03 December 2020

The Magnificent Bastard Project

About four years ago I started writing a memoir titled Memoirs of a Magnificent Bastard. The title was meant ironically, of course.

The idea was to write up the strange things that happened in my life, and there were many indeed. Good things. Bad things. Things that made me laugh. Sad things. Things that made me think. ... That was the idea. The problem was and is, of course, who would read such a book? And if nobody would read it, who would publish it?

(I did have an alternative title in mind -- The Life and Times of an Inconsequential Man -- which would have drawn even less attention.)

To be sure, I once did have great ambition. But it didn't work out.

I am not gifted, nor am I extraordinarily smart. I wasn't studious, nor hard-working. I did not write a great novel, not compose a great song, not paint a great work of art. I did not discover anything of importance, not invent something extraordinary. I did not save anybody's life, nor lead a revolution. I was not born into Royal entitlement, I cannot hit or kick or throw a ball particularly far, and I do not give make-up tips on YouTube. I did not live through great adventures, nor through great hardships.

Nothing ever became of me, and I was lucky. If I had achieved something, I may have never met my lovely wife.

Figure: The happy bridal couple, San Francisco, 30 Dec 2009. Photo: Eliot Khuner (2009)

Besides, the problem never was that I did not make it in the Academy. The problem was who made it and why. The stakes were against me.

(You see, I come from a country where failure to speak up for fellow citizens has led to unspeakable tragedy. Consequently, early in my life I decided that whenever I run into injustice, corruption, stupidity, or mere indifference, I shall speak up. And so I did give it a good fight, and so I do, and I do have the scars to prove it. But that is all right, because along the way I have learned a few things.)

In the end, who cares? Who cares if my stories will never find a publishing house? In fact, who cares about the lives and times of the people whose memoirs fill a whole bookshelf in our home? ... Well, we do.

And so I will write up the stories for nobody else but us. And if you happen to like a few, all the better.

Michael Baumann, December 2020