I wrote a novel with daggers that jut from the page and poke people in the eyes at appropriate moments in the plot. It was kind of a pop-up book, except with daggers.
The novel was about a man who was aware that all he was was a character in a novel. He hated his readers because he couldn’t get away from them. He had no privacy. He was like someone on a reality television show without having signed a contract to be on a reality television show. Occasionally, he would look up and shake his fist and curse at the people reading his life. And sometimes he would poke them in the eyes with daggers.
The title of the novel was Don’t Read This or You Might Get Poked in the Eye With a Dagger.
I used to hand out free copies to people at independently funded literary festivals. Aspiring authors smiled and said things like “Oh, you wrote this?” and “I look forward to reading it.” I told them, Please don’t.
My mom found out about my novel and wanted a copy. Before shipping it, I signed the inside cover: Mom, for the love of God, please don’t read this. Love, Darby.
After my book tours ended, my agent called and told me Don’t Read This … was a breakout. It was selling like crazy. Bookstores couldn’t keep them on the shelves. I said, That’s great. “Are you working on anything else?” he asked. I told him I was recording an audio version called Don’t Listen to This or You Might Get Needles Jabbed in Your Eardrums.
My fame was overwhelming me. I had to get an unlisted number. I had to remove my e-mail address from my website. I had to buy a secluded house in the woods with a long crazy driveway and an electronic gate at the bottom.
The university invited me to give a lecture on writing. As I walked up the cement steps to the lecture hall, a man was sitting on the steps with sunglasses on. An upturned hat lay on the ground next to him. I stopped to talk to him. He said he was blind. I asked him how he became blind. He said he was born that way.
Inside the lecture hall, I stood at a podium and told professors and aspiring writers what I thought about the craft of writing. I told them that you have to hate the readers who read your stories. You have to punish your readers. Readers want to feel pain. Then everyone murmured amongst themselves, “That’s so true,” and, “You should really read his book,” and they nodded in agreement and they hugged each other and they felt the happiness that agreements always bring, and then they all looked up at me with perfect eyeballs.