Earlier today, I spent about an hour composing a post, filled with links to groovy stories I'd found in the last couple of days while I found links to submit to Propeller. I added brilliantly trenchant commentary to each link, in what was destined to become a post for the ages.
You, dear reader, would have been so awed by the majesty of this post, you'd sign up for Propeller, and join me in the world of social news bookmarking. We'd form a network of like-minded people -- a social news Voltron, if you will -- and soon all of our stories would find their way to the front page, for great justice.
Satisfied with my work, I hit publish, and began clearing my shelf for the inevitable awards that would soon follow.
When I returned to my computer, the browser said, "Hey, Wil, just thought you'd like to know that the post you made has been saved. Enjoy your awards!"
I thanked it, opened up my blog to bask in the glow of my brilliance, and saw that the post wasn't there.
TypePad ate it. Destroyed it. Sent it off into the land of wind and ghosts. I stared at the computer, agog, until my mouth dried out and my jaw grew sore. I couldn't believe that it was just . . . gone. It was like it never existed.
After much furious . . . behavior . . . and fruitless searching for the post in question (which TypePad claims just doesn't exist, like I didn't spend an hour putting the goddamn thing together) I will now attempt to recreate the part of the post that was the most important to me:
Have you read Little Brother? I tore through it in about 4 days, and absolutely loved it. I gave it to Nolan when I finished, because I thought he'd enjoy it, and it would give us something cool that we could share.
I don't know what it's like for other parents of teenagers out there, but getting Nolan to pick up a book for more than three pages has been nearly impossible for the last eighteen months or so. He used to love reading, but . . . well, there are new friends at school this year. 'nuff said.
I don't have scientific data to back me up, but I've anecdotally witnessed a direct relationship between someone's willingness to read and their level of education, success, expectations for themselves, and general, uh, interestingness they bring to the table. I guess that makes me one of those "elitists" we keep hearing about, but with that in mind, you may understand why it's been pretty damn important to me that I instill a love of reading in my kids.
"I read this in about four days," I told him when I presented the book to him, "and I would have read it faster if I'd had more time. Once it gets going, it's hard to put down."
"Okay," he said, "I'll give it a try."
"I'd really like to have this thing to share with you, and I know that you're haven't been all that inter-- What?"
"I'll give it a try," he said.
"Wow. That was easier than I expected." I thought.
I didn't ask, but I secretly hoped that maybe he wanted to have something like this to share with me as much as I wanted to have something to share with him. Stranger things have happened.
"Okay, cool." I said.
"But I'm probably not going to finish it as fast as you did," he said.
"I totally understand," I said. "No pressure, and I won't take it personally if you don't dig it."
I set it down on the desk next to him while he played Diablo and walked back into my office. The symbolism of this gesture was not intentional, but also was not lost on me.
A little while later, I walked back out into the living room, and found him sitting on the couch, reading. He appeared to be about 50 pages into it.
"What do you think?" I said.
He held up one finger in the universal "wait a minute" gesture, and continued to read.
"What?" he said.
"I asked you what you thought, so far."
"It's pretty good," he said, noncommittally, before he went back to reading.
"Cool," I said. I couldn't believe he was already that far into the book, and though his words were carefully chosen, his body language said that it was much more than just "pretty good." Rather than press the issue, I went to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of iced green tea.
Later that night, I noticed that he was sitting in the chair by our family iMac, but instead of playing games or talking to his friends on iChat, he had his head cocked to one side, Little Brother open in his lap. He'd made some serious progress in the book. I noticed that he had Firefox open to a Google search about [spoiler redacted].
I nudged Anne and pointed to Nolan.
"He's been reading that pretty much non-stop since you gave it to him," she said quietly.
"That rules," I said.
Over the next two days, I'd see him sitting on the couch, sitting in my favorite reading chair in our den, sitting in the chair by the iMac. He was always in the same pose, head cocked to one side, Little Brother open in his lap. We talked a little bit about the characters and the events in the book, and he asked me lots and lots of questions about the technology and real-life issues Cory presents in the book.
Flashback: Long before Little Brother was published, I had dinner with Cory. He told me that he was working on this book for teens that was supposed to have lots of real-life lessons in it about privacy, security and civil liberties. At the time, he told me how he hoped kids would read it and head to Google after each chapter to learn more. Nolan was doing exactly that.
Yesterday was the third day since I gave Nolan the book. After school, he bounded into the house and flew into my office. I looked up from my work and saw him holding Little Brother in outstretched arms.
"I love this book!" He said. "I seriously can't put it down!"
"That's awesome," I said, "but it's not interfering with your schoolwork, is it?"
"No," he said, "I'm reading between classes, and only in class when I've finished my work and made sure the teacher was cool with it."
I loved it that he took it to school with him. He's been spending more time than I'd like with non-reading, non-motivated kids who are, I fear, really in danger of holding Nolan back from realizing his potential. It's a small step (and maybe it's only temporary) but I was nevertheless thrilled that he was reading at school, unafraid of what his current peer group would think. I was hopeful that escape velocity would soon follow.
"That's great, Nolan," I said. "I'm so happy to hear that you're enjoying it."
We talked a little bit more about some of the events that had unfolded in the book that day, and he pointed out that he had about 100 pages to go.
"I want to finish it right now!" He said, before pulling the book close into his chest and hugging it. He lowered his voice and dramatically added, "But . . . I must wait. I must . . . savor it."
I laughed with him. "Don't you love it when you're into a book that's so good, you don't want it to be over?"
"YES!" He said, before he raced back out of my office.
"I haven't seen him this excited about anything in months," I thought. "This is better than I ever could have hoped for." I made a mental note to send Cory a thank you card.
After dinner last night, I found him in the living room, sitting in the chair in front of the iMac. The room was dim, mostly lit by the glow of the computer's monitor. It silhouetted Nolan's now-familiar stance, head cocked to one side, book open in his lap. It was, for me, a "remember this" moment.
He must have sensed me standing there, because he turned around and said, "Eighty pages to go, but I'm really stopping now. I'm going to finish this tomorrow."
I remembered all the times I've gotten close to the end of a book and put off finishing it. I remembered the way it felt to sit in the pull between wanting to know what happens and not wanting it to be over. I could see that Nolan was enjoying that feeling himself. I chose not to point it out.
"I'm so glad you're into this," I said. "I'm really glad we've been able to share this book."
"Me too," he said.
Earlier today, while I was writing the first version of this post, Nolan sent me a text message that said, "OMG it's over!!! So great, so great!!"
I sent back "Ha! I was just writing in my blog about how much you liked it. Yay!"
He replied, "Yeah, pretty amazing."
My heart swelled. I wonder what he'll read next?