Disclaimer and Disclosure: Stuck in the Middle with You
by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Readers are hereby warned that this work contains some acts of the imagination. Which is a phrase that sort of reminds me of my mother’s complaint, once, that a book that she had been reading “contained some language.”
What do I mean by “some acts of the imagination?” Here is a list:
- the conjuring of dialogue, with as much accuracy as memory can provide, as necessary. Some exchanges I remember (and present) verbatim; others, after a lifespan of over fifty years, I have only imagined as best I can.
- I have attempted to use everyone’s real names whenever possible. A list of characters appearing with pseudonyms appears below.
- This book does not attempt to tell the complete history of our family, or my own transition, over the last fifty-three years. It deliberately leaves some things out that I just didn’t feel like talking about. I am aware that I have encouraged readers think of my life as an open book, given my insistence on writing about these tender and intimate issues, but even for me, the curtain has to get drawn somewhere.
- Nothing in the book was invented out of thin air, pasted together out of marzipan, or conjured simply because I thought it would be clever. Some events and/or characters were deleted or obscured in order to avoid lawsuits. Others probably differ from reality because of the inexactitude of memory, and my own tendency to remember things–especially those that happened years and years ago– in terms of story.
All in all, this memoir should be considered an impression of a life– to use Frank McCourt’s phrase– rather than a photograph of that life. I am hoping that the impression I create here is true, even if some of its smaller pieces are inexact. It’s my belief that this is what literary memoirists are supposed to do, and the sooner we stop apologizing for our art (and start admitting to our readers what our method is) the better.
The interviews in this book were conducted in the following manner:
- I sat down with the subjects and talked with them for one to three hours. The interviews were recorded digitally, and then uploaded as .mp4 files.
- After uploading, the files were transcribed either by my fine assistant, Mr. Grant Patch, or by the Verbal Ink transcription service.
- I then read the interviews and edited them down. The rough drafts of most of them ran about 7000 words; I tried to pare them down to under 2000.
- In some cases, I reordered the questions (and the answers). Every once in a while, a subject responded to a question with mumbling and incoherence not immediately translatable by the transcriptionist. In those cases, I approximated what I believed to be the subject’s speech, and then asked the subject, Was this what you meant?
- I sent the interviews to the subjects and asked them if the edits met their approval; some of them wanted the chance to rephrase their answers more eloquently, and I said, sure, fine.
The interview with my wife and me conducted by Anna Quindlen in the Afterword to this book was digitally recorded by me, transcribed by Verbal Ink, and edited by Anna.
I am hopeful that readers will accept all of this, and understand that my desire is not to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, but to make a complex and contradictory life appear to make sense as a story.
On Pseudonyms, Obscurations and Sneaking Suspicions
As noted in the Caveat Emptor of this book, I have tried to use real names rather than pseudonyms throughout this book. In the interest of full disclosure, here follows a list of moments where I’ve deviated from this, as well as any moments where discretion has demanded I stray from photographic truth.
I changed the name of “Grenadine” in the chapter titled “Red Card”, as well as some of her identifying information. I also changed some of the details of the circumstances regarding the reasons why we began to speak with each other. The conversation presented at the beginning and end of this chapter is, nonetheless, as close to verbatim as I can recall, given the veil I am partially drawing over her. I hope readers will understand the fairly obvious reasons why I have tried to conceal her identity here (most of which have to do with, you know, the awkwardness of a wife openly wishing for her husband’s murder).
In that same chapter, to be honest, I am not sure of “Chandler’s” actual name; about all I know for certain is that it was not Chandler.
The women in “The Plover’s Egg” identified as Rose, Dora, Felicity, and Allison were not named Rose, Dora, Felicity, or Allison.
In “The Gryphon,” the names of Neil Strachman and his brother have been changed.
The names of “Shannon” and “Spike” have been changed in “The Muffle Voice.” Certain other aspects of “Spike” have been altered here as well in order to obscure him just a little. I also mention a character here named Beck–that’s his actual name, although in “She’s Not There” I unexpectedly gave him the pseudonym, “Curly.”
At the subject’s request, I changed the names of everyone in the “Veronica Gerhardf” interview.
Is that everything? Probably not. But’s it’s everything I can think of at this moment. I’m grateful to readers for accepting my method; and those that do not wish to accept this method are welcome to enjoy some other kind of story, told some other way.