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Growing up with writers

I finally took the time to do the important work of Googling this phrase I remembered hearing on NPR a few years ago:

Mr. YGLESIAS: Right. I mean, it is true that if you come from a family of writers, you understand that there is always an assassin in the family.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. YGLESIAS: I don’t really know any other way of doing the writing. So I didn’t feel I had any choice. And there were times when I considered just not publishing the book or not showing it to anyone. But I also knew that I felt that so acutely, that it was so dangerous, was also a sign that I was writing it correctly.

GROSS: Had your parents, in their novels, written characters that you knew were based on you that you found troubling?

Mr. YGLESIAS: Actually, even when someone writes you in a novel flatteringly, the truth is it’s always troubling because it’s odd to be a minor character in someone else’s life since we’re always the major character in our own lives.

GROSS: Oh that’s so interesting, the way you put it.

Mr. YGLESIAS: It’s always disturbing.

GROSS: So was that upsetting to see that in your parents’ work you were a minor character?

Mr. YGLESIAS: It was very strange, always disturbing. And I believe, although people will say otherwise, that it’s always disturbing to people to appear in someone’s book. It’s just – it offends the natural narcissism of every individual.

From a 2009 episode of “Fresh Air,” in which Terry Gross interviews Rafael Yglesias about his novel based on his marriageA Happy Marriage: A Novel.


  1. Matthew Lickona says

    I’ll stop now.

    • Southern Expat says

      No, but see, the other folks only feel that way because they’re narcissists. I’d rather be an assassin than a narcissist anyday.

      • Southern Expat says

        WAIT – have you considered pitching the Percy book as “a crack team of assassins converges upon New Orleans?” That could change everything.

        • Matthew Lickona says

          Does that mean you’ve finished Chapter One and have decided that without a crack team of assassins converging upon New Orleans, it’s a non-starter? That seems to be the consensus.

          • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

            I’m pretty sure Expat’s
            Saying to sex up the pitch, but not the text — That’s
            To say, pushing you to pull a bait-and-switch:
            You’re all assassins anyway already,
            Just not in the literal sense,
            But literary — A little like how Darth deep-sixed Luke’s dad:
            Sensational (some little bit),
            A little bent,
            But true
            From a certain point of view.

            • ENVOI

              I should note
              If you ran a poll
              On rewriting the work
              Then I would vote
              (As I think best)
              To rework the whole
              Into an assassin-infested
              Alphonse sequel
              (All else being equal).

  2. Is this another opportunity to use my big bang joke?

    Assassins shoot guns, they go bang, and they also write books, which are creations. How can I swing it?

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      Subject 1 has begun ‘living in the metaphor’.

    • Cubeland Mystic says

      Hi Betty

      I can’t make your joke work. I could write a combox story about the evil Professor Lawless who lectured undergrads about nuclear physics by day, and traded nuclear secrets by night. My job was to hire an assassin who could get close enough. Silke was a cosmologist who wrote books on the big bang, but the word on the street was that she was a freelance assassin. Allegedly she had deadly skills, and other talents beyond that of a bookish professor. All I had was a mission, a pile of cash for someone who could kill Lawless, and a big gun. Somehow I had to get my big gun into Silke’s hands, and I knew the only way to reach her was the Big Bang.

      It doesn’t quite work yet, but you get the point. We got assassins, authors, cosmology (i.e. creation), Nuclear Physics, spies, action, and the big bang. It’s packed with potential.

  3. I don’t really know what you’re talking about, and I didn’t get much sleep, but I wouldn’t presume to think I understood anybody well enough to write about them. As to whether I’d like to be a bit part or major part in anyone’s book, I wouldn’t think most people could understand me, but I suppose it wouldn’t bother me if they didn’t, although I remember a shocking possible consequence of someone writing about a man I once worked with, so for that reason I would say it’s better not to. And if they got me right, I would find it embarrassing if it were in the public domain, although a nice reference or letter to an employer doesn’t harm.

  4. Wait a minute, Matthew. Am I to understand that you’re circulating a first chapter but you haven’t seen fit to send it to me and the missus?

    I see how it stands… 😛

    Interesting observations from this guy. I went and listened to the interview — though I’m not sure if I’d actually like his book all the much from description. I was particularly fascinated by this part and by his description about how he wanted to write a novel about his marriage rather than a memoir because he thought a memoir would be less immediate.

  5. Reading these reviews has tainted my something or other.

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