Friday, July 21, 2006

Random Question Friday: Characters in Literature

Hello again, and welcome to another installment of Random Question Friday! Before we get to the highly personal information, allow me to tell you a little story about me and Harry Potter.

I can't remember exactly when Harry Potter became a player in my consciousness, but I'm guessing it was sometime in my Amazon career – say, early 1998. I probably packed many, many copies of Harry Potter books, and I know that Amazon used to go to amazing lengths to order, acquire, pack, and ship Harry Potter books on time. It's almost (hell, not "almost" it IS) a competition to see which bookstore can best deliver Harry Potter books to customers' doorsteps on the release date. I won't get into details for fear of Amazon's hired goons knocking on my door, but I will say it involves impeccable timing and damn hard work.

So I was fully aware of the Harry Potter phenomenon from the retail and cultural standpoints, but I'd only read the first one. I tried to get into Chamber of Secrets, but that goddamn elf just annoyed me to tears and I put it down. I pretty much lost interest in Harry Potter as literature but remained somewhat amused by its cultural impact. I mean, when brilliant professor types get sustained and highly intellectual comment threads on the subject, you know it's a pretty big deal. It was simply a big deal that I wasn't all that interested in following.

Then I met Kathryn.

Kathryn likes Harry Potter a whole lot and she geeks out on Harry Potter in an adorable kind of way. During Thanksgiving we watched Prisoner of Azkaban with her entire family and I remember waking up with a question about all that Sirius Black business at the end of the film. It was one of those random situations where in pre-waking consciousness you ask a question, not fully aware of what you're asking. Sleeping across the room from each other, here's how the conversation went:

Trout: Hey honey, was Sirius Black a good guy or a bad guy?

Kathryn: Good. The book explains it better.

Trout: Okay. But people thought he was bad, right?

Kathryn: Yeah. Read the book.

Trout: [drowsily] Okay. Thanks honey. [snores]

This summer I decided to get some long-awaited fun reading done. I've been chipping away at Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, and I still love those stories to death, but I'm only about halfway through the third volume out of five – and in the meantime I wasn't reading anything else.

So last week I decided to take a break from all those lines and tacks and political treachery and "sou' by sou'west, sir!" stuff and give Harry Potter another crack. Pedaling my happy ass down to the public library, I skipped right over the elf and went straight to Prisoner of Azkaban.

Read it in two days.

I pedaled back down the next day and checked out Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. I'm right about halfway through Goblet of Fire, and although the first hundred pages or so were agonizing (do we really need that many pages devoted to Harry's muggle relatives? No. No we do not.), it's starting to pick up now. I'm thoroughly enjoying the character development, especially as Harry, Ron, and Hermione become full-on teenagers. My scientific genius bestest manfriend pointed out that he loves the books precisely because the kids behave exactly as teenagers do in reality: bad decision making skills come into play on a regular basis.

And so in reading Harry Potter I realized that it's perhaps cliche, but still true: we read to simultaneously escape and identify. Stories like J.K. Rowling's let us project ourselves into another existence and whether we realize it or not, allow us to pick up on characteristics similar to our own.

And that, readers, brings us back to Random Question Friday: with which character(s) from literature (we'll exclude movies because I'm a snob that way) do you identify? It doesn't have to appear in Harry Potter – it can be anyone from any genre.


At 7:45 AM, Blogger Trout said...

I'll start us off, and oddly enough I'm going with characters from Harry Potter just to, you know, get things rolling.

I get a kick out of Ron Weasley, although some of the elder Weasley brothers resonate with me as well. In fact, if I had to project what I will be like as a father, I think I'll be a blend of Arthur Weasley and Atticus Finch.

I've always had a bit of Yossarian and Raoul Duke in me as well - I have a few anti-establishment (or at least nonconformist) reactions to the world, but I'm still capable of operating in that world nonetheless.

Hmm. I may need to keep thinking about this one. Your turn.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Sir Dennis said...

I'd have to go with Sir John Falstaff of Shakespeare fame. Naturally a fictional character, Falstaff appeared in three Shakespearian plays: Henry IV, part 1; Henry IV, part 2; and, The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Portrayed as short, portly (nah, fat) comedian, and, more often than not, annoying those around him by being right, or at least believing to himself he's right. Although not malicious, Falstaff engages debate for the sake of debate. He's also a jovial, caring and giving bloke - in spite of trying to annoy those around him.

“At best, it can be said that Shakespeare’s Falstaff reaches beyond merely making the audience laugh. “He is aware that life is a charade” and is markedly responsible for his situation. He besets our hearts, yea deeper still, to our diaphragms. We are his. He has been too great a humoristic character to forfeit all good impressions within the length of one play." (MacLeish, Kenneth, Longman Guide to Shakespeare’s Characters”, Harlow, England: Longman, 1986. pp87-88)

During my high school years, decades ago, I was privileged to have a caring and talented theatre coach, Mae (Mama) Call. During those influential years, Mama took our very active theatre club to “the City” (New York City) to see dozens of Broadway plays. We even got to perform our annual H.S. play/musical at an “Off-Broadway” theatre because of Mama’s connections. As an aside, Mama, in her prime, was a Vaudevillian Stripper –or- so she told us at the time! Sure got our attention.

Through Mama’s generosity and incredible efforts, I receive a number of full scholarship offers from some fine Universities offering Communications as a major. I began my college time at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

Off to college – first performance – you guessed it, Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Loved the character, loved the part – tried to make him at least a small a part of my life. Have I succeeded? That’s for others to measure.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Softball Slut said...

I love Harry Potter. Even though I am 26, the realms of magic and a make believe world fascinate me and hold my interest. It's something fun, as all reading should be

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous mary ann said...

Witch Baby Wigg Bat of the Dangerous Angels books.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Leslie said...

OK, this is going to sound weird, but mine is a rabbit. Hazel, to be precise, from the novel _Watership Down_. That book is my favorite comfort read -- the one I choose to read when I'm stressed out.
I love Hazel because he is flawed, but persistent. He is also surrounded by a group of comrades whose strengths complement his weaknesses. I love that he can be successful in his quest even though he -- and all of the other rabbits as well -- is not perfect.

At 6:51 PM, Blogger question girl said...

hey trout, thanks for stopping by my blog...

i am a combo of hermione (the brain) and bridget jones (the relationship fumbling klutz who goes for the wrong men everytime)

and yes - read both of these BEFORE watching the movies - i am a book purist too

At 9:22 PM, Blogger graeme said...

Do comic books count? If so, I'm AquaMan. If not... probably Peter Matthiessen, the author and main character of The Snow Leopord. He tags along with a biologist looking for the rare snow leopard in the Himalayas. His trip is more a search for himself after his wife's premature death rather than look for a big cat.
Who would I prefer to identify with? Tyler Durdin, "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk.
I have to admit, I haven't read a single Potter book.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger dirk.mancuso said...

I'd say John Smith from THE DEAD ZONE
and Nobu from MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. It's the whole outsider thing.

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well trout, this is troutman and im going to disregard your snobbiness beings that it is my most favortite book ever. I definately relate the most with Lenny from John Seinbeck's "of Mice and Men". I feel that nomater what I do, i seem to fumble it. At heart, I am caring and never mean to hurt anyone (or thing). I hope that I am a great companion and give all that I have, in all of the right places. "Tell me about the rabbits, Trout"

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Rosellen said...

The character with whom I most identify is Penelope Keeling from "The Shell Seekers," by Rosamund Pilcher. The book has everything that I like to read about: WWII England, gardening, mystery. And I'm the first to admit that Penelope isn't a famous character, nor is the book great literature.

Nevertheless, I identify with Penelope. Her unique combination of genetic gifts and limitations, the people with whom she interacts, and her life circumstances aren't similar to mine, but the person she becomes as a result of those factors is very familar to me.


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