Many years ago, when my husband and I first met, I was a freelance writer working on a novel. He expressed polite interest and as our relationship blossomed, I offered to let him read it.
“I don’t read much fiction anymore,” he said.
I didn’t press the issue.
Because we married, and shortly thereafter, our first child was on the way, I put my writing aside. He occasionally called me in to read over the papers for his graduate study course work, but otherwise expressed no interest in anything remotely literary that I may do. Time passed and eventually, I picked up writing again and resumed work on The Black Wing Chronicles series. Despite my repeated requests that he read it and give me feedback, he declined to return the favor I’d done for him during his grad studies. I couldn’t get him to read any of my writing for any amount of begging and pleading, despite the fact that I was working on a completely different novel. When Sovran’s Pawn was published, he fell back on his tired old excuse.
“I don’t read much fiction anymore.”
It got to be a family joke.
“Dale still hasn’t read your book yet?” my father asked.
“No, and I don’t intend to,” my husband replied. “I don’t like reading books on the computer.”
When my proof copy arrived, he was all out of excuses. His reluctance to read it amused me.
When we left on vacation, he caved to the pressure from his friends who have already read it and badgered him endlessly about it. He started reading it under duress. After reading the first chapter, he set it aside.
“I already have a problem with it,” he said with all the petulance of a schoolboy being forced to memorize and recite epic poetry. “I just don’t like contrived, cliché names. I mean, Edge? Really? Who names their kid Edge?”
I smiled. “Have you read Chapter Two?”
“Edge’s name is explained in Chapter Two,” I said.
He eyed me dubiously.
“Two things you need to know, honey,” I said. “This book is an adventure written with tongue very firmly in cheek. A major theme in the whole story has to do with the nature of names as they relate to a person’s identity. The characters are named accordingly.”
With a long-suffering sigh, he picked it up again and resumed his reading. Once he got into it, he flew through it. I glanced over to find him chuckling out loud over passages. He’d look up at me over the top of the book with a merry twinkle in his eyes and a silly grin on his face.
When he reached Chapter Ten, he groaned and chortled, then set the book aside grinning hugely. “Eben Mohr?” he teased. “Really? Eben Mohr?? I can’t believe you named him Eben Mohr!”
I just smiled and shook my head. “That was my little joke with myself,” I said. “That’s my homage to James Bond. If Ian Fleming can have a character named Pussy Galore, I can have one named Eben Mohr. Tongue-in-cheek, baby.”
He shook his head and resumed his reading. He plowed through the book during the week we were in the mountains, reading as long as the light held out. Our last night in camp, the propane lantern hissed well past quiet time and he kept turning pages. He stopped when he reached Chapter Twenty-Four.
“I thought you were going to finish it tonight,” I said as we snuggled under our sleeping bag a little while later.
“I wanted to prove to you that I could stop.”
“You do realize that’s not exactly a compliment to a writer, don’t you?”
“It’s not my kind of book,” he said.
I’m pretty sure that’s all the praise or criticism I’m going to get out of him on the subject. I’m also pretty sure he’s not going to read the last two chapters out of sheer cussedness as we say in the South. He can be a contrary sort when he wants to be. The same thing that will keep him from reading the last two chapters and finishing his wife’s novel is the same contrary nature that drives him to seek out movies he’s pretty sure I can’t resist to lure me away from the computer in the evenings when I try to write. Tonight, as I’ve been working on this post, he’s already tried Desperado (Antonio Banderas) and when that didn’t get a rise out of me, he’s gone to Young Frankenstein. I think it’s a game to him.
Oh, I’ll get off in a little while… after Gene Wilder’s first scene in the medical school is over, or at least when he stabs himself in the leg with the scalpel.
You see, my husband isn’t the only one who can play games.