Writing about yourself is showing off

02 November 2006

When Jesus said we shouldn't let our right hand know what our left hand wadoing, and vice versa, he was not just picking on football autobiographiessuch as the latest one from Frank Lampard. He was saying that the whole genris flawed; that all autobiography is a sin.

The idea behind an autobiography is rather exciting. People are given thchance to tell their story: they are given the freedom to explain exactly whatheir left hand was doing, and why - and vice versa. Wonderful. No longer do wneed to rely on the greasy pole of speculation and rumour. We rush to buy copy of their story in their own words.

There may, however, be disappointment in the consumption of this promisefeast, for people do not tell their own story. They are not qualified to dthis. The words are not theirs, but borrowed formulations that leave deep trutgasping for air. Why do we forget this? It simply is not possible to give sincere observation about oneself in public. You can play the part of someonfrank and open, but, at best, you are showing off, and at worse, lying tyourself.

There are not many people who get the chance. Autobiography these days isomething of a closed shop. Unless you are a sports personality, or aex-politician, do not expect agents to be queueing up to represent you inegotiations with publishers.

The only exception to this rule would be a manuscript entitled, foinstance, My Childhood Was Worse Than Yours. If you were brought up ia shoe-box, and cut in half every night with a rusty saw, then the publishermight have a window in their diary. Blow the large advance on drink and drugsand your next book - My Adult Life Was Pretty Appalling, Too - coulset you up for life.

This is tragic writing in more ways than one: written by the semi-consciousfor the semi-conscious. We are not tragic people; our innate selves are nodefined by tragedy, and to wallow in the self-luxury of negativity, whilimagining that this will bring healing, is charmless indeed - and a publishinphenomenon.

Jesus talks about left hands and right hands to save us from becoming tocaught up in explaining ourselves to ourselves. Explanation kills quite as mucas denial. The only possible reason for writing an autobiography is to listebetter to your life. But, once you have listened, burn it. Burn it beforlistening becomes explanation; and explanation, self-justification.

An agent asked me recently if I would consider writing an autobiography. Thidea was dead before it even started. But then, I've always preferrenon-fictio

Job of the Week


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