Thursday, March 10, 2005

I don't! I don't! I don't hate it! I don't hate it!

So I've been reading my grandmother's memoire. As you can see, it's published by a vanity press. She wrote it some twenty years ago, but only became determined that it needed to be published a few years back. I'm not sure if there was some particular catalyst for this or not--no doubt it had something to do with a need to justify herself for the world. Anyway, the chances of a regular press touching it were rather low, and she had loads of cash, so my father undertook to get it vanity-published. And the truth is, there are good reasons why a real publisher wouldn't have taken it. I am by no means saying it was entirely without merit: she was, before age and alzheimer's kicked in, quite intelligent (tragic lack of self-awareness notwithstanding); her individual sentences are generally elegantly-formed, and now and again you'll come across an indelible image or an original and astute psychological insight. But, beyond the obviously self-serving nature of some of the recollections (which wouldn't necessarily be obvious to an outsider), it's very disjointed; she seems to have wanted to include every dim recollection that came to her, regardless of whether it it fit gracefully into the narrative or not. At the very least, it would have needed some serious editing. That's not really the point, though. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a stranger, but for me, it does provide valuable psychological insight. She becomes more human, her life's tragedy all the more poignant. I haven't shed tears over her death, but I do mourn.

Anyway, I think I'm going to become like Quentin Compson in Absalom, Absalom!--obsessing over the past; creating highly speculative narratives centering around people who are ghosts to me, trying to make sense of an incomprehensible culture. You don't know the half of it--my father's entire side of the family is like a Flannery O'Connor story set to the tune of Tom Waits' "Cemetery Polka." And my mother's ain't exactly run-of-the-mill either. Further ruminations to come.


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