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Book of Revelations


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My husband, whose name is, in reality, Bob, was paging through the Sunday paper, the New York Times Book Review, to be exact. He read aloud a particularly pungent description of a fictional cad: "He needs his soon-to-be-ex lover to buy his plane ticket home." This slimy scenario sounded mighty familiar. In fact, the same maneuver was once perpetrated upon me by a guy named David Eddie. It only took me a moment to' think to snatch the book review from Bob and locate the name of the author in question: David Eddie. In other words, the onetime soon-to-be-ex lover was, well, me.

I'd heard David had written a novel, published the previous year in Canada. But after the Riverhead edition came out here, and that dejareview caught my attention, I thought I'd better read the book. My friend Gail, who also knows David but who didn't rate a character rip-off in the book, bought me a copy.

The story concerns a guy named David Henry, who moves in with his grad-school girlfriend while he works as a letters clerk at Newsweek. David Eddie moved in with me after grad school while he worked as a letters clerk at Newsweek. In fiction, as in life, David fails every test New York has to offer, then limps home to Canada, dumping his girlfriend at the jetway, though it takes her several months to figure this out.

Now, we all know fiction writers occasionally reach for the enticingly handy crutch known as reality. No doubt I'm not the first person to be surprised like this. But in most cases authors employ the fig leaf of a name change, the manipulation of a detail or two, niceties David dispenses with. It's all there-my Spartan loft, our wilted sex life, his duplicitous exit, labeled, as the chapter title has it, "Necessary Fiction."

Nor does reality ease up after David Henry returns to Toronto. He pals around with an old high school buddy, evades loan collectors, gropes some overdressed Asian woman named Kim, then brags about it in a letter--a letter later purloined by the New York girlfriend. He makes a splash--briefly--as a TV news writer, then returns to the squalor of would-be novelisthood. Fictional David has a terrible time writing fiction, resorting each tortured afternoon to

banging out long letters to his friends. Apparently real-life David has trouble making things up too.

I was even able to fact-check the novel. Turning to tile "E" section of my long-expired Filofax, there was David's number, next to a penciled note: "Les." Only now do I understand that I never reached him at what I presumed to be "Lester's" place because he was ensconced in the overstuffed comfort of a country house belonging to one Leslie, drinking cocktails and trying to determine the most expedient route into her panties.

In other words, he found it "necessary" to lie in life, and to tell the truth about lying in fiction.

It took me a while to get over the disembodied sensation induced by reading about the drearier patches of my life. Then I decided that while David has done a bad thing, he hasn't written a bad book. In a tidy 230 pages it's a pretty good approximation of Money, Martin Amis's novel of slovenly self-effacing homage of a title, Chump Change. I don't come by this insight honestly, but by having lived through David rereading Money 18 times in our 18 months together. Then again, I thought Amis was up to something clever, not literal, in naming his protagonist "Self."

My copy is clearly labeled "a novel." Inside, it's plot and characters cribbed from life and reach filched from Amis, patched together with charmingly blunt prose. I don't call that fiction. I call it proof David owes me $1,526 in back rent, plus the airplane ticket I bought him to leave me.

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