Ephemera: My Famous Babysitter
Proof Amy Hempel was Right
In her story The Harvest Amy Hempel devotes the second half to listing all the details she omitted from the first. So many true things occur as too coincidental to be believed. So ultimately even the truth must be blunted or diluted if it’s to have any credibility. To me, this is a creeping mundanity from television — where the stories must be kept dull and predictable so the commercials will shine1.
Our threshold for the incredible is rising rapidly. By denying and censoring the actual amazing things that happen, we lose sight of how varied-yet-connected our lives really are.
A student of mine tends bar in Tacoma, Washington and tells me that locals all play the same game when they get together. To break the ice, they all compare their relationships to Ted Bundy and his family or anything Ted Bundy-adjacent. In the small farming town of Burbank, Washington, where I grew up, many of the original families hired the same teenage babysitter. She later moved to Los Angeles and got into pictures. She married a rising movie director. Not long before her first child was due she was killed.
Until now I’ve never written about her — about playing on the backyard grass with her on hot summer vacation days — because to tell those stories destroyed my credibility. This next week, those stories will all come out. For better or worse. As always, my hat is off to Amy Hempel for showing us that our television-blunted expectations about “real” life have blinded us to how incredibly spectacular2 life actually is.
To most writers, fiction is more about dulling down the truth than it is about inventing the incredible. The “unbelievable” exists all around us.
If You’re Up for Exploring More…
You know. Like choosing ugly bridesmaids to make the bride look prettier.
Absurdist existentialism comes much closer to reality than so-called “realism.” More on that to come in a future post.