Fears, impulses & dangers I’ve been sensitized to

I’ve written plenty of autobiographical essays, and I’m sure I’ll continue to write them, but at the LA Times I try to explain why I’m working on a novel rather than a memoir, even though I’m mining my own life for the book. I’m fascinated, in general, by the relationship between truth and invention in fiction, and have posted on the subject often. See, for example, Welty v. Maxwell on autobiography in fiction; On the importance of what is culled; On the melding of fact and invention in fiction; and On the melding of fact and invention in fiction II.

And it’s been weird, over the years, to watch my experiences and the people from my past morph into completely different episodes, completely unrelated characters, so that fact has given way, I hope, to some kind of deeper emotional truth. In case anybody unearths my old Story South story, which has made its way (in significantly altered form) into my novel, for instance: I feel compelled to say that the churchgoer I mentioned in the LA Times essay, the one who showed up at our door naked, has transformed into “Luke” — a character who is far, far less like the man himself than he is like my friend Rocky, A/K/A Robert Moak, A/K/A a churchgoer and crack addict who later perished in Hurricane Andrew when he tried to weather the storm in an abandoned houseboat.

The real naked guy actually did make the news for stealing a cop’s car to get to us, though. The St. Pete Times (left) and other papers around the state picked up the story.

Here’s a slightly expurgated version of The Miami Herald article:

GABLES OFFICER FIGHTS REPRIMAND / NAKED MAN WENT RACING OFF IN POLICEMAN’S CAR

ANN MACARI Herald Staff Writer

Coral Gables Officer Ron Greene said he was only trying to do his job and shield residents from a full-fledged display of human anatomy. But police and city officials say that is no excuse for what happened. No doubt about it: The naked man who stole Greene’s patrol car has caused the policeman some grief.

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