In Which You Shamelessly Copy Other, Better Writers

You learned how to write when you were six months old. “Goodness,” said your mother. “That’s very sudden.” This first thing you wrote was a story about a clown that lived in the sewers and killed people.

“I’ve read that book,” said your father.

“Hush, Gerald,” said your mother. “Don’t discourage the child. It’s a very good book for a six-month old to write.”

“I’m just saying it’s been written already.”

They got into a big argument, which you didn’t understand, not being old enough to listen just yet.

The second thing you wrote of any real substance was over two years later, when you were almost three years old. It was a long time, but you’d been using the space constructively, you thought, thinking about every word before you ever put it to paper. It was mostly in English, this story of yours, but partly in a language that you’d made all by yourself, inspired by all the language you were hearing as you grew up, but different than all of them. You gave the book to your mother, first, kind of afraid of your father.

“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bed of bay,” said your mother, and looked at you, her face pinched with worry. “Darling, this is marvelous, but I’m afraid it’s been written already.”

“Whaaa?” you said, your voice hampered by a soft palette and a slight brain disorder that affects your speech centers.

“By a man called James Joyce, yes dear,” said your mother. “It’s a brilliant book, but it’s someone else’s book, dear.”

This was a problem, and for many, many years you didn’t write at all, but slurred your drunken speech obstinately, through childhood and adolescence and your troublesome puberty. You are very popular, for you are very witty, even if you can’t speak quite clearly. But you have learned your lesson the hard way.

“Ih, wih the lidderade,” you said, and everyone smiled widely; your humour has made you a favourite, even before your periods. “I amh impedd to tie anh epigahm, I nevveh seeg to tag the ceddit,” and so on, and everyone laughs and laughs and laughs.

Your wit makes you very angry.