Yesterday a cover story on me and Last of the Annamese appeared in two different local newspapers, the Howard County Times and the Columbia Flier. The same text with fewer photos also came out in the Baltimore Sun. I’ve received thirty-odd emails and several phone calls about the story. At last night’s meeting of the American Legion (of which I am a proud member), everyone I talked to had already seen the article. I heard jokes about being acquainted with a celebrity.
I was enormously flattered by the story. Both the text and the photos portrayed me in a positive light. The writing is good; the photos professional.
And yet, when I read the article, I felt haunted. The reporter, Janene Holzberg, found ways to get me to talk about things I don’t normally speak of. She contacted Larry Matthews who last year published Age in Good Time, a book about seven men whom he found “extraordinary; I was one of them. Larry had the same gift as Janene—when he interviewed me he got me to tell him things I usually don’t discuss. Janene quoted from Larry. The end result, for me, was feeling a little naked in public. It’s not that I mind those various facets of my personality and history being made public; it’s that I normally keep my wounds out of sight, less to shield myself than to avoid discomforting the viewer.
Maybe it’s better that my pain is now public. Readers of Last of the Annamese will understand where the story came from. I wrote the book in part to come to terms with my own hideous memories. Maybe my imperfect peace will be more complete.