Books: Inspirations the Originals

by William Amos Little, Brown; 614 pages; $19.95

"It began as a diary . . . little by little it began to turn itself into a story." So Katherine Anne Porter described the act of writing, and her alchemy of experience into story is as old as fiction itself. Some 3,000 instances of the process appear in The Originals, a witty and thorough compendium that traces novels, plays and tales back to their sources. No matter how extravagant the characters seem on the page, claims British Journalist William Amos, every one of them was based on an actual person.

Some of his entries are speculative: Ophelia may have been...

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