On Unusual Names

I am not 100% sure how I feel about this:


That's on the back cover of Laura Lippman's new-in-paperback book, Life Sentences, which I had to buy both because I've enjoyed her previous books, like What the Dead Know, and because, well, Cassandra Fallows?


My colleague Jeffrey Goldberg has written frequently about how you could run a medium-sized city all with people who bear his same name. I have a very common first name; and my middle name, which was my mother's family name, is so common in Scotland and its diaspora that every week I run into Mackenzie "cousins" who are not relations at all.

That's never happened with my family name. I know that other Fallows families exist, mainly in England, but over the decades I have never run into someone with this name who wasn't immediate kin. Therefore it just feels strange to see it show up "in public" this way. My colleague TNC might know the feeling -- not when he meets someone else with the last name Coates but if he meets another Ta-Nehisi. 

I hope the book is good. Actually, my more specific and limited hope is that "Cassandra Fallows" does not turn out to be so memorably malign a character that her last name lives on, like Scrooge or Gatsby or Ahab, as shorthand for a certain kind of character defect. As for her first name, I guess it's too late. No doubt I'm being too pessimistic. Cassandra-like, even. Perhaps I should be more like Candide and hope that the name could have the resonance of Don Quixote -- of Huckleberry Finn!