Writer ticks off people he knows by writing about them?

Basic plot: A writer leaves his hometown and writes a novel. It’s a big success. Eventually he returns home (because he has writer’s block), and everyone is mad at him. Why? Because he based his novel on people he knew and they didn’t like it.

Now, off the top of my head I can think of two TV series that used this as the premise of their pilots: October Road and Glory Days. I’m dead sure there are other shows or movies with identical initial premises. You might even be able to name some.

But why? Is this scenario based on a real author? A successful one?

The reason I ask if it’s based on someone is because it’s an idea that stretches suspension of disbelief too far. Thinly veiled fiction is almost always the work of a hack, so if it’s not based on a person whose success was a fluke, I’m not sure why we’re supposed to swallow the idea that someone who is actually acclaimed would resort to this. That it’s asked that viewers do so repeatedly is just odd.

Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio.

Sinclair Lewis, Main Street.

Neither is completely a cut and dried example, but both come very close.

Fitzgerald and Hemingway pissed off many friends by the way they treated them in novels, but not so much the towns they grew up in.

Gore Vidal’s *The City and the Pillar * upset many with the frank exploring of teenage homosexuality in the 1930s. The book was built around his one true love, who died very shortly thereafter.

Does Salman Rushdie’s *The Satanic Verses * count?

It’s a case of alienating individuals rather than a community, but the chapters of Answered Prayers published in Truman Capote’s lifetime managed to get him into trouble with those he had covered.

Grace Metalious, Peyton Place

How about a book? about a song writer?

George Sand writing Lucrezia Floriani pissed off Chopin a bit (tot he point where they broke things off). The characters could easily reflect Sand and Chopin and the character representing Chopin (a sickly prince) was apparantly a bit less than flattering.

I don’t think Anna Wintour has ever been too thrilled about The Devil Wears Prada

I’m willing to bet Michael Moore has pissed off plenty of people he knows (you said knows, not ‘friends with’).

In that same vein, Dominick Dunne has been cut dead by a former acquaintance who revealed too much, only to have it show up in fiction. Of course, then Dunne writes about being snubbed by said person for his Vanity Fair column. For awhile there was some mention in almost every column about who was no longer speaking to him and why.

The evidence is pretty strong that James Joyce borrowed elements from the life of his lover (and future wife) Nora Barnacle for “The Dead.” Whether she hated him for that (or for a number of other perfectly valid reasons), I don’t know.

Henry Bellamann’s King’s Row torqued off a lot of people in his hometown. IIRC, for a long time the town library refused to even carry it. It’s a good book, I recommend it.

This idea turns up in Philip Roth’s novel ‘Zuckerman Unbound’ (and perhaps in others, I haven’t read them for a while). The fictional author Nathan Zuckerman alienates and angers his family and friends by writing the sexually explicit novel ‘Carnovsky’; this mirrors the outcry over Roth’s own novel ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’. Though to what degree I don’t know - I’m not old, Jewish or American enough to remember…

The most famous example: Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe. People in his home town felt they were being portrayed negatively in the book, so much so that Wolfe’s later wrote a novel called You Can’t go Home Again.

On a more personal level, the YA book Trying Hard to Hear You by Sandra Scoppettone created a big stir in my home town by using recognizable people and – more importantly – outing a couple of gay guys (this was in the mid-70s, when that was still a dicey proposition). The story is here. She remained in the community, but there were some resentments, and the book became a minor YA classic.

“Campus Sexpot” by David Carkeet details the scandal in his CA hometown when a high school English teacher resigns abruptly - preceding the publication of a smutty book with characters based very obviously on town residents. It’s a great book, btw…I have it.


Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry is about an author who alienates some people by treating them badly in a series of mediocre books. It was rumored at the time that it was released that the title character was partly based on Philip Roth.

I know the men who flew with Joseph Heller in WWII were not thrilled with Catch-22. Although I never took the book to be historical/literal.

October Road is based on a screenwriter.

Scott Rosenberg wrote a screenplay that was made into the quality flick Beautiful Girls. He based all the characters in that screenplay on his childhood friends and family. As you can imagine from the plot outline, they were less than thrilled about being laid bare like that:

They were, in fact, pissed, and he became a bit of a pariah in his hometown.

So he did the perfectly logical next thing, and wrote a tv show about the reaction of his friends and family, which is October Road.

Not sure what you meant by the hack part, but Beautiful Girls is a good movie. I only watched a few episodes of the first season of October Road, so I can’t claim it’s great. It didn’t seem to completely suck, either; it just didn’t fit into my tv watching schedule.

And since it actually happened, I’m not sure why the suspension of disbelief is so difficult.

He’s acclaimed for being Lemony Snicket rather than himself, but Daniel Handler did write The Basic Eight before starting A Series of Unfortunate Events - it pissed off lots of people at Lowell High here in SF (in addition to being a bad book).

In some circles in St. Louis, the mention of Tennessee Williams is met with a grimace.

On a quick scan of the thread I don’t see any mention of Grace Metalious, so, Grace Metalious. She wrote “Peyton Place” and the people of her home town felt it cut too close to home. Her experiences following the book’s publication and the townsfolks’ reaction form the basis of the sequel “Return to Peyton Place.”