Thursday, April 4, 2013

the ghostliness of a New Yorker story

Here's a strange one.  This week's New Yorker has a story by Tessa Hadley, a British novelist and short story writer.  It's set in Bristol in the very early 1970s.  It's about a 16 year old girl who becomes involved/infatuated/twin-like friend with a guy a couple of years older than herself, who's rebellious, who smokes a lot of dope, who's an intellectual in the making, who is also faintly mysterious, arrogant, and noxious.  This could have been me in 1970 getting entangled with - well, with anyone who'd come across my path.  The details are all there - I read it very slowly indeed - right down to the blue Formica kitchen counters.  Sure, I lived in London, not Bristol, but my first job was in Bristol, in 1980, and the topography of this story is my topography; these are my streets.

It's a good story - the ending, or endings, is/are predictable, but then the endings of all such stories would be, in life as much as in fiction.  So - why haven't I read more of Tessa Hadley, I thought?  She's a name faintly out there somewhere on my radar, but I felt that I wanted to read more (when, of course, is a good question, but google/amazon procrastination is always fun).  And what do I find, among other volumes by her?  A novel called The Master Bedroom, with a (just-resigned) academic protagonist called Kate Flynn.  What to make of this?  Could she have borrowed my name?  She read English at Cambridge: it's not completely improbable that she knows, somehow, of my existence.  Or is it completely arrogant to think so?  I feel as though this near-appropriation of my name is some kind of mild identity theft, and I'm decidedly confused (and, of course, will now have to read the book ...).


  1. Ilene GannawayApril 04, 2013

    Hi Kate,

    Former BL student Ilene Gannaway here. Been meaning to get in touch with you for a while, and so I turn to your blog tonight to find your curiosity piqued by an author whose last name is my daughter's first name.

    Are you familiar with Jung's theory of Synchronicity? I think that's what is going on here. Whenever I encounter something too strangely coincidental, I pay attention. It doesn't matter that I usually cannot figure out what the incident means specifically -- or if it even holds any meaning -- but in your case I would definitely read The Master Bedroom, the sooner the better. If she did base her character on you, feel flattered -- unless of course the character is unsavory. If that's the case, I'd get a restraining order. ;-)

    Anyway -- what is the best way to contact you, cause in addition to me, Jeanine Brown and Nat Damon would both love to reunite with you.

    Hope all is well!


  2. Ilene! How wonderful to hear from you! Let me write a proper (and off-blog) reply in the morning, when I'm not dazed by the end of a week's teaching/department chairing ... k