a book about the New Bedford docks by Rory Nugent, and it started me thinking about my time on Cuttyhunk Island again. Nugent’s book is called Down at the Docks, and it’s basically a history of the New Bedford waterfront through the eyes of a number of different people.
Although Cuttyhunk:Life on the Rock was first person anecdotal, many of the things I learned on the island I learned secondhand. Sometimes third or fourth hand. Way too many stories to put into one book, and of course there are always stories within the stories. I’ve often been accused of telling a story by starting with the stories within the stories within the stories, which some people find much too time-consuming to listen to.
I realize it is difficult to believe people such as these exist. I have trouble believing it myself. I mean, if you don’t know the back story and sometimes even the back story’s back story, how can you ever really understand what went on? Of course, these are probably the same people who skip to the back of the book to see how it ends. Heathens, I call them.
But I digress. Astoundingly unusual for me, but it does happen.
Back to the point – those stories that don’t get told. What happens to them?
I can’t answer that from a philosophical point of view. I didn’t take those classes in college.
In my world the stories that didn’t make it into the book still get told to anyone who asks, some of them in conversation, some in letters or emails. They used to make their way into poems, often slipping in without my knowledge or permission. That happens a lot with poems.
But I don’t write poetry anymore.
So where do the stories slip in? Right now they’re sliding into my new series of middle readers. Not the way they are told in my memoir, but pieced together like a quilt; a fragment from this story, a snip of that memory…photo A. Hinson
|THE ALLEN HOUSE|
(For example, in the book I'm working on now, 2nd in the Summerhood Island series, all three of these buildings have been morphed into one- The Sea Inn.)
A memoir should tell the truth, at least the truth as far as the author can remember it.
But fiction is made of a different cloth. It can stretch in any direction, start out with a name or a place and weave more names and places from other times and other memories onto the beginning, into the middle, at the end, around the edges until you have something that resembles a place you have known, or a person you have met The end result is not like any place or anyone real. Sometimes it's a quilt. Sometimes it's just a raggedy mish-mash. This is fiction. This is what I’m writing now. And I have to admit that the freedom to invent, and re-invent - is lovely.