As much as I’d like to write a book, I think what I really want is to have written a book already. I think that would be nice. And I don’t need it to be a runaway best-selling sensation. I’d settle for moderate sales and decent reviews. I don’t need to get a movie deal and interviewed on Fresh Air, I’d settle for some fan mail and a short spot on All Things Considered.
Imagine how cool it would be to walk into a Barnes & Noble and see a book you wrote, with your name on it, sitting there on the shelf. Imagine kind of lingering in the aisle near the book you wrote, waiting to see someone come along and pick it up and leaf through it– maybe a blonde girl with very tan legs, and maybe she’s got an equally blonde friend who’s a little taller, and the one with the tan legs hands my book to her tall friend and says, “This is the one I was telling you about, you have to buy this right now.”
Would I sidle up and say hello? Maybe slickly take the book from her hands, autograph it, and hand it back? Or maybe I’m kidding myself—maybe the fans of any book I’d write would be less blonde girls with very tan legs and more men with scraggly beards, Deadpool tattoos, and a hard drive full of pitches for sequels to John Wick.
That would be fine. I’d still be happy to see those dudes pick up my book in Barnes & Noble. I might not sidle up to them, though.
What would probably happen—this is much more likely than finding a fan—is that I’d go looking for my book and find that someone had ditched some pornography next to my novel. One of those Penthouse Forum compendiums they sell in the Love and Relationships section next to The Joy of Sex, all those made up letters to the editor about getting stuck on an elevator with six horny cheerleaders who want to pass the time by letting the author judge a contest to see who has the tightest vagina. Some creep would have picked it up and brought it over to the fiction section to leaf through so anyone passing by would think he loved literature and not smut.
I’m not a prude but I’d be pretty annoyed to see my book next to—maybe even obscured by!—pornography. I wouldn’t want someone browsing around to skip checking my book out because of it, wouldn’t want the pornography to somehow become linked to my book in a potential reader’s mind.
Don’t get me wrong, any book I wrote would certainly include some sexual content, but that sex would be metaphorical or something. Like, if I wrote a scene about a guy trapped in an elevator with six horny cheerleaders who wanted to have a tight vagina contest, the point of that scene would be to stress how my main character felt guilty about his brother’s death. It wouldn’t be anything prurient.
If I saw that someone had stashed pornography next to my novel on the shelf, I’d have to decide what to do about it. Actually, not that difficult a decision…either move the porn or do nothing. But it wouldn’t be as simple as just moving it, actually, because I wouldn’t feel right about shifting the porn a few shelves over and making it some other author’s problem, or tossing it over towards the magazines for a clerk to clean up—I wouldn’t want some kid to come across the thing before a Barnes & Noble employee did—so I’d have to bring it all the way back to the Love and Relationships section, which would mean carrying the thing across the store myself.
I wish I was relaxed and liberated enough to not give a fuck about being seen strutting around with some pornography in hand, but in truth I guess I’m not. I’d be afraid of running into someone I knew. Say I took that Penthouse Compendium and went to set it back where it belongs and ran into my grandma? It’s unlikely I would, for several reasons… it would be impossible to just “run into” her somewhere since she wouldn’t ever go anywhere without an escort, and also before letting all her living relatives know where she was going and when she’d be back, plus she’s been dead for three years. But say I was walking around with some pornography and I ran into her, for the sake of argument.
Well. Technically that would make her a zombie, wouldn’t it? So then I’d have a very unexpected and unpleasant decision to make: do I kill my zombified grandmother?
It would be tough. I mean, not physically, physically I doubt it would take much more than two sturdy kicks, but emotionally. Emotionally pretty fraught. I could scamper off, make her someone else’s problem… but is that really the right thing to do? What if I decided I couldn’t handle it, ran away, and she bit the next person she encountered and zombified them? I’d have that on my head for the rest of my life, plus any further zombies created in that chain. That’s a lot of pressure, and I have enough anxiety as it is worrying if the Superman/Batman movie will be any good.
So I’d have to dig deep and find the strength to put my zombified grandmother down myself. I’m not ashamed to say I’d cry doing it, either. I guess I could use the Penthouse Compendium as a weapon, get it over as quickly and neatly as possible, out of respect.
And you know what would happen? I’d get photographed killing her, and the whole thing would get blown all out of proportion because she’d turn out to be a one-off zombie, not part of a full-on uprising, and the story would be that a mid-level author had bludgeoned his own grandmother to death with a pornographic book.
I’d spend the rest of my life in prison.
But I bet my novel would soar to the top of the bestseller list.