My youngest son is called Finch. After Atticus. Yes, that Atticus. The one so many of us love(d) and held up as a shining example of what a father, a lawyer, a person, should be. An immoveable moral compass, standing proud at due North.
I read the Guardian piece 'What happens now to people and businesses named after Atticus Finch?' with uneasy interest. Not, obviously, because we're going to rename our child (the answer to the headline question being, well, nothing will happen) but because my child now has a mildly, perhaps fleetingly, controversial name.
Baby Finch is one of many whose name choice was influenced by a character who has now been shown to have had deeply unpalatable sides. Sides that are grossly offensive in our modern context (sides that would have been rightly offensive to many people when they were concieved of too, of course). And these sides were previously unknown outside of the mind of his creator. Because that's the key thing here, this is a fictional character dreamt up and chiselled by a legendary author.
Atticus Finch is not a real person, Finch, my lovely son, is. And the Atticus Finch he was named in part after, the one that featured in the unchanged To Kill A Mockingbird, still exists within that work and our memories of it.
My little boy wasn't named after the character from Go Set A Watchman.
But I'm not going to lie, where once I easily explained the inspiration for his name (and it was only one strand of that inspiration, for what it's worth), I'm now going to be armed and ready with a few caveats. Just in case.
It just goes to show how deeply books and fictional characters can not only affect us, but also take on a crunchy reality of their own. Gaining substance and a life story that far exceeds the brainwaves from which they were born.
It's not that long since John Green received death threats (FFS) over the choice of actress to play a character in the film adaptation of Looking For Alaska.
I. Do. Not. Cast. Movie. Adaptations. Of. My. Books. I am not a casting director. Please stop threatening to kill me.— John Green (@johngreen) May 20, 2015
And let's not forget the proprietary concern over Anne Hathaway, Hollywood actress rather than Yorkshire lass, playing Em in One Day.
Or the hoo-hah over little Tom Cruise playing 6' 5" Jack Reacher. And if you think that's hardly the same as a beloved, maybe even life-changing character being exposed as a bigot, you're right, but that hasn't stopped 10,000 angry fans Liking the Facebook page 'Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher'.
Go Set A Watchman will create some more nuances in our chats about the origin of his name when Finch gets a little older, and as a parent that makes me sad. But as an author, it's a reminder of just how much stock people can place in fictional lives, and what an honour that is.Suggest a correction