Those of you who know me well know that one of my favorite sentiments growing up came from the all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball, Pete Rose, who once said he didn’t like to read because it was bad for his batting eye. Oh, that laugh that I used to give after quoting that to teachers, friends, and even my parents as a child. It gave me a sense of justification for slacking off: if Pete Rose did it, why can’t I?
Then something happened. I realized it didn’t really matter how good or bad my batting eye was – I wasn’t a good hitter anyway.
Around the time I had that realization, I was taking a class in college called The Contemporary Novel, with Dr. Coleen Grissom. Among the many novels assigned for that semester were Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore. In less than a semester, I couldn’t care less about the strike zone anymore – my eyes had found a new place to zone in.
The dystopian landscape of Oryx and Crake, the brilliant illustrations of an emotionless life, the dehumanizing effects of corporate science… All of these things lit a fire under me. Then, when I felt compelled to take on all the injustices of the modern world, I got swept off my feet with the silly tale of an angel who misunderstands God and accidentally brings a bunch of zombies back from the dead for Christmas. Between my newfound ambition to save the world and my realization that the written word could elicit belly laughs, I undertook a new task: writing my own fiction.
There have been so many things that inspired me over the years, but reading is one that surprised me. I never thought it was “for me.” Much like every other situation in my life, though, I thought I knew more about myself than I actually did.
Thanks Margaret Atwood, Christopher Moore, and Dr. Grissom for holding up the mirror so that I could see myself clearly.