about a little girl in 1950s England who loves chemistry and solving crimes, and that was recommended to me by my friend Bradley. It’s not something I would normally pick up myself, which is why finding out that it’s excellent means I’m completely hooked. I’ve been reading them from my Kobo on my way to work and I hope to teach my charges that sometimes reading can be so exciting, so enthralling, so completely absorbing, that you sometimes forget to get off your horse.