Novelists are notorious embezzlers of the intimacies of their families and loved ones. I just read an article about Mona Simpson, the novelist who late in life discovered that Steve Jobs was her brother. They got to know each other, became close, and then she wrote a novel about a brilliant, geekish, man who changed the world with his ideas but had intimacy issues. At least that’s what it said in the article. Evidently, her brother Steve got a little put off by the book and it took a while for them to reconcile. Howard didn’t use much of me in his work, at least not much that I recognize. Except for The Confirmation. Which is a full length play and is about a socially awkward (check), curly haired (check), Jewish (check) daughter of a mother who loves to sing (check) and a sentimental father who uses humor to counter his depression, indigestion and frustration with life (check, check and check).
Playwrights, like novelists, are allowed to take liberties.
One of the great thrills of my early New York life was taking part in the casting of a workshop production of The Confirmation. It was being directed by Stuart White, Howard’s partner at the time and as far as I know, the only person other than himself that whom Howard trusted to direct his work. A few times during casting I was asked to read Rachel - basically just throwing lines to actors auditioning for other parts. It was the ultimate in type casting. It was genealogical method acting. It was great fun. I harbored fantasies of Stuart saying, “This is crazy. Sarah, you’ve got to play Rachel.” Didn’t happen. But boy, did I love those casting sessions.
Fun with casting aside, the plot of The Confirmation did hit a little close to home for some. One uncle, in particular, was heard to growl to Howard, “It didn’t happen that way.” I wonder if Steve Jobs ever muttered something along those lines to Mona.
As for me, I will be forever grateful that Howard turned away from autobiography for his source material. I mean, life is tough enough without dating a semi-sadist, with or without your arm in a cast.