Just about 23 years ago I met somebody in real life that I had met online for the first time possibly a year earlier. We became pretty decent friends. He had a storied military career and a lot of legitimately interesting and personal experiences. He was great at telling stories about them and most of them were fascinating to me. I got to meet him and his girlfriend/later wife because I happen to be doing a job in the area and it was convenient to visit with him.

We stayed in contact for a long time and it was an enjoyable correspondence for us both I feel.

So nobody was happier than I to discover that he had written his first book. I could not wait to put my hands on a copy and read it. He was actually kind enough to send me an autographed first impression, and I literally took a day off work to sit down and concentrate on reading the book.

I read a great deal, and I approached this with a completely open mind and also a clear impression of who he was and what kind of storyteller he was.

By the second chapter my disillusionment was pretty much complete. I slogged my whole way through this book hoping that at some point the sparkling conversationalist I knew would shine through, or that the fictional story would begin to have the wonderful flavor of his real life experiences but nothing like this ever happened. It was poorly written, it was poorly edited. The plot was poorly constructed and predictable, and the book was scattered with little vignettes of which each was its own little self-contained disaster of mediocrity.

He called me a couple days later and asked me if I had enjoyed it. I made excuses that I had gotten very busy at work and had not been able to even crack the book open. Eventually he stopped contacting me and I stopped talking to him all together.

This is a disappointment to me in a number of ways. First because I myself lacked the conviction to be honest about my feelings about what he had written. I didn’t have any desire to harm him or cast aspersion on his work.

Second because somebody who I knew to be an excellent storyteller told a story that frankly was unreadable.

Third because I lost a valued friend.

As a result of this specific experience I have a kind of a personal problem. I have any number of friends and acquaintances who have made the effort to write what by all accounts are excellent stories. And I am unable to read them. I am fairly confident that at least in a couple of cases these are well written and wonderful works. But I cannot bring myself to take the chance on losing another friend because I cannot face them after having read what they wrote and not liked it.

It isn’t as if I set a particularly high bar. I have read and even enjoyed the Wayfarer by Dennis Schmidt, possibly the most horrible science fiction novel ever inked on paper.
So I can enjoy just about anything. But I value friendships as much as I value honesty and if I read something somebody had written and found once again that it was horrible I would stop talking to them all together rather than be honest with them about what I felt for fear of hurting their feelings.

This is in some ways a real tragedy because I feel that I may be missing some really great reading because of this wall I have built for myself.

I’m not going to take a chance though because the friendships I have hold a value to me that I am not willing to easily relinquish.

So if you have written something and I have not read it, this is why. Please do not take it personally, it is a failing of mine and not yours.