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There are the lives we lead. And the lives we wish we led.
The difference between the two is the dilemma that the offbeat characters in Corrections to My Memoirs seek to resolve. From the fabrications of the misguided autobiographer in the title story to the unusual encounter of the narrator in “The Last Chance ...
There are the lives we lead. And the lives we wish we led.
The difference between the two is the dilemma that the offbeat characters in Corrections to My Memoirs seek to resolve. From the fabrications of the misguided autobiographer in the title story to the unusual encounter of the narrator in “The Last Chance Texaco,” these are people slowly learning the truth about the world. They are discovering that the line between fantasy and reality is as thin as a white lie, and that reality can’t be altered because we wish it so.
With a style that is both humorous and heartbreaking, Kun reveals the hidden side of human existence and shows us that the difference between what is perceived and what is real is often more significant than we’d like to admit.
“A refreshingly humane comedy about the lies people tell themselves–and others–just to survive.”
“[Kun’s] first collection of short stories [finds] him in typically twisted form.”
—The Seattle Times
Please excuse the impersonal nature of this note.
I do not normally type notes to my friends and family. As you should know, I normally write them by hand, in script-a practice many people (women mostly) find to be charming and old-fashioned, like wearing a hat or eating Fig Newton cookies.
Unfortunately, over the years, I have received several complaints about the quality of my penmanship. It is quite poor, I must admit-the result of a callus that has formed near the fingernail of my right-hand middle finger, the consequence of forty-plus years of holding pens (and pencils) improperly. The callus is the size of a lentil.
Given the sober nature of this missive, which you will shortly understand, there should be no room for confusion. You should not be left to wonder, "Does that say 'glove' or 'above'?" were I to use one word or the other. "Does that say 'my enormous collection of pornography' or 'my porous recollection of podiatry'?"
So, please imagine that this typed note is, in fact, handwritten especially for you. In handwriting that is crisp and legible and as pleasing to the eye as a waterfall or a bird building a nest.
By now, you may have heard that Samantha and I have chosen to terminate our engagement and cancel the wedding that was to be held two Saturdays from today. (I am not including today, which is a Saturday, nor should you, in making-or rather, canceling-any travel plans.)
If you've already heard about our decision, you have probably heard it from Delores Greenburg, Samantha's mother. And if you have heard it, directly or indirectly, from Delores Greenburg, then it is possible, if not altogether likely, that you have received information that is not true or only partially true. I hope you will keep this in mind when you hear allegations that I am a "cad" or a "felon." Or that I am "a cad and a felon who tried to seduce Samantha's maid of honor." I hope you will recognize the critical difference between being "arrested" and being "convicted" of an offense. I hope you will search for the truth when you hear that I have "a serious drinking problem," or if you are told about my "enormous collection of pornography," or that I "invited Samantha's sister to join me naked in the hot tub." I hope you will give some thought to the meaning of the word "enormous." I hope you will do some research into what a "hot tub" is.
The truth of the matter is that Samantha is a lovely girl, as sweet as pudding, but we simply are not meant for each other. It would be ungentlemanly of me to state that the decision to end our engagement was anything but "mutual," but, at the same time, I believe it is also entirely reasonable of me to explain to you, my dear friend or family member, why you will not be traveling to Westchester in two weeks. (Unless, of course, you have an unrelated event in Westchester, or have been invited by Samantha's family to attend the "Samantha Almost Made a Huge Mistake" hoopla that they are throwing at the reception hall, since they'd already paid for the band, food, alcohol, and so forth.)
It was only recently that I learned that Samantha has what doctors might call a "violent, hair-trigger temper." I realized this when she stood as close to me as you are to this sheet of paper, her face as red as an apple, her eyes enormous, her sharp teeth like those of some beast, and screamed, "Is it true? Is it true that you invited Debra to meet you at the Sheraton at lunchtime last Tuesday? Debra, my maid of honor?"
I had not known before that moment that my fiancée, the woman I was to spend the rest of my life with, had such a short fuse. I certainly wouldn't have asked her to marry me had I known. I certainly wouldn't have invited her to move into my home (or, more accurately, I would not have moved into her home). The girl I'd fallen in love with was as calm and clement as a summer day. I did not recognize the girl who was standing in front of me baring her beastly teeth. She was like the "evil twin" who frequently appears in television soap operas, the one who looks exactly like the heroine but, in fact, is infused with the unsavory qualities you would normally find in a high-priced corporate lawyer.
I'm afraid that I also discovered that Samantha has difficulty resolving problems. As any marriage expert will tell you, the ability to resolve conflicts and "move on" is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship between a man and a woman. But, as I learned in the nick of time, Samantha is incapable of dropping an issue. After I told her, unequivocally, that I had not invited her maid of honor to meet me at the Sheraton last Tuesday, she would not let the issue go. Instead, she felt the need to pull a piece of paper out of her purse and read it aloud.
"Debra," she read, "I'm not a married man yet. There's no denying the chemistry we have. I know you felt it, too, when we all had dinner at Chili's. Meet me at the Sheraton next Tuesday at noon. Bring something sheer and sexy!"
As I said, she simply could not let the issue go. Her forgetfulness was another problem. I don't know how many times we'd spoken about my poor penmanship, about the callus on my middle finger, yet she acted as if she knew nothing about it. I had to take the note from her and show her that it said "Thursday," not "Tuesday." I had to show her that it said "cheap," not "sheer."
"See," I said. "I can barely write." I held my hand up in front of my face so she could not avoid looking at the callus. "See. See."
My problem with my penmanship, the callus on my hand, meant nothing to her. Nothing. It was at that moment that I realized, if I ever had to get medical treatment for my problem, surgery to reduce or remove the callus, for instance, I would not be able to count on her for support. I would be on my own. I would have to face it by myself. The pain. The embarrassment. The countless hours of rehabilitation. The struggle to feel like a "whole man" again. That is not what I was looking for in a wife. You know that, my dear friend or family member. You know.
So, Samantha and I have made the mutual decision to move on.
For the next several weeks, I will be renting a room at the YMCA on 86th Street.
Or the one on 56th Street.
What does that say? Did I write an "8" or a "5"? I think it's an "8." Yes, it's an "8." At least I think it is.
See what I must face alone?
Maybe I could stay on your couch instead.
You have just read "The Handwriting Patient," the opening story of Michael Kun's masterful short story collection, Corrections to My Memoirs.
The story was written by the author in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a vacation. As readers are likely aware, the story has generated international acclaim, winning awards from the Berlin Literary Society and the Indianapolis Shakespeare Commission.
The next story in this exquisite collection is the title story, "Corrections to My Memoirs." As the author is wont to do, he originally wrote the story in French. (The story, in fact, is dedicated to Michael's high school French teacher, Madame Lepke.) He then translated the story back into English, his native tongue.
Describing this unusual process, Michael has explained, "French has a different rhythm than English, a different cadence. By writing in French, I am able to find unique patterns and sentence structures, ones that many Americans simply are not accustomed to. Translating the story back into English, I am able to bring it home to my countrymen. I feel as if I am bringing a gift home from a trip to Paris, a gift for millions of Americans. Unfortunately, I have yet to visit Paris. I hope to do so someday, and perhaps I really will bring back gifts for everyone. Gloves, or maybe hats."
"Corrections to My Memoirs" is, indeed, a gift. It was awarded the New York City Literary Award, the Cincinnati Arts Council Prize, and was an official Roma Linguistica Societale Selecione.
The story has now been translated into twenty-four languages, not including the original French.
We are proud to present it here, in English.
Upon much review and deep, deep contemplation, it appears that there may be several so-called inaccuracies in my unpublished memoirs currently entitled Victory: How I Won World War II and Super Bowl III. (Note to potential publishers: This title is not "set in stone.")
While most of the so-called inaccuracies are plainly "poetic license," I understand that potential readers may not be savvy enough to understand such a complex literary concept. Among other things, they may not understand that "poetic license" applies to all writers, not just poets, as the name wrongly implies. Accordingly, I would like to make the following corrections to my memoirs:
1. Because the title of the book and chapters 44 through
57 might suggest otherwise to unsophisticated readers,
I should explain that I did not formally serve in World
2. Although I was not born until 1962, which was at least
a couple of years after the war ended, I did read much
about the war in various encyclopedias. Having done
so, I did in fact devise a plan that could have helped
to end the war much, much earlier. The plan,
described in chapter 55 as if it had actually been carried
out, involved luring Hitler, Mussolini, and
some of the other enemy leaders into a large, open
space. (Spoiler alert: The plan involved chocolate
cake and very pretty Spanish ladies!) Sadly, President
Lincoln did not have access to my plan, and the war
dragged on much longer than needed.
3. Technically, I did not play in Super Bowl III, as the
title and chapters 94 through 97 might imply. I was
only seven years old at the time, and I believe it
would be both cruel and entirely unrealistic for
readers to expect such a small child to play in a professional
football game against grown men, many of
whom were quite large and could have caused serious
injury to a small boy. I did watch the game on television
though, and the outcome described in my memoirs
is accurate: The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore
Colts. For the sake of accuracy, all references
to "me" or "I" in those chapters should be changed to
4. While their last name is accurate, my parents' first
names are not "Sonny" and "Cher." I am prohibited by
a restraining order obtained by my parents' lawyers
from using their real names in my memoirs or in any
other "form of media, including, but not limited to,
print publication, electronic transmission, television,
or film." However, I am not prohibited from telling
you that if you dial Directory Assistance for Bergen
County, New Jersey, not only will the operator provide
you my parents' first names, but she'll also give
you their telephone number so you can call them as
often as you'd like.
5. "Ralph" is an important character in my memoirs,
particularly during World War II, in which he lost his
right hand due to a malfunctioning hand grenade.
While you will certainly want to quote some of his
charming and pithy comments at home or work, you
should know that, technically speaking, I do not actually
have a brother named "Ralph." I do not have a
brother at all since my parents apparently didn't think
it was important for me to be able to relate to anyone
other than them. "Ralph" is a composite character
based upon my imaginary brother, "Scooter," and a
man I once met named Tom Something-or-Other.
"Scooter" does not appear in my memoirs as he is
imaginary, which I now understand. Thank you, Dr.
Deborah Pullari. You've been like the mother I never
6. Regarding the incident at the Copacabana in chapter
54 involving a showgirl named "Lola," I'm afraid that's
a combination of actual events and the events that
occur in a popular song written by Barry Manilow.
Mostly, the song.
7. My sisters, "Sally" and "Coco," were not involved in
drug smuggling in Thailand, as readers might
wrongly conclude after reading chapter 35. I do not
have sisters named "Sally" and "Coco." In fact, I don't
have any sisters at all. "Sally" and "Coco" are fictional
characters whose actions throughout my memoirs are
the actions I imagine my sisters would have engaged
in under the same circumstances, had they existed.
Had my parents not felt it was important to keep me
isolated from human contact by depriving me of siblings
and putting a color TV in my bedroom instead,
right next to the computer. Had they not come up
with the excuse that my mother was "injured" during
childbirth and through some hocus-pocus couldn't
have any more children.
8. "Pajamas" is the fictional name I have chosen to give
my golden retriever for the purposes of my memoirs.
He died in the middle of the night because of my
parents' shameful neglect, and I am moved to tears
whenever I even think of his real name or picture his
cold, unblinking eyes staring at the ceiling, like I'm
doing at this very moment. Oh, and he was actually a
goldfish, not a dog, so I've used a little of that "poetic
license." But everything else about him is entirely
accurate except for the description of his burial,
which I'm sure the reader will understand.
9. Although I've written in chapter 41 that my parents
"completely forgot" my fourth birthday, truth be told,
they actually had a party for me in our backyard with
a clown and a pony. But the clown hardly knew any
good tricks, and once it began to rain, the pony
smelled like its skin was rotting, so in my mind, it
feels like they forgot my birthday altogether. It
would've been better if they had.
10. Technically, my father did not stab me with a knife.
But you could tell he was thinking about it. You could
see it in his eyes.
Excerpted from Corrections to My Memoirs by Michael Kun Copyright © 2006 by Michael Kun. Excerpted by permission.
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