Cover of Cleaning House. In orderto preserve, protect, and defend the old ways of publishing, here is another in a series of formerly real books, circa the last century. ❦

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A photograph of actor Tom Hanks in character as Forrest Gump.

A photograph of actor Tom Hanks in character as Forrest Gump.

An Interesting Little Note

Text has become fluid, but facts remain fixed.

There is an extended metaphor at the end of Chapter 7 in Cleaning House about our housewife and her bonbons. There is a comparison of life to a box of chocolates, but I did not copy that idea from Forrest Gump. I was writing this book in 1979 as my senior thesis at Princeton, and Forrest Gump would not yet exist in the movies until a full fourteen more years would pass.

And then a strange thing happened on the way to researching who said what first and when for this little note. A site called Wiktionary reports that Haruki Murakami published his novel Norwegian Wood in Japanese in 1987 and in English in 1989 and once again, he describes life as a box of chocolates and Forrest Gump would still not appear on the scene for yet another six years.

A drawing of a box of Whitman's Chocolates.

Murikami’s version:

β€œYou know, they've got these chocolate assortments, and you like some but you don't like others? And you eat all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don't like as much? I always think about that when something painful comes up. "Now I just have to polish these off, and everything'll be OK.' Life is a box of chocolates.”

And my version:

"Don’t be so quick to condemn bonbons, I thought to myself. It takes great courage to sit and eat them. Think about itβ€”each one is completely covered with dark uncertainty, and you don’t know what’s going to be inside the next one any more than you know what a new day will bring. And the lady who sits and eats them is touching that uncertainty with her sensitive tongue, tasting, biting, swallowing, whatever comes along, sight unseen. And also, don’t forget that those chocolates are unique for their ability to hurt the teeth worse than anything else. So you get the cherry or instant, excruciating pain. It takes guts to risk those odds, believe me. I realized that there was no point in saying all this to Maggie. She was too interested at the moment in telling me what a unique individual she was, come here like a just-hatched nature sprite to breathe new life into this dying neighborhood."

So, first my female protagonist, and then a Japanese man named Watanabe, and finally an actor playing an innocent savant all say the same thing every seven years or so. I just thought you should know. 🏠

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