I am an impostor with many selves. My life narrative is a place where imaginative revisions seem (at least to me) necessary. I understand that we must all construct a story of our lives: the quiet tale we repeat in our heads, after dark, while falling asleep. Without compunction, I change my story at will, inventing details, shaping and reshaping my persona to suit myself and the needs of my avocation as writer and my personal life. But I don't like it when others dwell on the details of my life history. "You seem to be spending too much time thinking about Gary Freedman," I tell people. At the same time, my writing demands a reading in tandem with the writing. The personas in my fictions, and the nature of my own character, enthrall me, and I work busily at inventing and deepening both, looking for reality through the lens of art in both instances.
Lives are lived in circles, not linearly, with past and present looping each other. This seems especially true of me, who takes my own family history as synechdochal, standing in for the family history of the artist. My sense of the present is profoundly shaped by my sense of the past, and the past brings a peculiar pressure to bear on the present in my life and writings. I am besotted with history, my own and those of people around me. I live within this history, and the history becomes me.
So how do I manage to transform my little postage stamp of a life into an imaginative space where I can roam happily over several decades, creating a vast anthology of human experience from limited materials? I was, after all, no obvious genius from the outset, being a shy boy from Philadelphia. Unlike some writers, I have no large experience of the wider world. I write consciously, applying myself with great energy to the task before me, with a deep understanding of what I am doing.
In a very real sense, I have fathered myself, having seen fatherhood diluted as it passed down from my grandfather, then to my own hapless father. I have a visceral need to regard myself as independent of the family, to lift myself over my sister and parents and everyone else around me. I do so by making fictions, all kinds of fictions. I became an artist in my own mind, creating a story to fit this need. I have become many other things as well, an outcast, a bohemian poet, a world traveler, a historian, a friend, a criminal, and so forth. These are all masks put on for the occasion, the life-phase, the person in front of me, the immediate need.
Finally, of course, I have adopted a persona that all the world can accept, that of the conquering hero of prose fiction, a man on a par with Faulkner, or Joyce or Hemingway, able to reframe the family saga and the society into which I was born through the complex operations of my writings. Over time, the mask has grown onto my face, becoming my features, the very skin itself. Only the wild, sad eyes peeking out through the mask tell the world about the soul lurking behind it. Those eyes, with their countless changes, suggest something of the many thousand selves that make up the person called Gary Freedman, only a limited number of which you will ever come to know.