"If Hell exists, it’s filled with old boyfriends . . . and a cat."
So begins the manuscript I’m editing right now in which Sasha Solomon, my protagonist, is plagued by nightmares about relationships gone bad. Because I’m thinking so much about her life, I’m remembering fragments of my own.
Many years ago, I had a boyfriend who was an artist. Since our first interactions neglected talking in favor of aerobics, we didn’t get to know each other much until we were well into being "a couple."
One day, he showed me his art.
I broke up with him that night.
You see, I didn’t get it — his art, I mean. He spent hours with pastels and watercolors creating images of flying chairs. These weren’t chairs with wings; I think I would have liked that. No, his renditions were chairs moving through the air — white background, slightly bent chrome or wooden legs, and blah upholstery. Like I said, I didn’t get it.
I broke up with him because I felt our relationship had no future if something so important, something that tagged his essence as a human being, evoked mocking emotions in me.
As writers, we know writers. Every convention, every trip to the bookstore or library, offers oppportunities to read friends’ works.
What do you do when you care for the person, but not for his story — or craft?
I’m not thinking of anyone in particular here — not when it comes to mystery authors — but I know it’s happened to me. I’ve picked up a book by someone I like, wanted to love it, and haven’t.
It’s an uncomfortable, incomplete, and slightly treacherous response — and it needles me when I see that person later.
Right now, I can imagine several of you are wondering if I’m writing about you.
Don’t go there.
I’m not thinking of anyone in particular.
I simply want to explore this uneasy subject because it’s one of those things we don’t talk about — and it stymies forthright communication and makes us cringe internally.
So, I want to know: How do you handle it when a friend asks you to read his book — or expects that you have — and you have . . . but you don’t want to talk about it because you couldn’t get past p. 40?
I’ve begun to search for the good in every work — something I can praise or admire. But it can be difficult and I still feel like a traitor for not adoring the entire tome, the baby that it took a friend or acquaintance so much effort to create.
Has this ever happened to you?
How have you handled it?