Category Archives: research

Processing the Posthumous…

Eventually, it seems that something always puts you back to where you need to be. Not long ago, a cousin (another Love) asked me if I had a photo of the Love family house, up in Prince Rupert. I replied that I had taken a couple of snaps of iot back in 1999, when visiting my Dad’s bother. But, no matter where I looked, I could not find it. I hate misplacing anything on the best of days, but this was different: actual photographic evidence of a big piece of my Dad’s childhood, a home I’d been inside to witness myself, in which I could imagine many of my Dad’s childhood stories taking place. If I’d lost that photo, what could I do? I couldn’t very well fly back up to Prince Rupert and just shoot another one.

Could I?

About the Love House

The story my Dad told me (as best I can recall) was that his Dad, Albert Bruce Love, had the lumber for his new house barged in, and each piece of lumber had the name “LOVE” stamped on it. Dad described how he and his younger brother Eric shared teh attic as their bedroom, and would lay there listening to the rain hammer down on the roof. Dad extolled the virtues of deep eaves (not like these modern houses with their shallow eaves that let the rain blow in all the time), and Dad said that if you looked in the attic, you’d see the name “LOVE” stamped on the ceiling.

C. 1928: Eric, Bruce, James, and Charles in front. Aunt Marion (“Molly”) holding baby Patricia in the background.
C. 1928: Bruce, Eric, James, and baby Patricia.
C. 1934: James, Eric, Patricia, and Charles (Behind them, an uncle perhaps?)

If I couldn’t find my 1999 photo of the house, how could I recreate it?

I decided that I could do the next best thing: I could use Google Maps and Street View to take a new photo. This required two things: (1) that I could find the house’s address, and (2) that it was still standing in place. I worried about that the most. The two houses that my Dad’s parents lived in later, down here in Vancouver, were long ago bulldozed and replaced with apartment blocks. I could only hope that Prince Rupert’s urban expansion had stayed relatively quiet over the last 20 years.

It had.

With some emailed descriptions of the location of the house (“on 8th avenue, near such-and-such”, “not far from the school”, etc.), I was able to get to the right section of Eighth Avenue East using Google Street View, and go for a little walk. Before long, my virtual steps had taken to a corner that looked vaguely familiar, and… there it was, I was sure!

The old Love family home, on East Eighth Avenue,in Prince Rupert (circa 2012)

But How Can I be Sure?

Even feeling like I had found the house, I wanted some irrefutable evidence, and finally realized that I could search for the address in other records attached to my Grandfather.

Sure enough, a 1921 census listed this address as that of my Grandpa Love, my Grandmother, and their infant son Albert Bruce. (This tracks with my Uncle Bruce’s story that he was born in the house.) A 1940 voter registration list from Prince Rupert also confirmed the address, so there it was.


Considering Responsible Storytelling…

I’m an amateur writer of fiction and non-fiction. I’m not a reporter or a journalist. I’m not a researcher, or an academician. I’m not scholarly.

I like telling a colourful story, and I love evocative imagery, and poetic license.

In creating my meagre attempts at fiction, there’s wiggle room: I’m not very dependent on historical accuracy or elaborate world-building, IMHO, the reader will likely allow minor inconsistencies if the characters and story are well-formed and worth caring about.

However with biography, I think it’s different. If your subject is someone else you must contend with, and pay respect to, narratives that have already been developed around your subject – especially other people’s real experiences and research.

Even if the subject is yourself, you’re not immune from certain factors: the reality of the other people you’ve known, who you are writing about, and what you can or should ethically reveal which may affect others.

In my case, I think I can almost write anything I want, with the following ideas in mind:

  1. I cannot embarrass or hurt my parents, since they have both passed on, but I could cause embarrassment or discomfort for other family members who may not agree with my stories.
  2. The things I say about other people, places or events still reflects back on me and my character. All art is a form of self portrait.
  3. Rule #2 means that if I embarrass someone else, by definition I am embarrassing myself.
  4. Save your work often kids.

(I had written two or three more really good, well-written points here, but I lost my edits somehow and had to start over. Re-doing, starting a new draft of even a small section,  is my creative Kryptonite. I almost become paralyzed with indecision about whether or not to continue at all. Technology can totally kiss my ass.)

Anyway, on the topic of responsibly biographies, here are a few articles I’m going to read and books to consider, to see if they help me to think more about  ethics and responsibility in biographical writing:

True Life is coming back to life…

After many years of dormancy, I have restarted this web project, as a way to keep telling my personal history.

The history of this project goes back to 1998, when I began designing a website that could organize my memoir as a series of small stories. I didn’t know how to tell my story, and the idea of writing a book or something seemed too big and monolithic to take on. I decided to use the web, and break the tale down into little chunks that I could complete, one-by-one, as the spirit moved me and time permitted. Overall, I wrote about fifty stories or articles on  my original True Life site before I let it lapse for a number of years.

My driving need to write that story continues, fifteen years later after starting this project, and better writing platforms are making it a richer process. Now, instead of my hand-written HTML website, I can enjoy authoring with the benefits of the WordPress platform where plugins give me access to new  capabilities I have yet to fully exploit, and responsive web design means that my site looks and works better on tablets and smartphones.

WordPress also means that writing can happen anywhere I want it to. I can now write stories or post articles using apps on my tablet, instead of needing to FTP into my website and use an HTML editor. It just makes it easier to develop this project wherever I happen to be. This is the way it is now.