Does anyone else have the uncomfortable feeling that I have on learning that she is writing about her son's drug problems? I know that writers often mine their own personal experiences for material but I think she's putting her literary endeavours ahead of her son here. From what I can gather, he is still young, his drug issues are ongoing, and although he is out of the family home, surely this is risking any possible future reconcilliation? I also baulk at the way she "weaves historical research about Yelloly with her disturbing account of her son's ejection from the family home" It just smacks of middle-class-writer angst.
My cynicism is further fuelled by my very strong suspicion that Julie Myerson is the author of Living with Teenagers - but that's another story...
Is the judgement that of 'what really happened'? And in what capacity are we called on to make it? It's not as readers of her book, I think, is it. Because we can read in a much subtler way than that, and generally do when reading literature.
Is it as consumers of the newspaper/broadcast explosion? I suppose so, because 'news' is about 'what happened'.
But a more interesting question is whether even as participants we can make the judgement of 'what really happened' in our family lives.
Huge tracts of my childhood family life come under the category of (not contested truth -- that would be bad enough, but at least the contest would be acknowledged, and the project of resolving the contest would seem realisable) but unspoken, unacknowledged happenings which silence makes so amorphous as to be almost indeterminate --- like the unspoken parts of a novel.
When I'm talking to my mother or sister it's amazing how our recall of the same event differs. Even when there's no axes to grind. I've completely forgotten loads of stuff my sister remembers.
And my father is an expert at rewriting history: "Oh, your mother and I were always friends, we never fell out..." Yeah, right, during the endless rows and very bitter divorce and wrangling over maintenance and slagging each other off to us.
I know exactly what you mean, edam. I'm too afraid to even speak to my father of his relationship with my mother. Because he would deny things I know to be true -- and he wouldn't see himself as lying.
It reminds us how important it is to 'debrief' our children when something bad happens -- to let them talk about it and find some shape to it. And not to be too prescriptive in our account to them of what has happened.
I think when you come from an 'untruthful' family, as it appears some of us have (myself included), it makes you even more aware of in advertently giving 'sanitised' versions of events, family bust ups etc.
That is what makes it so peculiar about JM really. I think she has a very odd relationship with Jake, having read excerpts from the novel, she sees him as her contemporary/boyfriend, rather than a mother/son relationship. The bit where she makes him play a song for her on his guitar, whilst leaning on the car bonnet, made me cringe. She seems to need him more than he needs her. Very sad.
Darn! Have to go out. Threadworm and Bagsforlife - hope you're back here this evening. I'm finding this thread works for me like a kind of therapy; a collective thinking effort. Can't believe how it grips me - and revolts me.
BfL - Don't you think it's interesting that mn-ers picked up so quickly the power-stuff involved? Loved Justabout's analogy of gladiatorial contest.
Threadie (may I call you that?) - Love your idea of public space not being simple - different kinds of judgement called on for different "acts" and "contests" and forms of expression within it. What an amazing idea. Raises so many questions.
And your second point is really interesting too. A simple answer to why it's so grim is that we haven't an "eyewitness" view on the events described. But that's way too simple. Also, as you said before, even in the domestic setting there's a vast difference in the power of the narrators.
Sigh. Guess I'll be back, though. B* Myerson and her carcrash book.
Good point re. LWT showing the different treatment meted out to her daughter compared to her sons. Wasn't there one hideous column where one of the boys was violent towards the girl and JM just ignored it?
(Hastily defends la famille edam - I wouldn't say mine was an untruthful family, my sister and I differ in remembering the same event but not out of nastiness, just honest/normal but not usually acknowledged human lack of perfection in memory. My father is extraordinary but always wants to believe everything is fine and has been fine and is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. He genuinely believes that what he is saying is true.)
Some really interesting points here about families rewriting history and deluding themselves. I find this with my in laws who went through a very bitter and acrimonious divorce - to listen to her now you'd think they were the Waltons.
There were a number of traumatic incidents in my childhood and what's really weird is that I had completely forgotten (or blocked out) quite a few of them. It is only through talking to my sister that I remembered them. Sorry bit off topic but think it's interesting the way memory works ...
Perhaps this is a bit daggy (to use an Australian term) but it does remind me of a play Six Characters in Search of an Author, pirandello - there is no fixed truth.
I loved it and it was the start of a different way of thinking which ended in Baudrillard and simulacra - all of which comforts me when confronted with the grasping of truth and authenticity - one could have a field day with this jade and stuff like JM.
Yay! Baudrillard. Iknow some soundbites, but don't really have a grasp of him. Would love to know a bit more. I'm guessing 'daggy' means something like 'wankerish' as used on MN.
In the Myerson case there are two separate levels of threat to authenticity -- the family and the media. The first makes sure that there is no common truth, since what really happened is so embedded in conflicting interpretations of what went before. And the second can't really present real events without dressing them up in various sorts of docu-soap conventions.