Origins: Many of us who have read John Irving's The World According to Garp (or seen its film version) recall his fictional Ellen James Society, a group of women who express solidarity with Ellen
That scenario came to mind when we read the 12 November 2003 New York Times' obituary of Marvin Smith, a photographer renowned for capturing images of life in Harlem. Smith shared his vocation with his identical twin brother, Morgan:
They shot pictures of everybody and everything: Jackie Robinson teaching his young son how to hold a baseball bat, Nat King Cole dancing at his wedding and W.E.B. DuBois recording a speech in a studio.
The New York Black Yankees live forever in their team photograph, as does Maya Angelou as a lightly clad modern dancer, long before she became a published writer.
The article said that Morgan Smith died of testicular cancer and that his brother, in response, had his own testicles removed. That account was given to The Times by a friend of both men. It should not have been published unless it could be verified and attributed.
After the obituary appeared, Monica Smith, the daughter of Morgan Smith, told The Times that her father had had prostate cancer and that her uncle did not have his testicles removed.
Martin, Douglas. "Marvin Smith, 93, Whose Photographs Defined Harlem Life." The New York Times. 12 November 2003 (p. C13). Oliver, Myrna. "Marvin Smith, 93; He, Twin Depicted Life in Harlem." Los Angeles Times. 27 November 2003 (p. B17). Associated Press. "Marvin Smith, Photographer of Harlem, Dies at 93." [New York] Newsday. 12 November 2003. The New York Times. "Corrections." 19 November 2003.