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He had wanted to make sure she wouldn’t write about him, but he knew he couldn’t ask her outright not to write about him, since he was sure such a question would set off a lecture about how he was not within his rights to put restrictions on her work, and she might even tease him for being narcissistic enough to believe that she was planning to write about him, and he would take issue with that word — “narcissistic” — a diagnosis she was well aware he’d often feared his friends and acquaintances might have been, all along, privately giving him — and he would insist it was merely practical, not narcissistic, to assume that she, his ex-wife, whose two previous books had contained many arguably autobiographical details, might choose to include some or many details that might appear, to some, to have been lifted from their complicated years together and their not exactly undramatic ending, but she would probably respond to this by saying that it was ridiculous and childish of him to accuse her of writing autobiography — especially since he knew how much trouble such accusations had caused her in the past — and even if she did end up writing something that contained some or many details that echoed her life (as every writer did or had done at some point or sometimes constantly), she knew that he knew that she was not interested in writing memoir, and she knew that he knew that she was, as a reader and as a writer, interested only in work that used the tangibility of character and plot as a method of elucidating intangible ideas, not to record a personal history, and even if she did write a character who somewhat resembled him she could never really write about him, the truest and realest him, because there was no such thing as an immovable, constant self, and even if there were such a thing she certainly couldn’t claim she knew his, or if she did it was far too abstract to put into words, and, anyway, he had always seemed either incapable of or indifferent to being emotionally vulnerable with her and even after all their years together she was still baffled and deeply hurt by the sudden revelation of his secret cruelty and the damage he had been capable of inflicting on her, so of course she wasn’t going to write about him, because she had clearly never known him — and no matter how many times he would try to interrupt this tirade (which all the while would have been increasing in speed and volume), he would not be able to speak loudly or forcefully enough to correct her original misunderstanding of what he had said (of course he didn’t think that she wrote autobiography), but by the time she had finished her speech he would be too tired to say anything else, and his being too tired to make his case would be the equivalent of raising a white flag, a submission that might later double as his waiving any right to be dismayed by the inclusion of some phrase or plot element or character in her next work that he might recognize, whether narcissistically or correctly, as being based on something he had said or done or been.

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’s most recent novel is The Answers. This story will appear in the collection Certain American States, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In 2017, Lacey was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists.

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