Was it all true? Yes. Yes, he had sworn in front of the children. Yes, he had forgotten to pick Em up from her after-school dance class and left her to cry in the rain. Yes, he’d had a public argument with Joe’s football coach and another dad had pulled him away. Yes, he’d come home drunk at five p.m. on Christmas Eve and slept until ten the following morning. Yes to a thousand other idiocies, forgettings, mistakes, and bad decisions. And anyway, he was pretty sure that his mother had heard these stories before. Many of them had been party pieces jokes told at his expense, sometimes by Elaine, sometimes by Charlie himself. Everybody laughed. That’s what family stories were-amusing accounts of the messes and fuckups. Take away the love and the laugher, narrate the stories as if the characters had acted with malice and self-absorption, and everybody was in a bleak independent film about alcoholism and schizophrenia and child abuse.
Nick Hornby, Everybody’s Reading Bastard.