The Problem of Using Real Names in Fiction


By Carmen Comment

In the wake of James Frey, perhaps this story might have come out months after the book’s publication instead of while the advanced uncorrected proofs were circulating. But it is a post-Frey world, and so a single story in Simon Rich‘s upcoming collection ANT FARM: AND OTHER DESPERATE SITUATION will be changed before the April 3 publication because, oops, Rich used real names and put them in fictional situations, according to the Virginian-Pilot’s Earl Swift & Tris Wykes.

The story is “My Mom’s All-Time, Top Five Greatest Boyfriends,” written from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy whose favorite minor-league hockey team happens to be the Norfolk Admirals. And the five boyfriends? They all happen to be real former players for the hockey team. “What do you say to that?” said Marty Wilford, one of the five and a former Admirals defenseman who’s married and the father of two young children. “Somebody just made up a story with me in it? That’s kind of weird, and I just don’t get it.” But now he won’t have to, because all the names have been changed for the final version of the book. Impetus for the changes “may be coming from our legal department,” said Random House spokeswoman Jennifer Huwer, but she wasn’t completely sure.