Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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Autobiographies to Lie With

I've been thinking about autobiographies for the last couple of days. Maybe it's my mind finally coughing up a disused thought based out of the James Frey thing, but I kind of doubt it. Australia's had a few writers like Frey, but I've never invested myself in such a work like this to the point that I would feel betrayed if it was revealed to be based upon lies. I was never the same after Milli Vanilli was revealed to be fake, you must understand. I was young. It shattered me. Absolutely shattered me. I remember sitting round with my friends, holding the tapes of the albums we'd copied, and cutting our dreadlocks off, tears streaming down our faces. Such pain. Nowadays I save this disappointment and betrayal for the relationships I find myself in. It's healthier for me.


Don't look at me like that. It could have happened. I distinctly remember seeing images on the television of crying, betrayed fans who were burning their albums and posters and t-shirts. So it happened somewhere. Maybe there were even Millie Vanilli suicides. Wouldn't you just love to be the mother/father/sister/brother/whatever of a Millie Vanilli suicide?

In barely related terms to this, when Kurt Cobain killed himself* my high school had an assembly and counciling so that all of the apathetic, disillusioned students like myself didn't go out and blow our own brains out. I remember thinking that it was the funniest thing I had heard that day. I didn't much care about Nirvana at this point (I've since learned to enjoy a few things) but the idea that I'd kill myself because some celebrity did was ridiculous. I wondered why it was, however, that in Scripture they spent hours telling us that to give up your life for someone else was one of The Best Things You Could Do (tm), but then never paused, and quietly, and in all seriousness, added, "But I don't wanna hear of you crucifying yourself after school, okay?"

Anyhow, like I said, I've been thinking about the autobiography, and how, in a fashion, it allows the author to restructure his or her life. To give it a narrative, an event sequence, perhaps even a purpose. Narrative and life rarely go together, so you have to assume, at the very basic level, that certain things are massaged in autobiographies (and even biographies) to make them fit. I guess the truth is, I've left the whole reality of an autobiography way behind, and just jumped onto the idea of massaging parts of life into something more interesting. Which brings me to this weeks project, which is going to be a story that is about me, and which is based off one of my very first memories. Perhaps the first. I'm going to called it '1982', because I was five or six at the time, and if it works, and if I write a couple more, I'll just keep jumping through the years.

The idea comes, in a roundabout way, from Lyn Hejinian's My Life. It's a small book, consisting (in it's last edition, I believe) forty five pieces containing forty five sentences, since Hejinian was, at the time, forty five. Once sentence and one piece for each year of her life. Reportedly, she updates it every so often with new sentences and new pieces as she grows older, but I've no idea if she's kept this up. Still, it's a different way of looking at your life, and I've always been fascinated by how Hejinian has done it. My idea has absolutely no similarity to Hejinian's, of course, but I thought it'd be interesting to reference the influence just for kicks.

I'm slowly turning '1982' over in my head, talking about it aloud to get the thoughts and ideas out, and I think tonight I'll finally sit down and begin it. With any luck it'll work out, but if it doesn't, well, it doesn't, and there's that idea tossed out. Still, I've got my opening, and it goes a little like this:

In April of 1982, when I was five, my father took me to see Doctor Morris. He was my father's family doctor and the first that I can remember seeing; a thin, greying, narrow white man dressed in a white shirt, brown slacks, white socks and black loafers, he existed in a large faux wood paneled office. Once we had sat, and he and my father talked over me, he had me take of my clothes in front of them both. I stood in my coloured children's underwear as he poked at my skinny white body, measuring and examining me in so many ways that the embarressment of being nearly naked in front of two adults was almost gone by the time he was finished. He was searching for the reason that I was walking strangely. Walking, it appeared, on my toes.

Finally, crouched in front of me, he said to my father, He has grown too quickly.

* He allegedly wrote "It's better to burn out than to fade away" on his suicide note. It's taken from a Neil Young song, I believe. Of course, this is if you don't believe that he was killed by Courtney Love in some alternative rock conspiracy.
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