Book filter: Fanfic of real people
August 7, 2015 6:46 AM   Subscribe

What books can you think of that are essentially fanfic of real-life people? I've read "American Wife" (Laura Bush), "The Royal We" (Prince William & Kate Middleton), and am in the middle of "The First Affair" (Monica Lewinsky & Bill Clinton), and am finding myself really attracted to these types of books. Are there other books out there like that?
posted by lea724 to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
"The Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett (Queen Elizabeth II).
"Primary Colors" by Joe Klein (Bill Clinton's first campaign).
posted by ocherdraco at 6:50 AM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

You may find it useful to use the search term "modern roman à clef"; a roman à clef is a work of fiction that actually describes real life characters and events with different (or no) names.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:51 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Blonde is a Joyce Carol Oates novel about Marilyn Monroe.

If the real-life people don't have to be recent, there's plenty of this going farther back under the umbrella of historical fiction.
posted by earth by april at 6:53 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

J Robert Lennon's Happyland (though apparently it's only tangentially related to the life of Pleasant Rowland)

Glen David Gould's Sunnyside covers Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Rin Tin Tin.

The Devil Wears Prada was famously inspired by Anna Wintour.
posted by mippy at 6:58 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Colony of Forgotten Dreams covers Newfoundland politician Joey Smallwood, in the years before he convinced Newfoufndlanders to become Canadian.

Doc by Mary Doria Russell covers Doc Holliday.
posted by peppermind at 7:03 AM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Lily King's "Euphoria" is about Margaret Mead, two of her husbands, their awkward love triangle, and field work. It's been on a lot of "best of" lists this year. Just finished it about a week ago, enjoyed it a lot.

Devil Wears Prada. Postcards from the Edge. Windswept House: A Vatican Novel is about bad people doing bad things at the Vatican but may be a little too obscure if you like to know who the author is mocking (the author said it's 85% real people doing real things he witnessed; 15% fiction, with the Satanic rituals and stuff being "obviously fiction" and just a frame he used).

There's some discussion about "Crazy Rich Asians" tweaking actual people in Singapore. Knowing who any of them are is not required to enjoy the novel, though.

Loving Frank uses real names but is a fictionalized imagining of what being Frank Lloyd Wright's mistress was like, complete with ax murders. Similarly "The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B" (and its two sequels) is a fictionalized account of the life of Empress Josephine Bonaparte, and it is EXCELLENT, though again -- real names. Sort of along the lines of Wolf Hall, I guess. (Actually, there is an entire fiction genre right now of "give medieval and renaissance royalty imagined inner lives" and I enjoy it a lot.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:09 AM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I haven't read it, but American Hero is the book one of my favorite movies, Wag the Dog, was based on. I think it fits the bill here, especially since you seem to enjoy the political stuff.
posted by phunniemee at 7:11 AM on August 7, 2015

Alice I Have Been gets kind of twisty and a dark but this fictional novel about the life of Alice Liddell, who was the basis for Lewis Carroll's Alice, is very well done. The author, Melanie Benjamin, seems to do a lot of these real people fanfics, she's got one about Truman Capote, Anne Morrow (Charles Lindbergh's wife), and Mrs. Tom Thumb.

I haven't read the latter three, but she did quite well with Alice. It was a nice blending of the plausible and the real, to the point that a number of times I had to remind myself that it was actually fiction.
posted by teleri025 at 7:24 AM on August 7, 2015

RPF (Real-Person Fiction) is a big subgenre of fan fiction, if that scratches your itch.

It's satire, but it's really good and one of the funniest books I've read in the past decade: Freddy and Fredericka is a fictional American adventure undertaken by a fictional Charles and Diana. (The audiobook is amazing, too, but something like 33 hours long.)
posted by Lyn Never at 7:41 AM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Henry and Clara" is a historical fiction by Thomas Mallon, about the couple who had the phenomenally bad luck to be sharing the box seating with the Lincolns at the theater when the president was assassinated. I haven't read it in years, but I remember it being really gripping.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:13 AM on August 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Evidently Margaret George is a writer who does this for royals and other historical figures, and apparently does some from that person's perspective, e.g. "The Memoirs of Cleopatra;" "The Autobiography of Henry VIII;" etc. I haven't read any, but found her on a search through some book-related subreddits.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:21 AM on August 7, 2015

Jeffrey Eugenides denies it strenuously, but his The Marriage Plot is pretty widely thought to about David Foster Wallace. If it's not, there are a hell of a lot of coincidences going on.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:31 AM on August 7, 2015

Forgot! Laurie Graham's Gone With The Windsors is in the form of a diary written by a friend of Wallis Simpson, around the time she met Edward VII. I enjoyed it a great deal.
posted by mippy at 9:34 AM on August 7, 2015

The Paris Wife is a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway's first marriage. I loved it.
posted by aclevername at 10:31 AM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Rumor always had it that Rita Mae Brown's Sudden Death is about her relationship with Martina Navratilova. Also, Zelda Fitzgerald wrote Save Me the Waltz, about her life and marriage, while she was a psychiatric inpatient. He flipped out about it but wrote his side in Tender is the Night.
posted by worldswalker at 11:53 AM on August 7, 2015

When you said "fanfic" my mind immediately went to a couple of murder mysteries I read a number of years ago called Dead, Mr Mozart and Too Many Notes, Mr Mozart by Bernard Bastable. It's an alternate universe in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is still alive and living in England in the 1820s-20s, still making a living with the odd commission and giving music lessons, and hobnobbing with the royal family and nobles (and solving mysteries, of course). Most, if not all, of the main characters actually existed - in Too Many Notes Mozart's piano student in 1830 is none other than an eleven-year-old Princess Victoria, for instance.

The Queen and I by Sue Townsend is about the Royal Family moving onto a council estate in the wake of an election where a republican party wins.
posted by Rissa at 12:09 PM on August 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was used book shopping today and came across a book titled The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by McNees. As a caveat, I would say this is probably more fictionalized, more imaginative and less biographical than some of the other novels mentioned.
posted by puddledork at 12:20 PM on August 7, 2015

Colm Tóibín's The Master is about Henry James and some of it really feels like fanfic, for example, angsty bedsharing.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:47 PM on August 7, 2015

Catalina by Markus Orths is historical RPF a la The Princess Bride and is among my favorites ever. I suspect you're looking for more modern RPF, though.

Fanlore discusses RPF (Real Person Fic), mostly in the context of media fandom, but also in professional literature.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:44 PM on August 7, 2015

Surprised no one's mentioned Ragtime, by the recently departed E.L. Doctorow. Many famous personages appear throughout the book: JP Morgan, Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Siegmund Freud, and Emma Goldman, among others.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:36 PM on August 7, 2015

The Twins of Tribeca by Rachel Pine (Bob & Harvey Weinstein)
Falling Out of Fashion by Karen Yampolsky (Jane Pratt)
I loved both of these books!

This one is still in my to-read pile, but Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne is about the O.J. Simpson trial.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:21 AM on August 8, 2015

Some of the stories in White Swan, Black Swan are fictitious accounts of famous dancers and choreographers.

The main characters in Amy Sohn's Prospect Park West, Motherland, and The Actress are original, but famous people make multiple appearances (and some of the original characters are hilarious send ups of real celebrities).
posted by Violet Hour at 2:25 AM on August 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

"... Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne is about the O.J. Simpson trial."

Dominick Dunne
made a career out of this:

The Two Mrs. Grenvilles based on the murder (or not?) of William Woodward, Jr

An Inconvenient Woman, based on the murder of Vicki Morgan

A Season in Purgatory, based on the murder of Martha Moxley

Also, Answered Prayers by Truman Capote
posted by marsha56 at 4:13 AM on August 9, 2015

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