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lent feelings about the idea of suddenly turning up in someone's book or play. In that way, we are very much like writers themselves who on the one hand will sneer at critics' lists of Absurdists, Black Humorists, New Theater Writers - and at the same time are fearful of being omitted from any such groupings. A close friend of mine read the galleys of my novel, A Mother's Kisses, and was certain he had been the model for one of the characters in the book. Somewhat hurt and upset, he called one night with more than a slight hint of litigation in his voice. After the book was published and reviewed, he called again, disturbed once more, but for a different reason. "How come the mother got all the attention?" he wanted to know. "How come no one said anything about me?"

Are people able to recognize themselves in fictional works? A lady editor I know is convinced she has been the subject of at least a dozen novels, each of the authors seeing her through an entirely different prism. She claims to have spotted herself as a nymphomaniac, a frigid suburban housewife, a junkie, schoolteacher, dike, dike-schoolteacher, starlet, lady cop and motorcycle girl. In each case, she insists, the evidence is irrefutable that she is the model for the character. She is an interesting woman and no doubt a many-sided one. Perhaps each of the characters actually represented a different side of her. But how sad it would be, really, if this were all illusory on her part and no one had actually found her vivid enough to write about in any role. I have written about people I have either known or brushed up against and have never had one confront me point-blank and, so to speak, catch me in the act. Much more typical was the experience I had when my first novel was published and a strange girl kept sweeping up to me each day at Schrafft's and saying, "How could you have written those things about me," then dancing off in another direction. 

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To this day, I haven't the faintest idea of what she was talking about.

No doubt it would be unsettling to walk into a theatre one day and find a real or imagined likeness of yourself prancing across the stage for all the world to see. Or to feel that your secrets - innocently confided to another - were stacked up in the hundreds of copies at Brentano's. On the other hand, I have a suspicion that few such literary "victims" are taken quite that much by surprise. Writers, charming rascals though they may be, are also for the most part wretchedly unreliable lot; anyone foolish enough to be in the company of one for long must sense that turning up as a character in a book is the very least of the potential hazards in such an involvement. 

Is there any consolation to the person who feels injured by an imaginative work in knowing that he has touched someone so deeply, struck some writer as being so vivid and unique, so fair or even so unlovely - but most particularly so alive - that he would want to spend a part of his life trying to capture that quality and perhaps to make a permanent record of it? Having never run into myself in a book or play (except unmistakably as Prince Andrey in War and Peace), I can't say. I do know that writers will continue to describe people they know and it is unlikely that this phenomenon is anything to be feared or concerned about. Great writing, be it forward-looking or pessimistic, proceeds with rare exception, from an open heart and generosity of spirit. The writer who sets out to "do a job" on someone is at best a pamphleteer, is shackled from the start and will invariably wind up doing a job on himself and on his own work. Then, too, the serious writer can only have his victory when he makes not just one but each person in his audience say, "I recognize that character. I know that character. In so many ways, I am that character."

13

There is enough Chantilly in this bottle to shake your world. 

Essence de Chantilly by Houbigant.
BLENDED IN U.S./┬ę1968 HOUBIGANT INC.

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