Good Reading : December / January 2007
DECEMBER 2006/JANUARY 2007 ı goodreading 19 reading life Hamlet and Horatio from Hamlet, Edgar and Kent from King Lear, Romeo and Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet, and Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing (‘I do love nothing in the world so well as you … is not that strange?’) all have their devotees. Even twisty-tongued Iago from Othello has his share of admirers. Lest you now feel guilty because your fictional heart-throb is not quite so highbrow, I hasten to reassure you that moder n men too feature as literary loves: Joe Morelli, tough-guy cop of the Stephanie Plum series, rates highly, as does Stephanie’s other beau Ranger. Also popular are PD James’s Adam Dalgliesh, Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s ‘The Outlander’ series, and, naturally enough, Mark Darcy from the Bridget Jones books. Science fiction and fantasy heroes rate highly, including not only Aragorn (and every other hero of The Lord of the Rings, espe- cially since the well-cast films), but also Sirius Black and the older Weasley boys from the Harry Potter series, and Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent from Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Vampires are typically bad-boy attractive, with Anne Rice’s creations and Laurel K Hamilton’s Jean-Claude from the ‘Anita Blake’ series mentioned often and fondly. But how is it possible to fall in love with a fictional character? Some authors set out to make sure you do – for example, Boris Akunin freely admits he created his detective character Erast Petrovich Fandorin for women to fall in love with. On the other hand, Anne Roiphe, author of a memoir of literary loves, For Rabbit, With Love and Squalor, claims that her crushes involve getting into the heads of men and lear n- ing about ‘the other’ rather than any Casanova qualities they might possess. She holds that crushes are a necessary part of reading. A strong romance between hero and heroine helps develop crushes – the way they talk to and think about each other can draw the reader to fall in love too. The book itself is a factor: it’s difficult to find a literary lover who does not also love the book their favourite appears in. A crush can depend on the time and place in which you first read the book, which is why one woman’s Rochester is another woman’s Darcy. But tastes can change. One woman reports she came early to a love for Great Expectations’s Pip. The affair soured as she grew older, sadly, and now she cannot bring herself to read Great Expectations again because she hates her ex. My own true love, beating both Aragorn and Darcy, is Dorothy L Sayers’s wonderful literary detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. What is it I love about Lord Peter? His affable English charm? His urbane wittiness? His monocle? His unflappable butler (unless the wine is shaken)? His gentleness with all women and his unwavering love for lucky Harriet Vane? Others may fall for the opium-addicted Sherlock Holmes, but for me, it’s Lord Peter, and I am not alone. Even Sayers fell a little in love with her own creation. There are plenty of crush-worthy fictional women for readers unenthused by heroes. I’m not the only one won over by detectives – Nancy Drew is highly popular in nostalgic circles, as is Trixie Belden. Some claim you cannot fail to fall n love with Natasha of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. All the Little Women, Eowyn of The Lord of the Rings, husky-voiced Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby, Dorothea of Middlemarch, Kitty of Anna Karenina, Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Shakespeare’s Cleopatra are also named as favourites. How do you know you’re in love? When you’re unusually happy to reach a scene with a particular aracter, and wonder when he or she will appear ain (or skim-read ahead just to find them). When u only read a new book by a favourite author a certain character is featured.When you flip rough an old favourite just to read a declaration f love you’ve read a hundred times before. Or, ust like in real life, when a character simply makes our heart beat a little faster. They are not felt or even understood by all eaders, but literary crushes prove that a character, an author, and a book have touched our hearts in a very real fashion. That’s why they are such special treats. Now, confess: who’s your secret literary crush? One woman reports she came early to a love for Great Expectations’s Pip. The affair soured as she grew older, sadly, and now she cannot bring herself to read the book again because she hates her ex.