I’ve finished a 380 page memoir about my family. I didn’t plan on that… The original plan was to write a 100 page “memoir” that, primarily, answered the one big question — what the fuck was up with your parents, Nacho?
Initially, I did write this 100 page version. A sort of outline of what I think happened, with a large part of it written from my POV as a 12 year old when the shit hit the fan. To deconstruct the aftermath — and, so, answer that big question — I simply transcribed the hearsay from surviving family members.
Then I did a terrible thing. I looked at all my research and I saw two problems. 1) I don’t know what the fuck happened. 2) Every single one of the surviving family members was telling a different story. I felt like a cop interrogating multiple suspects. “Ah-ha! And, yet, Mickey One-Hand — who’s right here talking to us in another interrogation room — told us something different! What do you have to say about that?”
Since no one was talking, I had one option. I started to research.
And research…and research. For three years. Every answer I found raised a dozen new questions and sent me scurrying everywhere. I talked to friends, family, neighbors, family employees. I dug through court records. I even stood beside sick beds and held the hands of dying men and women who, with their last breaths, confessed all kinds of crazy bullshit.
I sat in a public bar with a man whose mother was accosted by my grandfather. He leaned forward and, his voice carrying to the other patrons all around us, said, “And that was when your grandfather spit in my mother’s face!” His transgression, as a boy? He kicked a ball into my grandfather’s front yard.
The violence, depravity, and outright bloodthirsty criminal acts of my family started to play out through court records and eyewitnesses. A strange and terrible madness that stretched back for generations.
“What the fuck was up with your parents” was still the central question, but it required a 100 year-long journey. Because it all starts in the air, in a rattling surplus WWI biplane, over a disused air field, in Franklin, Ohio sometime around 1922.
Though the memoir itself actually starts with me, in 1979. A set-piece that poses the question — what the fuck was up with your parents? We don’t move to the 1920s till much later.
Cynically-speaking, I suppose the answer is simple. They were bonkers. But they were so creative and malevolent in their bonkerdom that just scratching the surface revealed this fascinating can of worms that just had to be opened.
Now I’m editing. I’m trying to make it shorter, trying to clean up my shitty writing as best I can, and hoping to have a nice clean and final version off to a real live copy-editor by the end of the year.
I wonder, with every step, if all of this is a mistake. I’ve spent my life avoiding my family history. I’ve spent my life avoiding my life. Yet here I am working my ass off to put everything front and center and sell it to the public. I always think of the occasional reactions to my articles here on Greatsociety. How people let my words here get under their skin and lose their minds.
I’ve always felt my writing was inconsequential, but I’ve slowly come to realize that some of the things I say can hurt worse than a physical assault.
But, of course, all the people angered by GS are cunts anyway. I don’t know why I care so much.
Your writing has never been inconsequential. For what pittance it is worth, your words, and the imagination and ingenuity that birthed them, changed my life very early on. Your voice, your venom, and your voracious pursuit of the truth grant you the power to acknowledge your history, and then promptly leave it in the dust, where it belongs. You are far greater than that.