The answer to how much of COPYBOY is “true” is a more difficult question to answer than the same question about PAPERBOY.
I talked a little about this at the Knoxville launch of COPYBOY at the East Tennessee History Center, sponsored by the Friends of Knox County Library.
While PAPERBOY is essentially the story of my childhood, I took more fictional liberties in COPYBOY to tell the story I had in mind.
However, there are certain parts of COPYBOY that come straight from reality.
Take this passage from the first chapter:
My new way of dealing with my worries at home was to sit in my room and type words other people had written. At first I typed up anything that was handy, like stories out of the newspaper about the New York Yankees, but it came to me that I should type important words, ones that had been around for a while and meant more than what happened in a ball game.
I had been typing for most of the summer from a book Mr. Spiro had given me – The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. He gave it to me after I read in the newspaper about the writer killing himself with a shotgun. The short book ended up being my favorite, the way the old man was taken out to sea by the giant fish. I read it all the way through two times before I started typing it. The words felt perfect coming out of the ends of my fingers, almost as if leaving out a single one would cause the entire story to come crashing down . . .
I showed the crowd a yellowed page one from the July 3, 1961 Memphis Press-Scimitar. This page with the wonderful headline – Now the Bell Tolls for Hemingway – has been in my possession from the day I clipped it 57 years ago. As I told the audience, I have lost all my record albums, all my baseball cards, most of the ephemera of my youth, but this page will always be with me.
In my earlier book, Mr. Spiro told the paperboy that often more truth can be found in fiction than in nonfiction, much like a good painting can hold more truth than a photograph. As an old newspaper guy, however, I know that a good hunk reality is always good for the soup.