All it takes is one story to seed an obsession. Brian Evenson’s “The Eye” did me in. Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths,” too. Steve Aylett’s “Gigantic.” Amy Hempel’s “The Harvest.” Stephen Graham Jones’s “Halloween.” Of course, the kind Mel Bosworth’s “Leave Me as I Lessen.” And on the list grows, almost daily.
The bait is not always the first experienced story. What is amazing about this phenomenon is that should the bait be a second, third, or twentieth story, often once the reader is hooked, the previous stories suddenly seem relevant, as though the reader has befriended the author in a way that allows understanding and appreciation. My first Tom Waits listen was the Rain Dogs album (which is definitely story in terms of arc, voice, and character). I didn’t “get” it. Years later, with his Real Gone album, I fell in love. Now, Rain Dogs is practically the air in my house. And of course with someone like Tom Waits, the persona often enhances the work’s appeal.
Strange the way artist becomes art and art becomes artist. I blame (credit?) behind-the-scenes DVD extras. We have come to expect the making-ofs and not-fit-for-final-reel moments that make up the end product. With that in mind, I give you “Author Note on Story #2 (My Family’s Rule) In Hopes That You’ll Learn About Me Intellectually and Donate to My Pocket:”
My Family’s Rule is a story about a family unit built around destruction, but collectively oblivious that they themselves are falling apart. The origin of the story lies with my childhood spent destroying things. My friend’s father did construction, and often as a trade-off for getting to stay the night at his house we were charged with working at the sites. Small stuff mostly: picking up nails, sweeping debris. But those laborious hours forged a stronger relationship, not just with my friends but with their father. I, never having had a father, am interested in father/son relationships from an intellectual perspective, likely more-so than would be someone with a father. My Family’s Rule is an extension of that.
Your homework: ponder the following, then comment below. 1) What initially repulsive stories did you eventually love due to further exploration of the author’s work? 2) Why are an artist and his work so often inseparable?