There is no question that they, like others, will be disappointed when they get to know me better, although I must hope that it is a mere sort of wistful sigh of broken illusion rather than a recoil so powerful it frightens the cat.
There is no question either that I will be unable to match the greatest opening paragraph in the history of autobiography, that of G. K. Chesterton:
Bowing down in blind credulity, as is my custom, before mere authority and the tradition of the elders, superstitiously swallowing a story I could not test at the time by experiment or private judgment, I am firmly of opinion that I was born on the 29th of May, 1874, on Campden Hill, Kensington; and baptised according to the formularies of the Church of England in the little church of St. George opposite the large Waterworks Tower that dominated that ridge. I do not allege any significance in the relation of the two buildings; and I indignantly deny that the church was chosen because it needed the whole water-power of West London to turn me into a Christian.
When people try to write great autobiographies they think the secret is to have an amazing life, like "My mother birthed me while drinking gin, strapped to the side of a wildebeest during a stampede across the veldt caused by my father scaring the herd by blasting a bandit with his shotgun" blah blah blah. All Chesterton told us was when he was born and where he was baptized, but he makes it awesome. A stupid life with lots of scenery and namedropping is still stupid.
Which brings us back to me. I'm trying to come up with an enticing title for my grand life story. A straight chronological autobiography is unnecessary these days, as Kingley Amis proved in his mudslinging autobiography of 1991; for the bulk of the book each chapter focused on one section or person of interest in his life. Along those lines I thought of Seven Keys to Fred, a play on Earl Biggers's 1913 best-seller Seven Keys to Baldpate, wherein I'd write a section on each of the seven biggest influences of my life. But I've had only five, so the hell with it.
I suggested to my wife the title Meant To, Forgot, Didn't. She thought I could stop at Meant To. Not sure if there was any hidden meaning there.
Some other titles came to me that seemed to be the kind of thing expected these days: I thought of My Life by Fred Key, Fred Key: A Life, Life of Fred, Fred Key: My Life So Far, and then I nodded off. Sure, they're accurate, but dull. Also accurate but not dull is Where Am I Going and What's with This Handbasket? Which is has potential, but appears on T-shirts.
How I Got Stuck in a Cat Door would be a great title, but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe I should get to work on that.
Kevin D. Williamson, writing about Lena Dunham's show Girls, included a devastating line:
Writers naturally indulge their own autobiographical and social fantasies, from Brideshead Revisited to The Lord of the Rings, but Girls represents a phenomenon distinctly of our time: the fantasy not worth having.
If my books are autobiographical or social fantasies, I can at least assure you that they are worth having. So maybe that's enough.