Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Ron used to enjoy the wide-eyed looks he got when he asked preschoolers if Colonel Hathi knew Dumbo or if Freddy the pig knew Charlotte.
The night I was in labor with Eleanor, I spent midnight to four reading a fictional account of what happened to Heathcliff during his "lost" years. That kind of book seems to be much more prevalent now, especially with novels by the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen--there seems to be a kind of mania to modernize their characters, sort of like my rant about Jo March. In science fiction, current authors can use places other writers created and take their own characters on adventures there.
I'm not really sure if I approve of this kind of literary parasitism. I do read them, but almost always from the library. My newest pile of library books includes The Heroines by Eileen Favorite. This one is brand new, published January 2008. In it, a 13-year-old girl and her mother run a bed and breakfast where heroines like Scarlett O'Hara, Emma Bovary, Cathy Earnshaw, and Madame Bovary come to stay. The mother hides her books in the attic so the heroines won't find out how their story ends. As it turns out, she has learned the hard way that it's not wise to meddle in the outcome of a heroine's story. I won't tell you the ending, except to say that it's almost every 13-year-old-girl's dream.
What I don't like about these kinds of books is the reductionist quality, and sometimes the anachronisms, especially of character. What I find fascinating, though, is that bookland turns out to be a place where people I know are having conversations with each other. I never wanted what Holden Caulfield wants--to call an author up and have a conversation with him--as much as I wanted to call a character up and make friends. Or just be able to walk around his neighborhood.
Once I got the neighborhood experience on a tour of Universal Studios in Los Angeles. We rode a trolley around the town square of Hill Valley, from Back to the Future. I found it a wonderful but somewhat disorienting experience.


Ron Griggs said...

A fictional character can become so real--think of Sherlock Holmes--that he or she can be well known to millions of people who may never have read a Conan Doyle story or seen a Basil Rathbone movie.

Then, there is a temptation to include that character into new works of imagination. The character transcends the original work and becomes iconic. (Was there an original story that introduced the Tooth Fairy?)

Cschu said...

And what about real people that almost become fictional by being depicted so often in legend and even in works of fiction? The first person of this sort that comes to mind is Teddy Roosevelt.