February 6th, 2007 | Interviews & Reviews, Oddments
Today Nerve.com put up their comics issue. It includes an interview with me about Fun Home with a guy named Peter Smith. I had a good time talking to him, and during our conversation he revealed to me that his mother had just written a memoir about her father. Who’s your mother? I asked. Janna Malamud Smith, he replied. She’s the daughter of Bernard Malamud. My Father is a Book came out last spring, and I read a review of it at the time with great interest but hadn’t gotten around to actually getting a copy.
But I’m right in the middle of it now, and it’s amazing. So far, a lot of what she’s doing is examining Malamud’s fiction (he wrote The Natural, and won the Pulitzer for The Fixer) and tracing its autobiographical roots. She’s a therapist, so has lots of smart psychological insights about this. But she’s also a great writer, so what could come across as detached is actually quite moving and intimate.
But what I’m interested in is the relationship between autobiography and fiction, which is what my post here yesterday was about—Virginia Woolf’s actual father throwing the flowerpot being transmuted into the fictional Mr. Ramsay finding an earwig in his milk and tossing the jug out onto the terrace.
Why are we so fascinated with knowing what parts of fiction come from the author’s real life? I know some purists think it’s wrong to fixate on this, that focusing on the writer diminishes the work. But I’m always wondering when I read a novel, how much of this really happened in some form or another?
I guess this is why I like writing autobiographically so much. It cuts right to the chase. Why bother disguising your life as fiction if everyone’s going to interpret it as truth anyway?
Oh, and to close this loop…in my interview with Bernard Malamud’s daughter Janna’s son Peter, we discuss the fiction/reality divide a little bit.
Why did I just spend the better part of an hour on this post? I said yesterday I was going to stop frittering away my own autobiographical urges in this seductive, ephemeral, slapdash medium.