Most Snarksome One (and your Yapsome Dog, too),
I have much sympathy for the poor gentleman trying to avoid reading his uncle's novel. My question is, how do you deal with complete strangers who--even without the bonds of blood or friendship as an excuse--also try to get you to read their work. Or, worse, try to get you to help them make professional contacts even though you haven't read their work.
At a recent professional gathering, while the rest of us were content to sip our wine and pretend to talk about the craft of writing while actually whining about the business of writing, one gentleman showed up with his manuscript in hand, and tried to talk several of us into introducing him to our agents or editors. Protests that we hadn't even read his work fell on deaf ears; he was clearly prepared to whip the manuscript out at the slightest provocation so we could read it on the spot; and equally content to have us offer referrals without first reading his work.
Not only were the one-on-one conversations with this gentleman awkward; but the larger conversations, which he kept trying to turn from more interesting topics to the marketing of his particular story, were unpleasant as well.
Alas, claiming an alternate vocation wasn't an option at a function attended entirely by writers and would-be writers. Short of abandoning the gathering to seek out stronger drink, how can one deal with such individuals in a professional--or failing that, at least effective--manner.
And if there is no way to deal with such individuals, where does Miss Snark recommend we hide the body?
This reminds me of the heartstopping moment during the Q&A part of a presentation at the Small Press Center. A questioner asked E. L. Doctorow to read his manuscript (which of course he just happened to have brought with him). To Mr. Doctorow's credit he did not preface his response with "you nitwit" but implication is all. He simply said "no".
And no, sans reason, is ok. You are not obliged by mammon, god or poodle to read anyone's work. A person who breaches the decorum by asking for this, particularly if they are not picking up the "you nitwit" signals, can be given the cold shoulder. "No" is a perfectly valid response, and you do not need to explain yourself.
One on one conversations are concluded briskly with "please excuse me" and leaving him. Group conversations are more difficult but a complete change of subject "how about them Yankees" is entirely suitable. Failing that, of course, "excuse me" and leaving the group is ok too.
It's hard to do this cause we've all been brought up to be nice and helpful. It's actually very liberating to just say "no" and once you discover how fun it is, you'll find yourself saying no to all sorts of things. Drugs, sex, rock n roll...well..ok, yes is still my first choice on those.
PS You put the body on the Cook County voting rolls of course.