Thanks for your question Herb, I get this one quite a bit.
"Who is your favorite author?" "What are your favorite books?"
Avid readers such as yourself will be horrified by the answer!
I have read three books in my entire life!
I do not read books. I've simply never enjoyed reading. (Though I love writing! More on that later) I never read books growing up and made it all of the way through school without ever having read a single assigned book. How you ask? Because I'm a good listener. School (at least the one I went to) is really all about listening to what the teacher is trying to teach you and then proving that you understood it by repeating it all back to him or her in the form of a test. When reading was assigned, I simply never did it. The next day in class, anything that was of import was discussed. And anything that was going to be on the test would be covered. I LOVE discussions, that part was never a problem. In fact, I was always vey much involved in the discussions and I have an incredible memory for certain things so I generally aced all of my tests.
Well, what about book reports? I mean, they're not covering those in class right? So how did I get away with writing reports for books I never read? In 8th grade I had to do a book report on Catcher in the Rye. It had to be about twenty pages long. I started reading the book. I read half of the first chapter before I wanted to cut my head off with a dull knife. Then I began my report. It went something like this...
..."In Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist Holden Caulfield finds himself at a crossroads in his life. I know exactly how he feels..." and then the next twenty pages were about an experience I had. I got an A+ and the teacher wrote me a note saying that she was really impressed by how the book had effected me and caused me to relate it to my own life. I'm not saying this is good, mind you. I'm just answering your question.
There are those who believe that reading makes you intelligent. Maybe that's true. But everything I know I learned from life, by observing and by doing. At this point, I feel it's important that I point out that I graduated from high school a year early as a junior and that I've been a college professor for 19 years. Just saying.
So what are the three books I've read?
A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony: When I was about 13, somewhere around 1980, I saw this book in a store. The cover absolutely captured my imagination! I remember it had a Chimera on it, some kind of weird composite monster made up of a lion, snake, maybe Griffin, etc... It looked "bad ass!". And some part of me really wanted to try to understand why people loved reading books, so with this cover looking as amazing as it did, I figured this was the book that I would try to discover the joy of reading with. I found the story interesting enough. I liked the protagonist and there were definitely moments where I couldn't put the book down, but physically, it's always been a struggle for me to read. It makes me tired. And anyway, what was going on in my real world at that time made the events in the book, as magical as they were, seem kind of tame.
An Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice: I read this around 1988 after my then girlfriend had kicked me out. I was staying in the parlor (not really a private room) of an apartment the animation company I worked for (Broadcast Arts) kept for visiting clients. It overlooked 2nd ave in the East Village of NYC, between 9th and 10th streets. It was summer in NYC and incredibly hot! The events that took place in that apartment while I was reading the book are probably more interesting (at least to me) than what happens in this novel.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: Around 1993 or so, I met an older German woman who offered me a 13-thousand dollar "art" grant. It's a long story and pretty damn colorful, but all I have time for right now is that I used almost all of the money to make my 45-second-long film Rakthavira (because I'm an idiot). Part of the deal was that I would have an exhibition at the opera house in Frankfurt, Germany where I would show my film and my animation models and have dinner with the mayor of Frankfurt, the German finance minister and other dignitaries. Before getting on the plane to Frankfurt, a friend of mine, horrified by the fact that I'd only read two books in my entire life, handed me a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and assured me that I'd love it. I did! It really spoke to me. In fact it spoke to me in a voice that I found so familiar that I thought to myself, "This sounds exactly like the way I speak. I guess I could write a book, too!" And so I did. Shortly thereafter I started writing a horror/metaphysical novel called The Nothing. I got about half way through it before I made a decision to shift gears and work on what would become the Chi-chian comic book series (which seemed at the time to be a more productive use of my time... and it was.) In any case, Vonnegut's book communicated to me that I was probably better off writing books than reading them.
Since then I have written many, many comic books and two non-fiction books, "What is Goth?" and "Paint it Black- A Guide to Gothic Homemaking". If I write one more book, I will have written as many books as I've read. ; )
I am bursting at the seems to write. I'm not sure where I will find the time. But I have a half-finished novel called The Nothing and I'm DYING to write a Chi-chian novel as well as a novelization of my "Call of the Jersey Devil" screenplay. The fact is, I've never liked reading, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE writing.
Lastly, I must confess that in truth I've read a couple of other books. Once while on vacation in the British Virgin Islands, a hurricane hit and I was stuck with my then girlfriend and our newborn son in a hut, nervously waiting out the storm. There wasn't much to do in there but panic and pray. There was a bookshelf full of books though so after 12 hours of doing nothing, I eventually caved and went through it and picked the only book that seemed to be about monsters. It was called, "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson. It was an entertaining enough read while thinking we were all going to die.
On another trip, maybe to Belize, that same girlfriend bought me a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel that she found in a gift shop as a joke. I read it. I'm still not sure why.
And I also read a werewolf book called The Sticks by my good friend Andy Deane, the lead singer of Bella Morte. I was on tour and so were they and at some point we crossed paths. I saw that he had written a book and was selling it at his merch table. It intrigued me so I bought a copy. I found it very entertaining and it inspired me further to write.
So why do I tell people, that i've only read three books in my whole life? Because three is funnier than six.