She Finally Agreed That the Impotent Man in Chapter Two Didn't Have to Be a Sociologist
Taylor, Laurie, New Statesman (1996)
Helen Mandible rings up in the middle of Question Time to give me the exciting news that her first novel has been accepted by Heinemann and to ask if I mind terribly that she's devoted part of the second chapter to the night I couldn't get it up at Selby Fork Travel Lodge.
I sensed it would be some time before it was my turn to speak so I gently nudged the TV's volume three icons along from mute and let her chatter; the size of the advance, likely publication date and Channel 4's interest in the rights fought for attention against John Hume, Ken Maginnis and Michael Ancram.
It was ten minutes before she hit the pause button. "Of course, I've changed your name. To 'Gary'. Is that all right?" The wonders of fiction. Here was someone desperate to impress me with her new-found role in the world of imaginative writing, and the only concrete instance of her literary power that I'd so far been vouchsafed was the transformation of my name from "Laurie" to "Gary".
But I was at least being given the thoroughly modern opportunity to protest about my literary alter ego, a privilege not typically extended to their sources by more traditional authors. ("Hello. Hilda Gabler? Henrik here. Hope you don't mind, but I've popped you into a couple of scenes in my new play. Of course, I've changed your name. Is that all right?")
I decided on balance to let "Gary" go and concentrate on other clues to recognition.
"What made you choose Selby Fork Travel Lodge?"
"Well, it's a comic novel about all the bad times I've had with men, and that night always stuck in my mind because of the way you went on about not being able to perform because you'd decided that you might be homosexual, and I had to lie there listening to you blathering on about a second-year sociologist called Michael Noone and then three months later I found out from a lecturer in linguistics that you'd given her exactly the same line. …