My most FAQ: la question posée le plus fréquemment, and a diagram

“I’m coming out, I want the world to know, Got to let it show…”

– Diana Ross

images

By far, the most frequently asked question I’m asked about my novel MAKE THAT DEUX is: “Is it autobiographical?”

If you go to the FAQ (Foire aux questions) tab above, you will see at the top:

“Is MAKE THAT DEUX a true story? No, but it is based (loosely!) on a true story.”

HOW loosely? Regardez: 

photo copy

Not drawn to scale

I must have a bit of French ancestry*, because I like mathematical concepts; quelquefois, my mind just prefers to look at things that way. The above diagram is an example of that, kind of.

Voici l’explication:

1. What Really Happened – Yes, I really spent the year 1979 – 1980 on UNC’s Junior Year Abroad in Montpellier, France. I arrived in August and came back to “the States” the following June. I left my college boyfriend, with whom I was madly in love, behind in Chapel Hill; we kept in touch with handwritten letters and a few very expensive phone calls. I have documents (and witnesses) to prove all of this.

leriche

2. My Memories – As you can see in the diagram, some of What Really Happened is entrenched in My Memories, but not all. And some of My Memories did not really, well, happen (probably).

Pourquoi? Parce que…hmm.  A., “Studies have shown” that memories tend to center around emotional events. Though I’ve always been a pretty emotional person (hopefully, in a good way), fortunately obviously, not all of my experiences during my year in France were full of drama and emotion. Some of them were though, and those were the only ones I remember.

I think.

Because, B., according to some scientists, “the very act of remembering can change our memories;” for us humans, it may even “be impossible.. to bring a memory to mind without altering it in some way.”

In other words, some of My Memories did NOT really happen (difficult for me to believe, but okay, because that fact was helpful when I wrote my fictional story),

photo copy 2

3. MAKE THAT DEUX – Many of My Memories made it into my novel, but not 100% of them. Simply put, my story was somewhat different than Jenny’s.

And to answer that “autobiographical” question: Look closely at the diagram above and you see that, although My Memories overlap What Really Happened, and MAKE THAT DEUX overlaps My Memories, only a small portion intersects all three areas.

And I’m not “coming out” telling what that portion is…I guess we could say, see #1. above.

Or we could say, qui sait? (who knows?)

Finally, you may be wondering, “So then, what IS that part of MAKE THAT DEUX in the diagram that’s outside of My Memories (and, necessarily, What Really Happened)?”

C’est la FICTION!

“My book’s coming out, I want the world to know, Got to let it show…”

* My mother’s maiden name is Bellamy: Belle Amie?

Call me, maybe, but don’t break my heart: Sortir avec quelqu’un

From what I’ve seen, dating has changed since mon époque.* But I wonder why les jeunes filles gens of today sometimes make going out with someone more difficult than it used to be.

It’s been years decades since I’ve sorti avec mon copain — gone out with, or dated, my boyfriend (or any other guy – but not au même temps, of course). And though my husband and I have gone out on many a “date night” during our marriage, well, once you’re married, you’re not dating anymore.

But way back when, we were dating. Normalement, he would call me, ask me out, I would say “Yes,” and we would set up a rendez-vous (date). He would call me from a “land line” or even a pay-phone similar to the one in the photo, and I would answer the phone. If he called and I didn’t answer, it meant I wasn’t there, and he would call again. When the time for our date came, I would be almost ready, and we would go to a movie or out to dinner.

I’m not one to changer d’avis (change my mind) very often, so it worked.

But back then, when a guy called and asked you out, if you said “Yes,” you didn’t cancel on him at the last minute (or even before that), unless you got sick, someone died, or you had an accident. Yes meant yes, and it didn’t mean maybe. There was no easy way to cancel, anyway, like there is today. So you just went out — and had fun.

Like lots of people, I’ve enjoyed listening to a popular song recently that demonstrates (I think) how different dating is now:

““““““““`

Hey, I just met you,

And this is crazy,

But here’s my number,

So call me, maybe?

““““““““`

Hmm. Is she going to answer the call, I wonder? When I first heard those lines, it reminded me of a song that mon copain at UNC and I liked, featuring these lines:

““““““““““““““““““““““““`

Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby 

Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around 

And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby 

When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still 

I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin’ 

You know that I have from the start 

So build me up (build me up) Buttercup, don’t break my heart 

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““

In my novel — about to be released — characters go on dates, and (because they live in a time before cell phones, or even answering machines) they don’t stand up their dates. They live up to their commitments, even if they’ve only committed to Saturday night. “Oui” means “Yes.”  

And like today, no one wants a broken heart.

* Autrefois, or back in MY day

Chez Nous: Cameron Manor

“In my mind, I’m going to Carolina…”    — James Taylor

Located on West Cameron Avenue in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, this house was known as Cameron Manor when I lived there during my senior year at UNC, il y a longtemps. A short walk from campus and Franklin Street and next to the “smart” fraternity house (Chi Psi), the Manor was in an ideal location for me and five other girls, all students at the university. It was also close to the Carolina Inn, Granville Towers and UNC’s co-ed fraternity, St. Anthony Hall (St. A’s), a popular spot for parties.

This photo wasn’t taken in those days, but almost two years ago, when I was in the area with my husband and my 19-year-old son Jack, a student at UGA, who had just had surgery at Duke.

Has the Manor changed? You bet it has.

I know this because when I knocked on the door one morning in July 2010, a Carolina student named Stephanie greeted me and Jack, showed us in and gave us a tour.

It was the first time I’d been inside since the day I graduated. Since then, I had visited UNC many times for one reason or another (go Heels) and had walked or driven past the six-bedroom, two-bath house, wondering if the owner still rented it to girls.  When Stephanie opened the door, Jack and I introduced ourselves and I hurriedly explained my history with the Manor. One of her housemates was also home, and both the girls welcomed us in, telling us that, indeed, they had four roommates and attended UNC.

The living room looked smaller, but much, much nicer. So did the dining room, where I attended a Political Science seminar that met once a week. But the kitchen was incredible. A nook that used to contain a vinyl booth we never used had been converted into a big pantry. The rest of the kitchen had also undergone a transformation and seemed larger than I remembered. We had had a full-size refrigerator, cupboards and a sink, but no dishwasher. These girls had built-in modern applicances like the ones I have at home. For my housemates and me, a primary purpose of the room was to serve as a bar and a place for kegs when we hosted parties in the winter; during good weather, we’d put them just outside the back door. It looked to me like these girls actually cooked.

Then Stephanie showed us into her room, the same one I had lived in, one of the two ground floor bedrooms and located in the back. I was amazed. Her desk was in the same place mine had been, and so was her double bed. Her furniture was much nicer, however — I’d slept on a mattress on the floor. Her room was adorably decorated. When she took us upstairs, I pointed out the bedroom where my housemates and I had watched a famous presidential debate on television (it had been the only TV in the house). Across the hall was the bedroom where one of my roommates from my junior year in France had lived.

Overwhelmed with memories, it was hard to say goodbye a few minutes later and leave Cameron Manor again. As Jack and I walked to campus and stopped at the Old Well for a photo op, I was struck by what hadn’t changed: kids still went to class, wrote papers, studied for finals, went to parties and formed lifelong friendships. Jack loves it in Athens, but my favorite college town is still Chapel Hill. There’s just something about North Carolina…


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