Friday, July 15, 2011

Old favorites

In Iris Murdoch's Under the Net, the narrator, on picking up a book of philosophy he'd written years before and then essentially banished from his mind, thinks,
It's always a strange experience to read one's own writings again after an interval. They so rarely fail to impress.
I certainly wouldn't say that's true of my own writing--cringing is surely my response at least as often--but when you've written more than 1,000 blog posts, you're bound to occasionally come across something you'd forgotten writing and are glad to rediscover.

Such was the case with this post from 2007 about, among other things, Sei Shonagon, Iris Murdoch, and Achilles, which ended with a topic I thought was well worth revisiting today: prompted by Murdoch's nomination of Achilles as one of her two favorite characters, I put together an off-the-top-of-my-head list of my favorites. Here's how I described my thinking then:
Unlike her, I think if I put together a list it won't consist of characters with whom I particularly identify; rather--like Odysseus--they'd be characters who I can't stop thinking about, who seem forever capable of revealing new surprises.
And, after Odysseus, here's who I came up with:
Bjartur from Independent People

Tess from Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Lieutenant Amanda Turck from James Gould Cozzens's Guard of Honor

Bartleby the Scrivener

Jayber Crow, from Wendell Berry's books about the Port William Membership

King David

Barnby, Uncle Giles, and Tuffy Weedon from A Dance to the Music of Time

First Sergeant Milt Warden from From Here to Eternity

Lyra from the His Dark Materials trilogy

Sir Lancelot

Stepan Arkadyevitch Oblonsky from Anna Karenina

Huckleberry Finn

Philip Marlowe

Mrs. Aubrey from Rebecca West's The Fountain Overflows

Rose Ryder from John Crowley's Aegypt series
Nearly four years on, who would I add? Again, off the top of my head:
Niccolo, Dr. Tobie, and Katelijne Sersanders from Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo series

Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer

Roberto Bolano's Arturo Belano

David Gately from Infinite Jest

Trollope's Madame Max Goesler
And you?

{An administrative note to close: Work and travel have finally caught me out, and I'm taking next week off from blogging, which I don't think I've done in . . . three years? The annex will still be active, though, and you can follow that either through Tumblr itself or through your Google Reader. See you all in a week.}


  1. Guard of Honor was full of memorable characters; I suspect most readers would have singled out "the Judge."

    From Thomas Perry's suspense fiction, Jane Whitefield.

  2. And who would leave out Dr. Stephen Maturin, from the Aubrey-Maturin sea novels?

  3. Off the top of my head (not including classics). . .
    Pnin from Pnin
    Gus, Call, Loren from Lonesome Dove
    Jernigan from Jernigan

  4. Anonymous6:33 PM

    Loved Stephen Maturin. Felt he was a friend, a living being. Felt the same, but to a lesser extent about Jack Aubrey.

  5. I've always felt like I could get along with Tom Ripley, and that I would, too, right up until he killed me and made it look like an accident. But really and truly? Diotallevi from Foucault's Pendulum and I would have gotten on famously.


  6. I see that I'm going to have to give the Aubrey/Maturin series a try. I've got Master and Commander on my shelf; maybe it can be the methadone that helps me recover from the fact that I'm about to run out of Dorothy Dunnett.

    And Lonesome Dove has been on my list so long that I'm going to the bookstore tomorrowto get a copy, and I promise to read it before the leaves turn. I've only ever read the first page, and even that was wonderful and convincing.

    Finally, jw, it's important to remember that Tom Ripley didn't kill most people in his life. You'd probably be fine. Probably.