"Writing a Memoir: In theory I do believe that we all have a story tell; that we are each entitled to the space we take up on the this planet; that each of our voices should be heard. But the decision to commit my story to paper and send it out into the world has been fraught. Feeling entitled myself to have a story worth telling, that my life is worth the ink, feels perilously close to believing that I am extraordinary. A whole book about me! After all, when you write a book where "I" is the topic, isnt that prima facie proof that you, too, are a narcissist?" (page 249)
This passage comes late in This Never Happened, a beautifully wrought story of lies, confusions, deflections, distractions, obfuscations and distant, if not, missing if not disturbed, sad, impossible, and yes, narcissistic parents. It comes to us as part of a list in Chapter 60, titled, "Some Issues That Are Hard for a Child of Narcissists to Sort Out." And really is that not the point of this jagged exploration of one family, and one's family? A desire to sort out shit that can't possibly make sense in one's head, in the abstract, in therapy, or anywhere really, but just might on the page? Read it, you'll know from which I speak. Of course, even as I write this, I wonder whether part of my job here is to separate how painful this story is from how engaging the writing and structure is, with its shifting timelines and the introduction of multi-media(s), including reports and letters, all of which make for a grand puzzle and exploration of truth and memory. But maybe I don't need to separate any of this? Maybe that's my desire to protect you from being exposed to this level of pain? But is that necessary or am I just being too paternal? I don't know, I can get that way and it's not my best look. What I do know is that author has no such obligation to shield us from anything. The author's job is to get their story on the page, truthfully and transparentally, and leave it for us to judge their work and our experience of it. What I also know though is that I don't have a position on whether there is a narcissism inherent in memoir writing, or any writing, really. Of course there is. Now, this provides a different challenge for this author, the child of narcissists, but making art is always an act of narcissism - we believe you will want to embrace what we create and so we are putting it out in the world - and a celebration, if not a denigration, of the "I." What I've never understood is why anyone, Liz partially excluded, would suggest that this isn't a reason to tell their story. Similarly, I don't understand the suggestion that not everyone has a story worth telling or even why bother, it's all navel-gazing anyway. So what? Writers don't have a choice to write. Full-stop. And whether one should write what they know is beside the point. We always write about some part of our self, the good, damaged, curious or stuck. There isn't a choice. There is a choice whether someone wants to read our work and I respect that. It's ultimately about the readers, always, more full-stop. But ought you read This Never Happened? Indeed. It will change your life and in the end, that I believe is the whole, and only, point anyway.