Am I a writer? Part Four

When Aubade was last published in 1989 an interviewer wrote that “even by the most objective standards, Martin’s life was dreadful. His family was not just poor; they were destitute.”
I was shocked then (we’d never discussed poverty in the interview, so he based his assessment on what I’d written in the new Introduction), and shocked just now when I dug out the interview to check what he’d said. What he wrote stung so badly that I softened it in memory. “Objectively” maybe what he wrote was right, based on what I’d written, but the data I remembered and my feelings about the data didn’t coincide. Growing up I felt the effects of poverty on my sister far more than I felt them on myself. And if we were that poor, how could I afford even the few books I mentioned in my last blog?
Now I remember that before I wrote Aubade I studied the craft of fiction writing in two books I ordered that were imported from the U.S., written by a man called Thomas H. Uzzell. (They’re still available on Amazon.) But how did I hear about those books? Maybe in some monthly magazine for writers? Books and Bookmen? So I had money for those. And earlier I wrote about my adolescent torpor/depression. But I had the energy to study those books. All my energy was in fact focused and contained around that one objective: I was going to be a writer.
The money thing is partly explained by the way poor people have to operate. My family spent what they had when they had it. They’d learned that present needs (some wants) wipe out long-term goals. You can’t save for the large economy size because you need the small size now. You may have no furniture in your home in the projects but you do rent a large-screen TV. I once pretended to my family that I’d saved fifteen shillings, then when they told me they needed it I pretended I’d lost it.
A reviewer once wrote that my first novel had “a tiny arena but intense truthfulness.” When I was sixteen all the energy I had was focused on that ambition to be a writer and I went about it the only way I knew how, however self-ill-advised that turned out to be. I wrote all I knew as a sixteen-year-old, and though I knew so little, it turned out seeming consciously economical and complete.

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