Thursday, June 6, 2013

I want to be friends with Howard, Mickey, Yossarian, Saleem and Raskolnikov

Thursday, June 6, 2013

In a recent interview with Claire Messud, celebrated author of The Emperor’s Children, the interviewer asked her about one of the characters in her new book, “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim” to which she replied:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?” (Source)

I was dumbfounded by her response, not entirely because of the ferocity of her indignation but more for the characters she mentioned. Three of them are my favorite heroes (or, to some, antagonists)  in fiction, the very ones that I want to be friends with!

My favorite heroes in fiction, here’s the complete list:

Howard Roark, architect

"His body leaned back against the sky.  It was a body of long straight lines and angles, each curve broken into planes.... His hair was neither blond nor red, but the exact color of ripe orange rind." (The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand)

Mickey Sabbath, ex puppeteer

"Through the lens of unforewarned Norman, Sabbath saw what he looked like, had come to look like, didn’t care that he looked like, deliberately looked like--and it pleased him.  He’d never lost the simple pleasure, which went way back, of making people uncomfortable, comfortable people especially." (Sabbath’s Theater, Philip Roth)

Captain John Yossarian, US Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier 

"That crazy bastard may be the only sane one left." (Catch-22, Joseph Heller)

Saleem Sinai, telepath and chutney maker

"I have been a swallower of lives, and to know me, just the one of me, you’ll have to swallow the lot as well. Consumed multitudes are jostling and shoving inside me, and guided only by the memory of a large white bedsheet with a roughly circular hole some seven inches in diameter cut into the center, clutching at the dream of that holey, mutilated square of linen, which is my talisman, my open sesame..." (Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie)

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, ex-student of law

"He had plunged so far within himself, into so complete an isolation, that he feared meeting not only his landlady but anyone at all.  He had lately ceased even to feel the weight of the poverty that crushed him. He had completely lost interest in his day-to-day affairs, and he had no wish to recover such interest." (Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

Described like that, don’t you just want to be friends with them?


Anonymous said...

how about thing one and thing two? don't you wanna be friends with them?

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