Lincoln Lincoln, BoBincoln, Bananafana FoFincoln: Name Games, Proust’s Echo, & The Medieval Thing

By now, some of you have begun wading through the stream of dramatis personae in The Door-Man. I appreciate it…and hope that you manage to keep your footing in the current.

It is not easy when the characters drift across three generations; when they come to the surface in callow youth and, again, late in life; and when their parentage is, well…murky (see Ruminations…42).

To make the crossing even more difficult for you, I’ve had great fun with a few names by having some of the characters slip “the grip of the patriarchs – the name‑givers” – and take on different surnames. It’s hard to keep track of the lineages when Dad’s name tag doesn’t match yours.

Which brings me to “The Name Game.”
(you remember,…“Let’s do Chuck!…Chuck, Chuck BoBuck, Bannafana Fo…)

As Shirley Ellis sang it in her 1964 hit: Come on ev’rybody, now let’s play a game. I betcha I can make a rhyme out of anybody’s name.

Well, I say: Come on ev’rybody, now let’s play a game, I betcha I can make a tale using anybody’s name.

In fact, I think names are tales unto themselves, rife with inference, sensibility and provocation. Like Proust’s ‘petites madeleines,’ names can conjure what he called “the echo of great spaces.” 

So here’s a name game for you – the one I played as I tuned into Proust’s echo and wrote The Door-Man, using:

real names for some of the real people,

fictional names for some of the real people,

real names for some of the fictional people

fictional names for some of the fictional people (…that’s no typo, you’ll see what I mean)

real names of real relatives for some of the fictional relatives

real names related to fictional names for some of the other fictional relatives

Lastly, fictional names related to what the Door-Man calls: “The Medieval Thing – the business of being identified by…well, by your business. Literally – what you do on earth rather than how you got there. Mr. Smith?…a metal worker; Thatcher?…a woven straw roofer; Baker?…yes, mincemeat pie. The medieval thing, no soul-sucking scheme of parenting surnames necessary.”

(And me, Wheelwright?… just a fellow who makes or repairs wooden wheels).

Good luck “crossing the bar.” Watch out for Ishmael’s whale and cling to The Lineages’ life saver in the front of the book. If you’re patient, you will arrive on the far shore on page 364 knowing the what, how, and why of everyone’s name in the book….and, probably, with either a name worm in your head or Shirley’s tune. Sorry.

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