Thievery is a series of blog posts about my story inspirations.
‘Bibliophagy’, published in elimae.
The man in the story is not my father, and the mother is not my mother, and the brother is not my brother. But they are the inspiration.
I spent years avoiding certain subjects in my writing, but then one day I thought FUCK THIS SHIT. I was sick of lying. Then I wrote about being a teenage nude model, about my pre-adolescent cybersex, about what that boy did to me when he thought I was asleep. And nothing changed. The girls I’d dissected in my stories did not call me at midnight to curse my name. The police didn’t come knocking and I was not blackmailed with my naked photos in a brown paper package. Life tripped along as it always had.
I knew then that I could write about anything, anything at all, and I would not immediately be crumpled in the gutter with smashed bottles in my feet. But I still could not write about my father. I could not write about the way his hands shake. It was like the horizon: always there, but too vast to see all at once, too much to fit onto a page.
Perhaps it’s because I realised it was fine for me to reveal myself right down to the marrow because that was my decision to make, but it was different for me to write about my family. Sure, I could write about girls I fucked and fictionalised, because I’d never see them again and if I did then I’d be pleased if they were annoyed at me. I’d feel justified. But I love my family and I don’t want to hurt them, and I didn’t know how to write about them in a way that would not hurt them. What’s the point of writing if it’s not the aching and awful truth? So I just didn’t write about them.
Then, finally, I did. I wrote poems and essays and stories about my father, and the world did not implode. So I carried on. I wrote more and more and more and I found out that he still loved me and he still wanted to know me. So I dug right down to the toughest, messiest, most raw and blinding things.
Writing about addiction is hard, so I approached it obliquely by substituting alcohol with words. As a writer I suppose it’s an obvious choice, but language is deeply linked with the changes in my father. When I was a child, my father had a wall of books and spoke in poems. He did crosswords in pen. He always knew the meanings of things. When he started to get ill, he would spent all day sitting at the kitchen table and reading one page of the newspaper. Now he does not read at all. My father, who brought me up in a house with thousands of novels, reads no books at all. I’m not sure I can explain how profound a loss this feels to me.
I know I am not the only person who loves their father despite his shaking hands. I don’t usually try to make grandiose statements with my stories, but I hope that this one hit a nerve.