Frictional Fictional Fretting

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde

For thirty years or more a novel has irritated me; I would say angered, but that makes me seem petty.

The first book is Jon Hassler’s Staggerford.


That was supposed to be my book to write: the tale of a man teaching English in a small northern Minnesota town at the high school he attended. Even worse he wrote it so well. Curse him. I could have not described a faculty meeting and a faculty party as well as he did. Darn him. He fictionalized Park Rapids, while I would have done so to Two Harbors. I would have thought of as clever a town name as Staggerford—if given the time. Hmmph to Hassler. It so disgusts me that I have been forced to read it several times now.


Now, in my grumpy old age along has come another equally irritating novel. Last week while waiting for my wife to select another half dozen interchangeable romances, I spotted on our library’s tiny New Fiction section the book A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

I am about three-fourths of the way through writing my second book, a book which takes my main character from my first novel into old age with a cat. Go ahead guess. Yep, you’re correct: A Man Called Ove is my plot, set in Sweden, no less. About a man dealing with solitude and forced retirement and a cat.

Well-written too. Funny, too. Human, too.

Backman’s cat is a wild cat like Opus’s friend Bill the cat, all ratty and hairballed. My cat is a superior cat, coming by way of a vet, named after a woman author.

Backman’s first chapter upset me the most. I have been in a running battle with the techies from our local cable provider, (was local, but sold off to a mega-corp) who cannot make my TV and Internet connection reliable. Our discussions are frustration on both ends.

In Backman’s first Chapter grumpy old Ove is frustrated by the sales clerks whom he frustrates because he cannot understand how the “Opad” is not a computer. Where is the keyboard, anyway? Backman not only stole my plot, he also made me look foolish to me.

This book I think I may just have to purchase in paper form. Not digital because 1’s and 0’s don’t burn well.

I would tell you the plot, but that would be telling MY PLOT. I strongly urge you not to read it. Wait for my book to come out.


What novel or fictional character is too similar to your life or you?

42 thoughts on “Frictional Fictional Fretting”

  1. I am afraid that, without the number of years I was in school, I might be a lot like Mrs. Bennett from “Pride and Prejudice”. My lot in life is that of a busy mother, and they aren’t the most exciting literary characters. I suppose I could be a lot like the mother in “A Wrinkle in TIme,” cooking up stews on bunsen burners and waiting for her husband to return home. My husband returns each week from an Indian Reservation, not outer space, but it is certainly not a place like the world we live in off the reservation.


  2. There are many fictional lives I wish I had…heck, even a few non-fiction ones. My aunt’s neighbor was convinced that Jon Hassler used to watch her in church and based one of his characters on her (since it wasn’t a complimentary character, she wasn’t pleased). Me – well, I could wish Pippi Longstocking was about me, but that won’t let me keep a horse on my front porch. Alas.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I also wouldn’t like to be like the mother in Giants in the Earth who goes mad because of the howling wind on the Dakota Prairie.


    1. Always good to be prepared.

      I grew up under open skies, so when I read that (under open skies on spring break) as a college freshman, being afraid of so much sky seemed odd, but after decades of urban living with trees around, I can see it.


  4. There’s the mompreneur in “The Friday Night Knitting Club” who Is the cooler, better me who lives in Manhattan and somehow manages to open a knitting shp there (methinks she got a loan from her Jewish fairy godmother-I could use one of thosr-the books don’t say).

    I was pretty unhappy when the author did her in with ovarian cancer. Didn’t see that coming, but then no one expects the Spanish Inquisition either.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Husband says he sometimes feels that George Smiley is his alter ego. I am somewhat afraid to ask him why! He says he can’t tell me what he means by that because it would imperil the free world.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Clyde, I feel your pain.

    Some chick who needs to learn to use an iron wrote “Gertie’s Guide to Better Sewing” in which she did all the projects in an early 60s Vogue sewing book of similar title and blogged about it.

    She got a book deal, and I believe a teaching contract out of it

    I gotta start that blog.


  7. This was not an easy question for me. I think when I read about others, I lose myself in the pleasure of learning about them. I don’t find myself so interesting that I typically think of how I am like them.

    Ultimately, the literary figure I most resemble is Nick Carraway. I’ll forgive you for asking “Nick WHO?” Nick is the narrator of The Great Gatsby. He presents himself as a reliable narrator because he is from the Midwest, a non-judgmental and ethical fellow who finds other folks fascinating. He becomes a storyteller because he thinks other people are more worth studying than himself. His natural modesty allows him to get sucked into the world of the rich and pretty folks.

    Ultimately, he discovers he is not as lacking in moral judgment as he thought. He is the one who is most moved by the tragedy Jay Gatsby, which means he is the one who feels compelled to share his vision.


    1. I’m living out the story of the Great Gasby right here on Crystal Bay. I’m the shack between the mansions; a sliver of land between 4 acre estates. On one side is Cargill grain heirs who haven’t worked in three generations. On the other side is three generations of Minneapolis Floral.

      Both sets of neighbors adored that sweet, quiet little old couple who lived here for half a century (my parents). Then my cats, my obnoxious wasband, the renovations, the squealing grandchildren and my overly friendly behavior created hostility which has lasted 14 years and counting.


  8. OT from yesterday-thanks, Tim for your warning about leached calcium in the soil under the soon-to-be-removed sidewalk. I believe too much calcium could lead to blossom end rot. We will take measures to dilute the soil with new soil, although a truckload of Red River Valley soil is probably not in the plan.


  9. I’ve had my plot ideas ‘stolen’ too. I’m slowly coming to believe something two cliches combine to reinforce.

    First, the writer’s adage, “There are no new stories, only different ways of telling them.” I found this to be highly depressing when I started tinkering with words. That my grand schemes of plot device, twist, and turn were to be automatically relegated as ‘run of the mill.’ Then I realized that a) that’s a generalization and b) it’s more or less meant as left-handed encouragement to get something done, rather than be perpetually stymied in trying to create an entirely unique genre.

    Second, I used to really try to over-do my vocal affectations when I was doing my voiceover work. Because I wanted to show everything I could do, to everyone, all the time. I’d listen to experienced pros and think that I had to blow everyone’s doors off every time I stepped up to the microphone. It’s taken me a long time to believe that everyone has their own voice and just being who you are brings a uniqueness to the read without trying to be ‘you on steroids.’ There’s a fine line between ‘wow, that’s great,’ and ‘wow, that’s bad community theater.’ This is particularly difficult for me, as I tend to try WAY too hard. What I didn’t realize is how much that comes through in the read or the write. I’m learning to relax and, not just go with the flow, but get into the flow. A subtle but crucial difference.

    So, I don’t get shook up when I find one of my plots in popular print. I just think that I’ll bring my own style, my own voice, my own take to it. And if it isn’t ‘as good,’ whatever that means by whatever measure, oh well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Good morning. A lot of the observations in Population 485 are similar to those I would include in a book about Clarks Grove, MN. That’s okay. I doubt that I will get around to writing a book about Clarks Grove.

    There is a slight change that I might get around to writing a book about seed saving and seed savers. Janisse Ray has already written a well received book on this topic that takes an approach similar to the approach I have in mind. I actually think Ray’s book, which is considered tp be a good one, is lacking in some ways Thus, if I ever get my book on this topic written, I think I would be able to include a lot of things that Ray didn’t cover.


  11. Please read this as a tongue-in-cheek strong recommendation of “A Man Called Ove.” Very clever. Funny. Many interesting characters. The plot is remarkably like mine, but our approaches and tones are very different.


  12. Blevins, you will see, is peering over my shoulder. Is he offering technical advice? Stealing ideas? Mocking me? Expressing his support? Trying to steal my cap? Editing my work?


    1. Sheesh, I thought that hitting the enter key only posted a comment when I’m on facebook. Thanks, wordpress.

      Nowadays I tend to read books that have characters that I admire but are unlike me. Usually, they are courageous.

      When I was a kid, I wanted to be like Harriet the Spy, but in real life, i was probably most like Ramona the Pest. In a sort of introverted way. Like Ramona, I never knew what was appropriate in what setting and often felt totally misunderstood – and was very good at annoying my family.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. clyde. i am so happy to hear you are working on the book
    get er done. i love hassler when i think of a book that makes me feel warm and cozy it is jons writing style. i dont know why but its a constant. you are similar in that respect clyde and i do get lost in a daydreamy sort of way reading your stuff. under the quilted sky was a joy. what ive seen of this one is on the mark too. too bad its such a painful project and pays so poorly. you sure are good at it.


  14. me in a book
    maybe but it didnt sell well
    diary of a mad hippy gone bad.
    the charachters in books need to be a charachter the reader can get a grip on. i am a little too scarttered. hippy business creative insomniac. who wants to read that. give me shane or kilgore trout or kinsey millhone who have a life that makes sense, my life doesnt make sense but im working on it. never to late to live the great american dream. here goes. get your pencils baboons . there may be a pony in here.


  15. BTW, I had not finished Ove when I wrote this blog. I have now finished it. Wonderful, best fictional cat I’ve met. Best Persian woman in a Swedish novel of all time is my guess. Funniest olg grump I’ve met.


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