I could try to write a novel, but it wouldn’t be a very good novel, and I honestly wouldn’t really like doing it. So I think the forms I’m not capable of I’d better leave to people who are more fluent, more capable of using them.
ES: I’ve thought a lot about how in memoir writing there’s no way to implicate only yourself — other people are always going to be involved, even if they’d prefer not to be. Was that something that you worried about with The Guardians?
SM: I did, yes. And I was very lucky to — well, shit. Nothing about having your friend throw himself in front of a train should be described as lucky, but Harris’s family has always been unbelievably warm and loving toward me. Harris had a lot of artist friends. He left behind a lot of writers and musicians, and a lot of visual artists, and a lot of composers — people who Harris’s parents, assumed, correctly, would want to make work about Harris’s life and Harris’s death. They were welcoming and encouraging of me when I told them that I wanted to write about Harris. They said, “Yeah, we assumed people would want to do it. Do it.” And I asked them to read drafts and passages for accuracy, I asked them a few questions, I quoted from a letter that Harris’s mom sent me — they were very closely involved. They always knew at every moment what was in the book and they signed off on the final draft. And Harris’s sister, with whom I’m closer and closer every year, was a really close ally while I was trying to construct this book.
I should say that it became a book—it’s a book really about suicide. It’s not really a book about Harris. Some of the reviewers who I think failed to—well, okay, that’s judgmental—but, some of the complaints about the book were that I failed to sufficiently characterize Harris.