Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Tonight, Matthew, I'm Going To Be...

Hello, it's been a while, hasn't it? I've been shockingly neglectful of late; I'd like, if I may, to blame it on a winning combination of being surprisingly sociable, birthdays and Easter - I've just been so unexpectedly busy that I haven't found the time to sit and write like I wanted to. But! I have been reading a-plenty, and musing on various literary subjects - the most recent of which is the result of an office debate about which literary character you'd most like to be. At first, I scoffed at the simplicity of the question - then realised that I couldn't settle on just one. What about the fun villains seem to have - or to be swept up in a Bronte love story? And your 'everyman', who just seems to find himself in the midst of madness? I even kept myself up one night, mentally revising my choices, and in the end just decided - to hell with it all, why do I have to choose?
So here they are - the motley crew of literary creations that I'd like to step into the shoes of, just for a day.

10. Katey Kontent from Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
She lives in 1930's New York City. It's really as simple as that.

9. The Caterpillar from The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
What do you mean, I can eat as much as like, and get to become a beautiful butterfly at the very end? Where do I sign up?!

8. Severus Snape from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Maybe a bit of a surprise entry, but I think he's a great character; he's sharp, acerbic and just plain rude. I'm not very good at being rude to people - unless I know them really well and I'm mostly joking - so I'd love a chance to actually use one of the pithy put-downs I imagine myself saying ten minutes after the moment has passed.

7. Lindsay Salmon from The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold
Lindsay would be a lot higher up my list, if being her didn't mean I'd have to deal with the murder of a sibling. Yet of all the characters who mourn Susie, Lindsay is one of the few who somehow manages to stay grounded, who channels her grief to make something positive of her life despite the sadness in it. As Susie watches from heaven, it's clear that Lindsay is the one she watches most, seeing through her a glimpse of the life she might have had. Lindsay's strength  is something unexpected in a novel like this, and I wouldn't mind having a bit of her determination - if I didn't have to pay the same price for it.

6. Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
I'm not sure how much I need to explain this one - she finds Narnia first, meets Mr Tumnus, gets to meet the real Father Christmas and becomes a Queen. Plus, being the first of the Pevensie children to go through the wardrobe, she spends the most time in Narnia and, as one of the youngest, gets to go back to Narnia four times! But of course, that's not just why - she's also the sweetest of the characters, the one whose faith in the magical land is never, even for a second, shaken. She has a true connection with Aslan and the land, and throughout the books in which she features maintains the childlike innocence she had in her first appearance. A far nicer character than snobby Susan, irritating Edmund or pompous Peter.

5. Lyra Silvertongue from His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
The heroine of Pullman's fantasy epic, Lyra is a fast-thinking, smooth-talking tomboy with a will of iron. Apart from the incredible adventures she goes on - including visits to the North, Svalbard and the World of the Dead - she counts witches, talking bears and tiny poison-bearing human-like creatures as her friends. In many ways, she's like Lucy Pevensie, but with gumption; she rarely questions herself, happily wanders into adventures without much consideration for the consequences, but is humble enough to know guilt, pain and sorrow. Plus, she is an incredible liar - and, being someone who struggles to tell even the whitest of lies with a convincing spin, I'd quite like to experience the feeling of telling a massive fib without worrying I'm about to get caught.

4. Edythe DuBarry from Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson
Edythe is surprisingly rounded character, despite the overall shallow tone of the novel. Instead of her friend Delysia's shame-faced harlot act, or Miss Pettigrew's poor attempts at morality, Edythe displays more levels than either woman. For starters, she's incredibly canny - she uses her feminine whiles to get herself married to an older man with a beauty parlour business, who soon fails to keep the pace and leaves her the parlour in his will. She then procures the recipe for an exotic, exclusive perfume from a Frenchman that puts her parlour on the map, thus setting herself up for life. She's always impeccably turned out, striking to look at, beautifully dressed - and yet, in her first appearance, she's vulnerable, desperate for advice and needing a friend. A strong, savvy woman who's not afraid to be a girl about it.

3. Gerald Samper from Cooking With Fernet Branca by James Hamilton
Gerald is possibly the campest, most deluded character I've ever come across. A sexually-ambiguous wannabe chef living in Tuscany, the sheer vanity of the man is astounding. He is pretentious, pompous, completely self-involved and utterly adorable. Being the kind of person who sings the wrong words to songs all the time, I can completely sympathise with his mistranslated opera arias; and as to his experimental cooking, well, who hasn't knocked something up in the kitchen that turned out to be disgusting? My mustard sauce on chicken drumsticks is becoming the stuff of family legend. To be as blissfully unaware as Gerry is, combined with his unbreakable self-confidence, would definitely make for an interesting day in the kitchen.

2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I'll be the first to admit it - this is hardly a surprise entry. But come on - she's witty, confident, has fine eyes and won't sacrifice her hopes and dreams for money; even though she has very few marriage prospects in a time when marriage was the only way out of her parents' house, she still refused to do a Charlotte and cave in to pressure by marrying the repulsive Mr Collins. Instead, she takes her chances on the vaguest possibility of marrying for love. She won't be bullied by Lady Catherine, or her mother, and to top it all off, she gets to marry Darcy.... phwooaaarrr. 

1. Titania the Fairy Queen from A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
I did wonder about this one, because she's from a play, not novel - but then I thought, screw it, it's my list, and I want to be her! I'm not really sure what her allure is - probably the fact that she's Queen of the Fairies (it's definitely not her weird night with Bottom the Donkey-Man) - but there's just something about her character that I love. She won't take any crap from Oberon, to the point she'd rather split up with him than give up a boy in her care, her last connection with a departed friend. She does lose a bit of her appeal when she speeds back to Oberon - even after his massively disproportionate revenge - but given that I've always wanted to say 'Fairies, skip hence!' without being thrown out of wherever I am for being weird, she narrowly makes it to the top spot.

So, if you ever discover a Jasper Fforde-esque way for getting into books, let me know - I've got a bunch of characters I'd like to spend time as!

(Note on the title: if you're not from the UK, or under the age of about 16, you may not know that Stars In Their Eyes was a mid-90's TV show in which people would be given a makeover to look like their favourite star, and then sing a song by them - essentially karaoke on telly. People who went on the show would always announce who they were going to impersonate by saying "Tonight, Matthew (the host), I'm going to be...."Hence, the title of this here entry).

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