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2014-02-18 00:14:42 (UTC)

Some Thoughts on Autobiography


Part 1:

The Kid Stays in the Picture is the name the 1994 autobiography by film producer Robert Evans(1930- ). It is also the title of the 2002 film adaptation of the same book. Last night, on 2/2/'14, I watched this film adaptation.(1) By 1994 I had my eye on an early retirement; by 2002 I had taken a sea-change and retired to a small town by the sea, about 5 kms from the Bass Strait, an extension of the Great Southern Ocean. Robert Evans had been part of my life since the 1950s, but he had always been far in the background beginning with his 3 films: Man of a Thousand Faces, The Sun Also Rises, and The Best of Everything.

He has been so far in the background of my life that, until last night, I had never even heard of him. This should tell readers more about me than it does about Evans because Evans was at the centre of Hollywood life for decades. He has been called 'the Godfather of Hollywood'. During his 60 years in film, from the 1950s to the turn of the 21st century, the cinema was not that central to my life. I was no connoisseur of the celebrity circuit, and watching either TV or films was always a relatively peripheral part of my life. At least this was the case for the half-century from about 1954 until the last ten years, 2004 to 2014.

Part 1.1:

By 2004 I had retired from all FT and PT paid employment. I had retired by degrees from FT, PT and most volunteer work, as well as the endless meetings involved in both my work and in the volunteer organizations in which I was engaged from the 1950s to the early 2000s. All of these occupations kept me busy for 60 to 80 hours a week for more than half a century. My student-working life had lasted from 1949 to 1999.

Going to "the pictures", as cinema is often called Downunder, and watching TV were both only occasional activities, certainly not definite parts of my daily diet. That has no longer been the case for the last decade, from 2004 to 2014.

Part 2:

Many elements from Evans' 1994 autobiography, such as his childhood and all but one of his seven marriages, were dropped from this doco because the producers felt that their inclusion would slow things down, and not move the visual-auditory-experience along with the pace required for modern audiences. Seven marriages would be a complex story for any film producer and director to weave into the plot and visual narrative.

Evans started writing his autobiography when he was in his 60s. I started writing mine, my memoirs and autobiography, in my 40s and there was much I also had to leave out for many reasons mainly associated with moving my story along in the direction I wanted it to go, not visually but in a literary fashion, mode and manner.

A person's identity is not to be found in behaviour, important though that is, nor in the reactions of others, but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going. The individual's autobiography or biography, if he or she is to maintain regular interaction with others in the day-to-day world, cannot be wholly fictive. The person must continually integrate events which occur in both their internal-world and the wider-external world, and sort them into the ongoing 'story' about the self.'(2)

Part 3:

I want to thank (1) ABC1TV, 10:20-11:50 p.m., 2/2/'14 for this stimulating doco, and (2) Anthony Giddens(1938-), a British sociologist who is known for his holistic view of modern societies, for this idea about one's life-narrative, and many of the ideas in this prose-poem.

Giddens is considered to be one of the most prominent modern sociologists, the author of at least 34 books, published in at least 29 languages, issuing on average more than one book every year. In 2007, Giddens was listed as the fifth most-referenced author of books in the humanities.

Giddens links the rise of the narrative of the self, biography and autobiography, with the emergence of romantic love. Passion and sex have, of course, been around virtually forever, but the discourse of romantic love is said to have developed from the late eighteenth century.(1) Romantic love introduced the idea of a narrative into an individual's life, a story about two individuals with little connection to wider social processes. Giddens connects this development with the simultaneous emergence of the novel, a relatively early form of mass media, that suggests ideal, and less than ideal, romantic life narratives.

Part 4:

All of this sociological theory is, of course, arguable. These stories of romantic love did not construct love as a partnership of equals, of course. Instead, women were associated with a world of femininity and motherhood which was supposedly unknowable to men. Nevertheless, the female protagonists were usually independent & spirited. The masculine world, meanwhile, was detached from the domestic sphere, both emotionally and physically, and involved a decisive sense of purpose in the outside world.

Whilst passionate affairs might come and go, rather unpredictably, the more long-term and future-oriented narrative of romantic love created a 'shared history' which made sense of two lives and gave their relationship an important and recognised role. The rise of this mutual narrative biography led individuals to construct accounts of their lives so that, even if the relationship with their partner went awry, a story still had to be maintained. And so now the biography of the self has taken on a life of its own. Giddens has much to say about the narrative of the life-span which I have found useful in the three decades, 1984 to 2014, during which I have been engaged in writing my memoirs.

The self is made, only partly
inherited, partly static in our
post-traditional order...It's a
reflective project, a project we
continuously work on--reflect.

We create, maintain, revise our set
of autobiographical narratives..the
story of who we are, how we came to
be where we are. This is our self-
identity, our understanding of who
is this self we are....the account
of our life, actions and influences
which make sense to us, and is also
oriented towards our anticipated....
future. Perhaps this all began with
the Greeks and those Romans, a way
back in the Middle Ages, or in what
some historians call modern times.(1)

(1) To Giddens modern times began in the late 18th century. There are, of course, many takes on the modern and when it began, as well as on the post-modern, and if it began. In my own literary work I take the modern and the post-modern to be the last two-and-a-half centuries associated, as those 250 years are, with the lives of the two precursors of the Babi-Baha'i revelations, and Babi-Baha'i history into the 21st century.

Ron Price
3/2/'14 to 25/10/'14.