The ProsenPeople

Unexpected Guests in Fiction

Wednesday, February 11, 2015| Permalink

This week, Judith Felsenfeld, the author of  Blaustein's Kiss blogs for The Postscript on the reaction of some friends and family to her work of fiction. 

The Postscript series is a special peek "behind the scenes" of a book. It's a juicy little extra something to add to a book club's discussion and a reader's understanding of how the book came together. 

A couple of days after Blaustein’s Kiss, my collection of short fiction, is published, my cousin Roz phones to say how much she loves the book but — miniscule correction — the ‘shayna kupp’ issue came up around Thanksgiving, not a Seder. On Facebook, a former roommate posts that her memories of the years she and I hung out together differ substantially from mine. She unfriends me. In an e-mail, Aunt Flo, who moved to Oaxaca in 1985 and is not often in touch, calls the book a fabulous read and expresses her gratitude that finally someone understands where she’s coming from, family-wise. My niece shoots me an e-mail: Really enjoyed your stories. Quick fact check - Mom was no longer playing the cello when Dad passed away. She had given it up several years before, due to lower back issues.

Why is it, I wonder, that these friends and family members assumed I was writing about them? Why are people driven to insert themselves into works of fiction, particularly the fiction of someone close to them? Is it a kind of hubris, validation? There I am in black and white on the page, therefore I exist?

In the interest of clarification: I write fiction. However, as in the stories in Blaustein’s Kiss, there was a much beloved grandmother in my childhood; a boy in my son’s class contracted diphtheria; friends of mine set up a not-for-profit that provides sanctuary for abused women; I once sat next to a mouthy little girl on the Broadway #104 bus who entertained the entire back row with funny, inappropriate remarks; a neighbor’s kid took oboe lessons; the death of our family dog was a totally wrenching experience; we carry a quilt in the back seat of our car. It comes in handy.

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