This week I finished rereading From Time to Time by Jack Finney, the sequel to Time and Again. I remember squealing with joy when I found this book in the bookstore. Time and Again was one of my favorite books and I had anxiously awaited the sequel. I also remember being disappointed when I finished it the first time, in 1995. When I realized that Finney had included a real person from history that I had recently been researching, I went back and started rereading it. I still found it slow and woefully lacking in intrigue. But what I did find is that Finney copied an entire letter that this person, “Archie”, had written and used as an entire conversation Archie was having with other fictional characters in this book.
You see, I had read his complete two volume collection of letters and I recognized this one immediately. I went back to double check and, sure enough, it was copied exactly from his letter and simply turned into dialogue. I scanned the book for footnotes, endnotes, anything to indicate that these were Archie’s actually words. Nothing. I don’t know what to make of this. Did Finney think he was entitled to use real Archie’s words as his own? Did the editor not understand the author didn’t write these words? Was this a weird mix between true history and fiction that he was trying to explore (if so, not an excuse). According to a quick google search, Mr. Finney’s been dead for a few years now. Perhaps the issue is just as dead. But still, it is really bothering me an author that I admired so much would use someone elses words as his own. Someone who was rather witty and prolific in his own writing, but became a character in a novel where he was only partially given his due.