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Judging Brown's 'Performance'

February 28, 1988

I would like to address an issue which I feel strongly about and which was brought up in David Thomson's review of James Brown's "Final Performance" (The Book Review, Feb. 14). This issue I refer to is that of taking a work of fiction to be just that--a work of fiction.

In his review, Thomson refers "to a reality that is not owned up to in the author's biography on the jacket." He goes on to cite similarities between Brown's older brother, Barry, and Mike, the older brother in "Final Performance." Obviously, the reason that the "reality" is not referred to is because people such as Thomson may note the similarities in reading this novel and consequently not look at it as fiction, but instead as a true account of Barry Brown's life.

Thomson goes on to suggest that "fiction needs its own life" but that he does not "mean to suggest that the novelist has done anything improper in resorting to family history." He contradicts himself and cannot bring himself to forget about Barry Brown long enough to look at this novel purely as a fictional work. Thomson would like Brown to either invent more, or less, writing either a story about brothers (which this already is) or a biography about Barry Brown.

Brown based his novel on someone of obvious importance in his life, but this does not in any way imply that the novel is a true account of his brother's life. This was purely a basis on which a novel was constructed and nothing else. Why doesn't Thomson just let "Final Performance" stand alone without bringing the family history of the author into it? Maybe if he did this, he would find "Final Performance" to be an emotionally powerful and purely fictional work.

JENNIFER L. DIXON

REDWOOD CITY, CA.

Editor's Note: The price of the novel stated in The Book Review was $17.95. The actual price of "Final Performance" is $18.95.

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