On the one hand, I can appreciate how it would be a decent act to keep the real girlfriends of one's past out of the glare of the public eye. If you were writing an autobiography for the purpose of presenting yourself as a public figure, with the intent of trying to push yourself off in politics, it might be kind to leave real names out -- especially when you were talking about sensitive matters of the heart.
On the other hand, a "composite"? Could you make a composite of two or three people you cared about deeply? Wouldn't it rather be the case that you can't help but see such people as the individuals that they are?
Consider the letter making the rounds today:
“Remember how I said there’s a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism — [T.S.] Eliot is of this type,” Obama wrote in one letter to McNear. “Of course, the dichotomy he maintains is reactionary, but it’s due to a deep fatalism, not ignorance. And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter — life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot’s irreconcilable ambivalence; don’t you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex?”This indicates that the speaker thinks of himself as outside "the western tradition," which ought to be problematic enough for the President's defenders. What strikes me, though, is the way that the literary figures are completely interwoven with the thoughts. This is common among people who have spent their lives immersed in literature.
I cannot recall ever hearing the President speak this way, though. He's given a lot of speeches, but literary references are rare within them, and essentially absent from his off-the-cuff remarks.
Now it could be that the private, girlfriend-seeking Barack Obama is just a very different man from the public speaker; apparently Nixon was that way (as Cassandra recently pointed out). Still, Nixon was also a lot less public as a public figure: the times allowed a President to be different in private than in public in a way that they don't seem to do now.
So it strikes me as odd. Either the literature is deeply embedded in the thought process, or it is not. I've seen no evidence of it outside the book. What to make of that?