Yesterday the unnoticed night grew dark around me as I tapped out a manic 2000 words of barely disguised autobiography about my dad. And the one fight I can remember from my childhood. And how deciding to move 1000km away from the home I’ve spent ten years making rings certain buried memories like a bell.
I’ve spent hours agonising over the ‘story’, wondering if I have a right to tell it, if it’s worth telling, if I want to tell it after all. It’s not autobiographical enough or salacious enough to warrant protecting anyone’s identity: people who know me well would see through it and people who don’t probably wouldn’t notice or care. I don’t think it adds anything new to the existing torrent of work dealing with twenty- and thirty-somethings with comfortable lives trying to define home and come to terms with their parents’ aging as an uncomfortable reminder of the frailty of all things. In the end I think I wrote it partly to allay the fear that I’ve stopped writing and partly as a tangible record of my own feelings, but perhaps it’s therapy and not a story. That is, frankly, the one model for writing that feels the most valuable at the moment: writing that I pretend might be for a wider audience but ultimately is just for me.
It remains a draft, and maybe I’ll change my mind again and decide it’s worth sharing, but for now I need to grapple a little more deeply with the complexities of life writing.
Meanwhile, if you want to read good memoir, head on over to the Meanjin website:
● Howard Goldenburg’s ‘Burned Man‘ recounts his experience providing emergency treatment to a miner with 100% bodily burns in a rural hospital, up to the point when the Royal Flying Doctor Service takes over. Trigger warnings for the graphic descriptions of physical injury and medical procedures.
● set in the hinterlands of northern NSW (and therefore deeply familiar for me), Jessie Cole’s ‘The Breaking Point‘ tells of her father’s disintegrating mental health in the aftermath of her older sister’s suicide. Trigger warnings for suicide.
● in ‘No Money, No Honey‘, Lily Kiel tells the story of being detained at the Mongolian border with an out-of-date visa, after a trip on the Trans-Siberian railway.