Sunday, December 27, 2009

Real People

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter Naomi over the Christmas break as to whether or not she resembled Naomi in Animals—or, to be more precise, over the degree to which her much younger self resembled the fictional character. Certainly I had not intended to make the two resemble each other. I chose that name for the character because of a different sort of real world connection. Naomi as a student had been influenced by a pamphlet she had been given at Simon Fraser University one rainy day, with pictures showing how factory farmed animals are treated. That in turn had been one thing that had influenced me to try to act against factory farming, so there seemed an obvious appropriateness to giving Naomi’s name to that character in the book. I hadn’t expected the connection to go beyond that—but (the real) Naomi is not alone in thinking that in fact I ended up portraying someone quite like the person she was when she was growing up.

Zayne and Tammy are two other “real” names in the novel. I knew slightly for a time a few years ago someone called Zayne. He is in many ways a good and gentle man, as is Zayne in Animals, but I don’t think overall the two have very similar personalities; certainly I did not intend them to. I wanted a relatively unusual name for Naomi’s father, and that was simply the first one that came to mind.

For several years early this past decade Tammy Roberts worked at the book publishing company where I work. She’s a very lively (and very entertaining) person with a strong conscience—and she has been vegan throughout her adult life. I used to admire how well she accommodated herself to the ways of the world when it came to food—never complaining if it was difficult to get something she could eat at a restaurant we were going to for some company lunch, never thinking less of others who didn’t think twice about eating animals, whether factory farmed or any other sort. I thought it would be appropriate to give someone in the book the name “Tammy”—but here again I didn’t see any close resemblance between the character of Tammy in Animals and the real person Tammy Roberts.

One other note about names and Animals; for many years I had a cat named Sam. Unlike the character in the novel, he wasn't much of a learner. But he was certainly immensely lovable.

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