I don’t often write about the books that I am reading. But when I am not writing, I am reading. As in reading all-of-the-time reading.
(When’s my walk, our dog asks. Where’s my dinner, my very tolerant husband wants to know. Sorry, but I’m in the middle of a really good book, I respond.)
Last night, or rather very early this morning, I finished an amazing novel called “Everything I Never Told You” by author Celeste Ng. It was her debut book, a New York Times best seller, it won all sorts of awards.
(I’m jealous! Writing a novel is #1, #2 and #3 on my list of life goals. If only someone would invent a device to get the book that writes itself in my head nightly while I am dreaming onto paper.)
I won’t ruin the plot of “Everything I Never Told You”, but truly you need to race out and read it. The author manages to combine the elements of a mystery (my favorite literary genre) with the story of a family that kept their true feelings about themselves a secret from each other, to their own peril.
After I reluctantly finished the book, I pondered its title further. So opposite from my own family. We have always told each other everything. Candor to a fault. Critical when not necessary. Over-sharing well before that became a “thing.” As my cousin told me after our recent Passover Seder, sometimes you just can’t get in a word edgewise at one of our family’s meals.
My husband says I am a “truth-teller”. But lately I’m finding it easier to write through my feelings rather than say them aloud.
I may have been influenced by this TMI trend. Let no difficult experience go unmentioned. Share every moment, express your inner feelings to all. The comedian, Margaret Cho, said in a recent interview that she “can’t think of a thing that should be hidden.” In her life, as in her show, her interviewer commented, “nothing is too private, too sacred or too humiliating to be turned into a punch line.”
I am not, nor do I wish to be, a comedian, although I do enjoy making my friends laugh at what I believe is my witty repartee. For years as a lawyer I also liked to amuse my clients in our non-legal moments. I relish drawing praise for my punch lines.
But where do you draw the line at using your own personal life to create a good punch line?
Last Friday I met two friends who I had never met for lunch.
Translation: in an online writing class I took this winter (plug here for the terrific Her Stories Project) three of us in discovered we lived in the DC area so decided to meet each other in real life after class ended. We already “knew” each other through the drafts of our shared essays. I knew about their kids, their husbands, what they worried about, what they didn’t, as they knew about mine. We had a wonderful lunch, we were instantly at ease with each other, as I expected we would be.
The three of us talked a bit about over-sharing. About how much we should be making public to an unknown crowd (hoping it is a crowd) of readers through our essays, our blogs, our published work, about us and our kids. When our kids get older, as mine already have, what will they think when they read what we have written about them, we wondered? Is it enough of a cover, an acceptable justification to say that we, as parents, are writing our own stories, not theirs, even if our kids often play leading roles in what we write?
May 21, 2015 will be the one year anniversary of this Blog. 48 posts, one a week. (the math may be approximate here.) I have been enjoying it immensely.
But have I occasionally been guilty of using people from my real life as punch lines?
I think so. And after much thought, I am going to stop – or at least try – to stop doing so. Celeste Ng wrote so eloquently in her book about a family that was not candid enough with each other. Hers was a novel but I sense her words rose from a real life place. In my own real-life place over-candor can be hurtful, not helpful. Whether in private or in a public forum.
Announcing My New Plan: Write my own truth but at no one else’s expense. And think hard about signing up for a new writing class – this time in fiction. Look for my first novel – in, say 2018?