My dad was dying on a hospital bed next to the couch and my dad’s favourite winged back chair in my parent’s living room. In his final days he was in and out of consciousness and I was entrusted with the needle and the morphine injections, something I was more than willing to do if he was in pain. In fact when someone you love needs anything you do it. I now know this from experience.
I did two things during those last days. One was to interview him, recording a conversation on my phone, and the other was to write down an idea about a novel I could write based on my dad and my complicated and loving relationship with him.
Then I read Globe and Mail writer Ian Brown’s book 60 and I was hooked on the idea that in fact my novel doesn’t need to be fiction. Ian spoke about his life in a very open way, sometimes painfully. He referenced reading Karl Ove Knausgård’s book My Struggle, A Death in the Family. I’ve started to read the book and now know why Ian Brown was inspired to write his book. It took courage—a lot of courage.
Here’s why. My Struggle is an autobiographical series of novels if that makes sense. Knausgård is protagonist and his real family the cast members. The story of his childhood is real, and so is the reference to his family and friends. The books were runaway hits, especially in his home country of Norway where one in nine adults have read his books. And they were controversial since everyone’s privacy was on full display in his books. Some family members sued him.
It takes a certain amount of guts to write like this. A high school English teacher once said to me, “Jay, write what you know.” I suspect she didn’t mean the gory details of my life and all the characters that came and went, some in a blaze of glory and others not so much.
Now I am contemplating writing like this. I talked with my mom about this and she said, ”I won’t sue you.” That is positive. Now I just have to contact every person I’ve ever met, especially from you early days and ask permission. Or just write it, publish it online and wait for the fall out. Could be fun!
I will say sorry in advance to everyone I may harm in the making of the story. Good to get that over with now.