Friday, October 27, 2006

Because I Have to Post Something, Even Though I'm Still Wondering About This Writing Thing

Sometimes you write what you know, even if you don't know you're writing it.

Let's start at home. My mother has arrived this week for a visit, the first time she's made a trip to see Wife and I since my father died.

As a result, there's been a veritable beehive of activity at the Bookfraud household, most of which has consisted of cleaning the World's Dirtiest, Nastiest Windows (step up and see 'em -- 25 cents a look!). Suffice it to say that it took a screwdriver to scrape out all the dirt underneath my fingernails.

In addition to the cleaning duties (another great excuse not to blog!) I've been wondering how, if somebody put an Uzi to my head, I would write such a homecoming. My father had made it up here only a couple of times, and none since Wife and I moved into our swinging apartment five years ago. As a setup for a story, the situation is rife with possibilities. Mostly bad ones.

Melodrama would be the easiest path to follow; however,instead of recriminations and over-the-top wailing like in a soap opera, I would probably would spin something about a writer complaining to his mother about the sorry state of his writing career, a mother who says how great the writer is, and don't worry, etc. (Pitiful, in every sense of the word).

We are family

This gets to the Theme for my modest post, which is writers who mine their families' for fodder. Writers who have taken their family members and based characters on them -- or just written about them while they still trod the earth -- are as common as rudeness or bedbugs.

Kathyrn Harrison's "The Kiss" is par exemplar of such writing. It's about her sexual affair with her father. You heard that right! She banged her father -- when she was an adult! -- and wrote a best-selling memoir about it.

The more I think about this, the more I want to take a shower in extremely hot water. Though I don't know if Harrison's father is still alive, she does have children, and the possibilities for playground taunting are as endless as they are cruel.

Why write such a book? I don't know, except to say the taboo it addressed was sensational enough to sell enough books to fill two dozen U-Hauls.

The general defense of such exploitation is that honesty is the only manner in which art can be created, and if she slept with her father, she has every right -- no, an obligation -- to share it in print with the rest of the world.

Well, if you ever wanted an example of "failing the imagination," that's it. Or "writing what you know." Or narcissism on the grandest scale.

You've probably gathered that I am loathe to chronicle family experiences as fodder for fiction. Unfortunately, I'm as guilty of it as anyone, though not consciously, and not to talk about my family's deepest, darkest secrets, which, I promise you, do not include incest.

To wit, my unpublished novel. On the surface, the protagonist's family has little to do with mine other than geography, religion, and the size of the family. The parents do different jobs, the children have wildly different grandparents, and the siblings are about as true to mine as wire-haired schnauzers are to pit bulls.

But that's just on the surface. Upon closer reflection, the father resembles mine in some respects, in terms of temperment and speech, and the mother, if she does not look or behave like mine, at least shares some familiar interests and ideas about motherhood.

Major yuk

All this talk about Daddies and sex and such is so grossing me out, in fact, that I would rather clean the apartment than write any more about it, except to wonder: how the hell did I end up writing about this?

I guess I'll be back to writing more than once a week. Before 2007.