Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My five (5) most memorable fictional characters

My oldest son recently posted his five favorite fictional characters on Facebook. There is only one character I was familiar with: Marc Remillard, a recurring character in two extraordinary series – the Saga of Pliocene Exile and the Galactic Milieu – by Julian May. I respect my son's selections, but if I had to choose a character from May's work I would have favored Jack the Bodiless (Marc's incorporeal brother), their endearing Uncle Rogi or even Atoning Unifex, a later manifestation of the aforementioned Marc Remillard.

All that said (and it is quite a lot) no characters from May’s work make my top five favorite fictional characters. And here, I must engage in a quick internal debate: Favorite seems inappropriate. Memorable would be my choice of words. What characters do I most remember? What characters do I recall with fondness or admiration or good humor?

I list five. I will not be so willful as to suggest that I can only summon four or must put forth six. Five he lists. And I will do the same.

1. Sam Weller from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. The book is transformed upon Sam's appearance. The book is a tad staid, rather slow, and then Sam Weller bursts upon the reader’s sensibilities and The Pickwick Papers becomes a delight. Sam is the first of Dickens' vivid "minor" characters. He is the model for those that follow.

2. Antonia Shimerda from My Antonia by Willa Cather. My Antonia is a book that I return to year after year. Jim, the narrator, has a “crush” on Antonia, the independent Bohemian girl of the title. This willful girl who becomes the mother of 10 children is an archetype of the American immigrant.

3. Gollum from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are lots of favorites here. The first time I read the trilogy Strider (Aragorn) captured my imagination. Certainly, Frodo and Bilbo make a bid for most memorable. But Gollum with his link to the ring – both psychic and physical – is the one character who carves a vivid arc throughout all four books.

4. Chanticleer from Walter Wangerin, Jr.'s fine two book set, The Book of the Dun Cow and The Book of Sorrows. Yes, a chicken. More precisely, a rooster, but Chanticleer is the archetype (there’s that word again) of the literary hero -- bold, dare I say cocky, yet blind to his own pride. Chanticleer comes to understand that he must rely on others as much as his own fighting spirit. Wangerin’s work is a Christian allegory that can be read simply as two fine fantasy novels.

5. Reggie from Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News? “Sweartogod.” Regina (rhymes with vagina) Chase the most vivid character in one of the most exciting reads that has come my way in a long time. I cared about Reggie, and I’d very much like to read about her again. She is an absolute original, and a pure joy.

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