As a writer of fiction, I have grudgingly made it a habit not to indulge in the work of other writers, especially when I’m in the midst of my own creation. This has resulted in a nearly fifteen-year lapse in reading novels. So, I compensate by perusing news articles, and non-fiction, and even developing a fascination with forensic entomology.
My husband, Clifford, has always adhered to a stricter line when it comes to fiction. When he was an adolescent, he developed the opinion that reading novels, or “useless information”, as he phrases it, was a waste of his precious time. His forte includes music theory texts, how-to books and, of course, that certain magazine only subscribed to for the articles.
One of Clifford’s favorites is a book we can share, entitled, “The Big Book of Personality Tests”, by Salvatore V. Didato, Ph.D. The book is a compilation of a series of questionnaires that enable the participants to determine where they stand in the world of psychology and social behavior. After nearly a quarter century of marriage, there is little new to discover about one another, though I find that comforting. At least there is one person I know very well, and can trust that this person knows me through and through.
But I am concerned that Dr. Didato has somehow passed off his tests as non-fiction. As an example, let’s go to the test under the heading of “How Happy Are You?” According to Dr. Didato, question number six, stating, “I daydream often”, asks for either a true or false answer. Clifford and I, giggling over this silly question, both admit to daydreaming. Mine come under the heading of a rich internal world, e.g., the fictional place from where all stories are created. As for Clifford, he said, “Yeah, like when I’m driving, and I start to think about Butt Lake.” I asked, why not Eagle Lake, or Lake Almanor? Why are you thinking about a lake named after one of the most prominent features of the human body?
“Because of all the fish there,” he claimed. It’s true, Butt Lake is literally top to bottom with small mouth bass, fish that would rather taunt a fisherman through the sonar, than chase a lure.
Why this reservoir, dammed in the late 1950s, reflects the original name of its valley, “Butt”, is a mystery to me. Imagine being a member of the Miller family, who settled in the Butt Valley in the late 1800s, and confessing to a stranger, while in Chester for supplies, that you “live in Butt Valley”.
Anyway, let’s go back to Dr. Didato, and question number six. We both said ‘true’
The answer? False! According to Dr. Didato, “A happy person does not compensate for an unhappy frame of mind by wishful thinking and daydreaming.”
Let’s hope Dr. Didato stays away from sexual fantasies, or making a shopping list in his head, or even planning his next vacation. After all, if Dr. Didato indulges the least in fantasy or daydreams, he’s one unhappy camper.
As for me, I’ll choose the wishful thinking, the daydreams of the next load I’m going to shovel. It seems to me that Dr. Didato’s collection of personality tests qualifies as a “novel” approach to his alternate reality.