Putting together a group of short stories that extends over one’s writing career and then reading through them again is like pressing MRI images up against a backlit screen, then stepping back and trying to figure out what was going on in the writer’s mind when he wrote them.
I tend to say, if asked, that the stories come from my storyteller, from a place somewhere below consciousness. I understand that that’s some sort of Jungian metaphor, but I think there’s something to the idea that we pick details and change plot direction on a subliminal level as we tell the story. Especially when it’s done quickly, as in a span of thirty to sixty minutes in front of my Mexican writing partner—with no time for censoring and with the knowledge you’re going to be reading it to him at the end of the session.
Since I am the writer and the subject of the MRI images, I have some idea of what I’m looking at. Simply put, what I think I see is an on-going effort to undo the silence that reigned in my family—to give the explanations my parents and others could not give. I often told people what I was doing was an archaeology of family, as well as re-inventing of family when the shards of the past didn’t tell enough and when I needed stories instead of silence.