Like usual, aboutness is nothing but trouble. What's your book about, people ask me. It's a fair question. It's social. It's a start. It's nonfiction, so it should be about something aside from itself. Sure, it's art, so it should not mean as much as be. But even fiction is about something. Something started it. Something animates it. There is a text and a subtext. The book is about memoir, and it's about me, and it's about you, because it's about us. Anything we do or read or think about is about us. Even if it's not about me, it's about me, meaning that at least it is shaped by me and holds my trace. Writing about Doritos, which I do gladly and with fervor, makes this about me. If I wrote journalism the positions of quotations, the angle of the story, who gets interviewed, who gets to speak, who gets to rebut, or get portrayed as a crackpot, how the elements of the world are seen and presented--all of these things hold a trace of brain. They stink of it. They're not supposed to (that's the fiction of journalism), but they do. We read air-quote 'objective' prose as such only until we understand, or are made to understand something about the author. Then that author draws the lines which the text colors in between. Too lame a metaphor?
The job of the nonfiction writer is to start with everything and cut away until all that's left are dots and dots and dots, and then to connect them.
There is no lack of about in the world. Maybe there's nothing but about: dots, dashes, leftover bits of code, tiny systems of stars that, when examined closely, glow and reconfigure and start to really make sense when seen from angle X, or by angel X. Inside the smallest red dot we might find another world.
That's okay. That's good, really. We want subjectivity. We want our brains pulled open, our hearts laid bare. We want to know what is in these worlds.
In Canada, and to some extent where I am from, you pronounce it aboot. You notice this only when listening to yourself on tape in another place, or when someone mentions your accent and you are made to reconsider how it is you speak.
Let me say this: if everyone mentioned in the book were dead, I would have written a different book. Maybe even a memoir.
Well, maybe not. But the calculus would change.
The book as is, or as it could be, is not about these people. Does it contain these people? No. It is not a cage. What we see in these people, these characters, we see in me.
But about is a trap door. I might stand on it and it might support my weight for a while, but eventually it will give way. If it is about anything, it is about me and the space within the dots that punctuate the brain.