Introduction for Lilla Lit
May 19, 2019
by Virginia Bellis Brandabur
Our final reader tonight is Liz Scott. In addition to serving two terms on the board of Literary Arts, Liz has authored a self-help book, several works of short fiction, and most recently, the memoir, This Never Happened, a genre-bending work of letters and lists, memorabilia and remembrances. Margaret Malone has described This Never Happened as “an elusive pursuit of familial truth and belonging.. an unforgettable search for meaning,” while Gigi Little says this memoir is “a mystery of the heart, an excavation and examination of the known fragments of a mostly unknown story.”
In her opening chapter, Liz tells us, “Once when I was young I asked my mother if she had any brothers or sisters. Her answer: ‘I don’t remember.’” Throughout the book, Liz returns to this exchange – as well as to a heartbreakingly tiny collection of other memories – as if by doing so, she might finally receive a more complete map of who she is. Yet over and over she is denied – by her narcissistic mother, by her vanished father – and thereby denied any tell-tale landmarks of identity. “We came from no one and we were attached to no one… I say I have a gypsy soul… But a gypsy probably does not crave to fill all the blank spaces. A gypsy probably does not feel the black absence of tap rootedness or the peril of floating off, untethered, into dark spaces.”
As Liz reconstructs and deconstructs these few memories of her childhood, she asks us to consider not only the fundamental and complex interdependence between memory and identity, but also the link between memory and emotion. Which comes first? Can one exist without the other? “I am wondering if he still wears a fedora, if he still smokes a pipe,” she writes of the first time she goes to see her father in nearly twenty years. “I am wondering if his shirt will smell the same as it did when I used to sit in the dark of his closet, breathing in the day’s white shirt. I am wondering exactly what I am feeling.”
Without memories, without “stories,” how can one know how she feels, who she is? Yet, in the hard work of writing this memoir, Liz has claimed these stories as her own, named her emotions as an explorer might name a valley or a river, from the high point of a mountaintop, with the broad view and intimate understanding of the long road she has traveled. This memoir, more than anything, is a a defiant declaration, loud and clear, that “This Did Happen.”
Please welcome Liz Scott.