Tuesday, June 13, 2006

THE MEMPHIS READS QUESTION--6/13/06

In response to the first MEMPHIS READS QUESTION--what makes a book "unputdownable"?--many of you wrote that well-developed characters keep you engaged. As Parkway Village's Alice Kendall put it, "the characters have to be interesting and sympathetic if not actually heroic."

Of the characters you've encountered in your reading, which one has remained with you the longest? Why has he or she been so unforgettable?

Follow this link to consider the previous MEMPHIS READS QUESTION.

Photo Credit: Clip Art, Microsoft Publisher 2003.

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Let's see if this list will get things started:

100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900
From Book Magazine, March/April 2002

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Listed below, in no particular order, are some characters that I have found memorable. Are any of your favorites listed?

Elizabeth Bennett (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE)

Janie Crawford (THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD)

Ignatius Reilly (A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES)

Easy Rawlins (DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS)

Miss Twiggley (MISS TWIGGLEY'S TREE)

Elphalba (WICKED)
 
I like Sookie Stackhouse from the Southern Vampire series written by Charlaine Harris. She is a bar waitress in a small town in Louisiana and she has the ability to read minds. Hearing the thoughts of drunken bar patrons isn't always a pleasant experience for an attractive blonde like Sookie. Her choice of a vampire boyfriend is understandable--he's dead so she can't read his mind!

Many of the characters in the Southern Vampire series are unforgettable because they appear to be everyday people with families and careers, but you quickly learn they could be any type of supernatural creature--vampires, werewolves, or shape shifters.
 
Maybe it is because I work doing Youth Services but when you said "stuck with you the longest" I immediately started thinking back to my childhood stories.

There are so many favorites, but I am going to go with The Little Engine that Could who just got a "facelift" by the illustrator Loren Long. It's a great character/book to turn to when things are hard for yourself or others. You can choose to pass people in need or help them. You can believe that you can/will make a difference or not.

It may have been written for children, but I believe adults should re-read this classic.
 
The Virginian has got to be the character that has stayed with me the longest - operative word being "longest." I still remember the first time I saw TV. It was at a neighbor's, the screen was about 5" in diameter (yep, the screen was round) and the picture was barely visible through all the snow. However, it was definitely a lone horse and rider being chased by a posse. By the time I was a teen, 90% of prime time programming was westerns. Not surprisingly, I read a lot of western novels growing up. Made it through most of Zane Grey. But Owen Wister's character, the Virginian, is the one I fondly remember as the epitome of the true Westerner.
 
Thank you for your responses!

Here are some other ways to approach this question:

What fictional characters (or subjects of biographies) have you identified with most strongly? About whom did you think "that's me" or "I have done that"?


For which characters have you rooted the hardest?


Which ones have been your favorite heroes?


Which characters have been the most tragic?
 
Has anyone else read the new book about Scarlett O'Hara? The author writes about how she's been inspired by the heroine of Margaret Mitchell's book (but not the character played by Vivian Leigh in the movie).

Good Scarlett: making a dress out of drapes when there was no other fabric to be found after the war.

Bad Scarlett: marrying her sister's fiance; hanging on to the "myth" of Ashley Wilkes.
 
A memorable character and book for me is Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Stranger Land. The lead character is Michael Valentine Smith who is actually a Martian visiting Earth and disguised as human. Though Heinlein is a science fiction writer, I thought the book offered much insight into american cultural institutions and the mores and folkways of humans through he eyes of an outsider.
 
The character who has troubled me the most is Nabokov's coquette, Lolita. Though cute and sweet by appearances, Lolita is a destructive force that rips apart anyone who crosses her path. What makes her even more frightening is the fact that she doesn't even mean to be so destructive. Deep down, she really is cute and sweet. But her beauty and her vulnerability (she is, after all, a child.)seem to bring out the worst in people, especially men. Some readers love Lolita, others hate her, but I absolutely fear her. And that may be the reason I haven't paid a second visit to Nabokov's dark masterpiece for such a long time.
 
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