One of the odd side-effects of writing an eight hundred page autobiography is that one meets total strangers who know a very great deal about one's life. A second consequence, at least for an inveterate story-teller like me, is that quite often, when I start to tell a story, my audience nods wearily as if to say, "Oh yes, we recall that one from your autobiography." I did not put every one of my stories into that account of my life, but I did put quite a number in. I sometimes feel that I have lived past my sell-by date.
But there are things I did not say in my autobiography, and that has gotten me thinking about famous authors who use elements of their personal lives in their writings. I have in mind people like Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, and -- for all I know -- Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, and Feodor Dostoyevsky. It is my impression that if Philip Roth wanted to draw on his personal life for a really great scene or character in a novel, the only down side of which would be a permanent breach with a wife or child, he would not even hesitate. I could not imagine saying anything in my Autobiography [or elsewhere, for that matter] that might upset one of my sons or even offend a close friend. The rich and famous are of course fair game.