I walked up to the father of the bride and offered my hand.
He looked at me curiously.
He smiled oddly.
"I read your book. It's...gross."
He'd clearly racked his brain for the most fitting, yet kind word he could come up with, and "gross" was sadly it.
My girlfriend was mortified.
A beautiful occasion for her family, and her sweet uncle was wasting it telling me he thought my book was...gross.
She couldn't believe he'd even read it.
I couldn't have care less that he thought it gross.
The thing is, he SHOULD think my book is gross. He's a sixty-something Jew retired to the South who spends his days golfing and following college football recruiting in the SEC.
Clearly, not my audience.
Find Your Audience
Wouldn't it be more odd if my book had really resonated with him?
A guy who typically reads David McCullough doorstops?
When you write a book for everyone, you write it for no one (unless you're Stieg Larsson--everyone loves his shit).
Certain people should hate your art.
Certain people should not "get" your work.
And, yes, certain people should perhaps even find your work...gross.
What did he expect?
It's not like I set any false expectations.
In fact, I tried to write one of the most expectation-fulfilling books ever.
It's the world's first self-hurt guide, the opposite of a self-help guide. Clearly, it's going to be satirical and foul-mouthed and mocking and naughty.
There are no less than three mentions of bodily functions on the front cover, with "How to Masturbate at Work" prominently featured below the subtitle. Not to mention, there's a massive back cover blurb that infers one might urinate in one's pants should they read "How to Fail."
So it's not like I'm baiting and switching someone into thinking they're getting Mitch Albom, his giant ears, and his earnest feel-goodiness.
I've set the caveat emptor of...
This book will almost certainly be...gross. To some.
Then Again, You Never Exactly Know Your Audience
But that's not to say people there aren't some atypical types that love "How to Fail":
*An 80-something (?) female college professor adored my work (she's actually a noted sexologist)
*Several very religious people dig its inspiration (though they too hate the "grossness" and curse words)
*Even teachers and professors love it (and let me speak to impressionable youths about it!)
Now that I think about it, my girlfriend's uncle may have called my book gross, but he still read it. All of it. He still read all 372 pages, so I must have done something right. At the least, I wrote a very readable book. And, I'd wager, he may have even secretly enjoyed it. Grossness and all.
Maybe I should ask him to blurb the next edition.
"It was...gross" --Uncle Larry
To my fans who love "How to Fail," do me this favor:
Recommend the book this week to someone in your life who seems completely atypical to the intended audience of "How to Fail." Buy them a copy, gift them a Kindle edition (only $2.99!), or lend them yours--it doesn't matter--just get it in their hands. And then tell me if they think it's...GROSS.