Friday, August 14, 2009

The Faviers on the Hill

On reading a memoir about my sister.

You said you must have written the story badly, because everyone who read it felt sorry for you, and that wasn't the point.

But the thing is, you told the story brilliantly. It just doesn't mean exactly what you think it meant. The better you tell a story, the less it belongs to you. The story isn't actually the story of a messed-up kid in love with a wonderful girl. The story's actually about a wonderful kid in love with a messed-up girl. Or about two messed-up kids, both wonderful, both roughly handled by the world, who gave each other what they could.

It's kind of amazing that any of us got out of there alive, actually.

As for the Faviers? You're right, I spoke too harshly when I called us a family without hearts. But you'd be hard put to find a single instance of us actually inconveniencing ourselves on someone else's behalf, during the years you knew us. The family project was of self-actualization, and given our resources, it was a spectacular failure.

Maybe if the world had given us something worth doing we would have risen to it. Who knows? But I look back on those years with horror. Idle, uprooted, charming, heartless people, living on unearned money, determined to do anything in order to be admired. Anything, that is, but something actually admirable. It would have been difficult to find a higher concentration of wasted talent and ability anywhere, I think, than in our family when we lived on the Hill.

On the two hills, really. The Hill -- I never knew any other name for it, it was The Hill, just as in The Hobbit -- in Springfield, and then Hendricks Butte in Eugene. Always the house on the hill. The house with the swimming pool. The house with the sauna. Where the brilliant and unpredictable Faviers lived. Brilliant, well, except that we never actually produced anything.

Remember the Beatles song?

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star...

I got no car and it's breaking my heart
But I got a driver and that's a start.

That's what I think of. We were always generously offering people positions as chauffeurs for our non-existent cars. If you actually got tangled up with us, well, you found that we were too busy trying to impress somebody new to actually have much time for you. But we were happy to keep you on a string.

Money. The money in our family was sheer poison. It would have done us so much good, to have been thinking "I'll need to make some money to keep the family afloat" instead of "I'll need to find the path to stardom and universal admiration" when we were teenagers and young adults. But we didn't need to make money. Or anyway we didn't think we did. We were wrong, actually. We were going to run out before we knew it. But at the time money simply seemed to float in the windows and dump itself in our laps.

I know, you were in love with my sister. I don't want to sully that. Or to dispute that she had wonderful qualities. She held herself to her own idiosyncratic standards, as I held myself to mine: they just weren't standards that ordinarily did anyone else much good.

Or maybe they did. You say we saved your life, and maybe we did. For all our faults. We did have a family knack for seeing around corners and into hearts. Alex, I think, saw the pilgrim soul in you. I'm thinking now maybe that was the great accomplishment of her life, to see that and to reflect some of it back, so you could glimpse it too. Maybe there was a little more to those Faviers on the Hill than I've been used to believing.

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