I guess I want to identify with, or feel connected to good storytellers.
When I read Einstein’s book on Relativity, his voice was so distinctively heard in my head, that it felt as if I were sitting on Uncle’s lap, with his voice speaking in my ear. It may have started there, I’m not sure.
Next were the memoirs of Groucho Marx, whose anecdotes, observations and humour seemed warmly self-deprecating. It wasn’t long before he became my “Uncle Groucho”. Likewise with his brother Harpo, whose long, detailed autobiography seemed to put me right into his early life in New York, and later, into the middle of his loving, idiosyncratic years as a devoted family man in California.
I think it’s the first-person narrative of an autobiography that makes it work so well. The “you” is replaced with an “I”, which we all have inside us, and which resonates one-to-one with similar “I”s.
That’s why pulp fiction author Raymond Chandler got under my skin more than, say, Ian Fleming. Like an autobiography, Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe novels are written in the first-person, so they each sound like Marlowe’s autobiography (although really, they are Chandler’s).
Raymond Chandler was highly intelligent, a keen observer of people and human nature, and also a major, chronic alcoholic who came to a sad and lonely end. He’s triumphant and tragic, all together.
So, he’d probably be a colourful “Uncle” who could spin tall tales and be witty as hell, but also could as easily fall down drunk into the tree and ruin a Christmas morning.
Welcome to the family “Uncle Raymond”.