Not reading books is a popular pastime among the men in my family. When my father was a kid living in Poland in the 1960s, he threw all of his schoolbooks into a river. If you ask him about it now, he'll tell you that he committed this act during Communism as a protest against the Russian overlords. It's a charming idea: my father, already a political dissident at age 12! But I know better: The guy just does not like to read books, and that's why he drowned his in a cold river. My brother does not like to read either. Only once have I seen my brother pick up a novel. The novel was Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
. He picked it up, stared at it silently, the way a philosopher might, then immediately put it back down. A few years later he majored in accounting. But my family's most notable nonreader is my cousin Bob.
"I've only read one book in my life!" Bob once bragged.
What was it? I asked.
"Whatchamacallit," he responded. "The Catcher in the Rye. It was pretty good."
When I'm with Stupid was published I told Bob to read it, never actually thinking he would. (I've honestly never seen Bob read anything. Not even the newspaper.) I didn't feel any better about my chances when I invited him to attend one of my book readings in Chicago (Chicago is where he and many of my family members live).
"A book reading, huh?" he doubtfully repeated. He looked nervous. "So, are you gonna read the whole book?"
I rolled my eyes. Yeah, I was going to read the whole book at the book reading. I told him to bring his sleeping bag, some firewood, and a fishing pole. The reading would take nine days. He laughed with relief. "Well I had to ask!" he said, brightening up. "I thought maybe you were gonna read the whole thing!"
Bob assured me that he would "probably come" to the reading. Out of fairness, at the time he was building an addition onto his house and he was very busy. Most of his evenings were spent making sure that his two young sons — ages 4 and 2 and a half — did not drink cans of toxic paint or chew on aluminum pipes. (Author's Note: Bob's sons are very cute, but they are made for mischief. I babysat them once: The older one peed on my shoe while the younger one swallowed a fistful of dirt.)
Anyway, Bob — and his wife and sons — came to the reading. Evidently Bob liked what he heard because afterward he bought 10 copies of I'm with Stupid. He subsequently took one copy with him on vacation. Much to my surprise, he read it cover to cover. He called me the day he returned from the trip.
"Now I've read two books. Yours and whatchamacallit, The Catcher in the Rye! Yours was definitely funnier!" The experience inspired him. He added that he was thinking about building a library in his house (as part of the new addition). "I can fill it with your book!" he said. "I have 10 copies!"
Bob has since had a third child, a daughter. The library idea was quickly nixed. As Bob's wife pointed out: The baby has to sleep somewhere. So much for Bob's adventures in reading. But the daughter, I should point out, is adorable. I can only assume that one day she will inherit 10 copies of I'm with Stupid, one of them slightly worn. As for Bob's two sons? Fifty bucks says she'll have to read the book to them.
That's it for me for today. I'm happy to be with you this week! See ya tomorrow.