The reason I’ve been writing autobiographical stories for the better part of ten years now is that I got tired of pretending I wasn’t. All those stories about someone who was my age doing the things I did when I wasn’t writing and experiencing the same heartaches and triumphs I was. Even if you didn’t know me, you knew the score as you read the story.
Some writers are like that. You can pass off Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary as fiction all you want, but you know you’re reading about Thompson’s experiences in Puerto Rico. Henry Miller’s fiction reads the same way. It’s like they’re testing the reader, like someone who is drunk trying desperately to appear sober, so what you get is this drunken hyper-aware performance of sobriety that gives the game away completely.
And while we’re willing to play along because they were brilliant and established, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when no one knew who they were. Long before Thompson rode with the Hell’s Angels, he was just a punk living in Kentucky. And before Miller made his way to Paris, he was a nobody mooching in Brooklyn. It was their gift for writing and the nature of their stories that eventually got our attention.
Call it gonzo journalism or surrealist free association, at the end of the day it’s autobiographical writing.
We all have stories to tell. Unlike most people, I managed to get some of mine down on paper.
You should try telling yours sometime.