Page 62 - The Hunt - Summer 2019
P. 62

                LEAVING ARDROSSAN
continued from page 39
diaries. He’d spent years arguing that he loved to drink but it wasn’t a problem,” Janny says. “He knew he had a problem in his 20s. He spent decades struggling with it. He occasionally attempted to do something about it, rather feebly, all the time while misrepresenting the situation to us. That was stunning. And sad.”
Janny is less saddened by the details of her father’s extramarital relationships. “Frankly, I grew up in a family where infidelity was not uncommon,” she says. “The idea of absolute fidelity over a
40- or 50-year marriage may work for some people, but not all people. I don’t take infidelity as a character flaw. I take it as a character fact.”
All told, this was not an easy book for Janny to write. She spent months
on research, and she struggled with
the writing. It took her six months, for example, to finish the 9,000 words that are the first chapter of The Beneficiary. “That’s emblematic of how hard it was for me to write this,” she says. “I wanted it to read like a novel, with compelling characters and the right tone, which is the central thing I struggled with from beginning to end. I didn’t want to slide into sentimentality and nostalgia or bitterness, which I don’t feel at all.”
Janny insists that The Beneficiary is not in any way a salacious tell-all. “I wasn’t settling scores,” she says. “Nor did I want to write a hagiography. I wanted to get as close as I could to the truth, and to capture the personalities of some of the people in my family with texture and granular detail.”
Finally, she gets to the point of it all—why she wrote The Beneficiary. “I’d always been fascinated and puzzled by my father, and I had the idea that taking on this project might help me understand the mystery of him,” says Janny. “I feel that I understand him better. I have deeper sympathy toward him than I did.”
And then there’s Ardrossan itself. The big house remains intact. The family has thus far managed to keep what really matters. But unused parcels have been sold—cast aside, as it were. On that land, developers are building houses, where new families will start their own Philadelphia stories.o
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