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Gilmore, L. (1998). Last Words: Transference and the Auto/Biographical Demand in Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart. Am. Imago, 55(2):277-298.

(1998). American Imago, 55(2):277-298

Last Words: Transference and the Auto/Biographical Demand in Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart

Leigh Gilmore

“There will always be a father.”

—Gary Gilmore's last words before a Utah firing squad

“A story can't be told Until a story's done”

—opening lines of a poem Gaylen Gilmore was writing in the hospital where he died

Shot in the Heart, Mikal Gilmore's (1994) account of his family history and the execution of his brother Gary Gilmore, is structured through what I will call the auto/biographical demand, in which the demands of autobiography (to tell my story) and the demands of biography (to tell your story) coincide. The auto/biographical demand entails a narrative dilemma, because it both divides and doubles the writing subject. An auto/biographer manages this instability, and the constraints it produces, to some extent, through form; nevertheless, the writing subject is caught up in, indeed emerges through, his or her implication in a family, a culture, and a self, however divided and split. The auto/biographical demand offers a way to focus on how the writing subject inherits tasks which are as unavoidable as they are unrequitable. As a professional writer for Rolling Stone magazine, Mikal Gilmore brings substantial talent to the task. While his book is not an “as told to” effort, there is a sense in which it is ghost written.

Namely, Mikal Gilmore must speak to and for the dead. Because his effort is to organize his identification with his family, rather than simply to be a living emblem of the pain

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Many thanks to Tom Pounds, Chris Castiglia, Gillian Harkins, David Hoddeson, Natalie Thompson Gilmore, Jamie Lampidis, Jennifer Terry, Melanie Rae Thon, and Alison Booth.

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