Life Gets Artificial


Clinton, South Carolina, January 21, 2019, 12:02 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I was just reading a book (My Exaggerated Life, by Pat Conroy as Told to Katherine Clark), because it’s MLK Day and I thought I ought to do something beside editing news releases and obituaries and compiling a crime report, and I heard a crash. It was the sound of melting snow crashing off a roof, but it hasn’t snowed. I went into my office, which has become a place where items I send by magic come out of a printer and where large boxes gather because ridiculously I think I may someday reuse them, and, at first, nothing seemed amiss.

There’s a bookcase I constructed faultily about 30 years ago that’s full of NASCAR books. Two other such bookcases, also faultily constructed at the same time, are located in the house. The one between the living room and the kitchen holds non-fiction unrelated to NASCAR. The one in my bedroom holds fiction. In what was once but is no longer the guest bedroom, many boxes full of books that will not fit on these shelves take up most of the space.

One of the shelves in the NASCAR bookcase had collapsed, and now a row of books are scattered about and probably will be until other shelves collapse, as they will, and I will undertake a cleanup when it becomes severe because that’s the way I roll.

This is most eventful part of MLK Day so far.


As for the weekend, I didn’t take a photograph of the blood moon but I looked at many. I watched men in striped shirts decide two professional football games. I immensely enjoyed a basketball game between men representing Furman and Wofford right up until the point that the Terriers won it. I could not stay awake until the end of the Chili Bowl dirt-track race, but I left the TV in the bedroom on and it was replayed all night long, so, eventually, I sat up on the side of the bed and watched Christopher Bell pass Kyle Larson on the last lap at about 6:30 a.m.

I know. Exciting stuff, all through the prism of television and social media. My last brush with live action occurred on Friday night when Clinton High School’s boys defeated Woodruff by a point.

I can’t say “it’s been real, man” because it’s been artificial. This has far-reaching effects on civilization, but I’m about as incapable of pondering them as I am of fixing the bookshelves. To my credit, I did wash a multitude of dishes, bowls, and silverware while, at the same time, cooking breakfast this morning.

On Sunday night, with the TV muted and captioning closed during the Patriots-Chiefs game, I played my guitar and sang songs by Steve Earle, Tom T. Hall, and me on Facebook Live from my recliner, which is also falling apart but remains comfortable. I was real. All watched artificially, 275 so far. Live, just shy of 200.

I just spent several minutes responding to Facebook posts, time I could have spent reading the aforementioned book, or working on the novel that is apparently on sabbatical. Artificial time isn’t altogether wasted, of course.

Without it, I wouldn’t have this blog.


Life is hard / No matter where you go / It’s a tortured path / Tough row to hoe / When the wheels spin / Got a heavy load / Hoping I can get / To the paved road.


The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)


The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s