Column Classic: Reading is Fundamental

By Lisa Scottoline

Mother Mary has a new job that benefits us all.

Before I reveal it, let me explain that over the years I’ve made a few author friends, and I buy their books and get them to sign them to my mother, which gives her a big charge. Last month I shipped her five books, including my newest one, then I called to ask her, “How’d you like my book?”

“I loved it, it was great!. But I have some corrections for it. And for the others.”

“Corrections? How many?”

“About five.”

“Five corrections?” I ask, surprised. “Like typos? That’s bad.”

“No, five pages of corrections. And for the others, too.”

I am astounded. “Five pages of typos?”

“Not typos, corrections, and I have five pages per book. So, twenty-five pages of corrections.”

Now, I officially don’t get it. “Give me an example of something you corrected.”

“Okay, in your book, you use the word ain’t. Ain’t is not a word.”

“Is it used in dialogue?”


“Then, it’s fine. That’s how the character speaks. That’s not a mistake.”

“Yes, it is. Nobody should use the word ain’t. You know better than that, you went to college. I’ll mail you the sheets. You’ll see.”

“Okay, send them.”

“Ain’t! Hmph!”

So, Mother Mary mails me the alleged corrections, twenty-five pages of notebook paper, each line written in capitals in a shaky red flair. AIN’T IS NOT A WORD! is the most frequent “correction.” A few are typos, but the rest are editorial changes, different word choices, or new endings to the plot.

Bottom line, Mother Mary is a book critic, in LARGE PRINT.

Still, I read the sheets, touched. It must have taken her hours to make the lists, and it’s really sweet. I call to tell her so, which is when she lowers the boom:

“You need to send the lists to your friends,” she says. “Your friends who wrote the other books. They should know about the mistakes, so they can fix them.”

“Okay, Ma, you’re right. Thanks. I will.”

I don’t like lying to my mother, but I’m getting used to it. I figure I’ll put the sheets in my jewelry box, with daughter Francesca’s letters to Santa Claus. Those corrections are going to the North Pole.

Then my mother adds, “You don’t have to worry about the one set, though.”

“What one set?”

“A set of corrections, for your new friend.” She names a Famous Author who isn’t really my new friend, but Somebody I Wish Were My New Friend. I can’t name her here, as she will never be my new friend, now. In fact, she’s probably my new enemy. Because my mother sent her five pages of unsolicited editorial changes to her terrific, number-one bestseller.

“You did what?” I ask, faint. “Where did you get her address?”

“Your brother got it from the computer.”

“Her address is on the computer?”

“She has an office.”

Of course she does. “And you sent it to her?”

“Sure. To help her.”

I try to recover. I have only one hope. “You didn’t tell her who you are, did you?”

“What do you mean?”

I want to shoot myself for never changing my last name. My last name is Scottoline and so is Mother Mary’s, and the Very Famous Author signed a book to her at my request, so in other words….

“Oh, sure, I told her I’m your mother, in case she didn’t know.”

“Great.” I sink into a chair. “And you did that because…”

“Because I’m proud of you.”

Ouch. I can’t help but smile. How can I be angry? I tell her, “I’m proud of you, too, Ma.”

It’s not even a lie.

© Lisa Scottoline