Tuesday, October 15, 2013


When I am near the end of a book, I have to sleep in the same room with it."  Joan Didion.

Yep. Me too.

Books are the bridges that pass me over. I dip in whenever I feel unsure or wary, happy or sad. I just want a book near me. And when I am at the end, I carry them around with me like security blankets. I hate letting go of characters that I love.

Right now, I am unsettled and uneasy. And it's over something so silly. We have this beautiful picture window that looks out over our back yard. I have adored this window since the day I walked through the house. It is old fashioned and beautiful, with thick beveled glass and adorned on each side with tiny squares of glass all lined up. The window was put in with the house in 1918. A few weeks ago, Bing brought my attention to the fact that it was slipping. The glass. The sill on the bottom was rotting out and the window was beginning to slide down. She informed me that we needed to put in a new window sooner rather than later.

"Do you really want to hear a big crash during a February blizzard and have that window in our back yard?"she asked.

Well, no. Of course not. But, I don't want one of those new ugly picture windows either. So we went on a quest to find not only the perfect window, but someone to put it in. We finally found one that pleased both of us. Well, her more than me. She wanted this modern monstrosity that was just plain ugly but energy efficient. I wanted something pretty.

She hired the friend of a friend and he will begin tomorrow to measure the window and get everything ordered. Depending on when the window gets in, we will have it up by Thanksgiving.

So, I am unsettled. And glad for my books. I like to be able to drift away. With Mr. Darcy, preferably.

But thinking about books makes me think of characters in books that have become my friends, my book friends. And they are almost as real to me as my actual ones.

Let's see....

There is Holden Caulfield. He was one of the first characters that I hated to let go of. I read The Catcher In The Rye as a freshman in high school and have read it at least ten more times since then. Every reading, I like him more. I love his vulgar wit and his tired adolescent musing. I love almost everything about him. His honest ambiguity, his fear masked by boldness. I want to make him some soup for dinner and listen to him talk.

Atticus Finch of To Kill A Mockingbird. The first man in literature who made me ache for my Da.

Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany's. I wanted to go to her parties and go for a walk and have a long talk after, sharing our thoughts on how it all went. I want to link arms with her and sing about us being huckleberry friends, Moon River and me.

Scarlett O'Hara. Some people find her to be exasperating. She is the person I want to be with if there is a zombie apocalypse. Scarlett has moxie and she's not afraid to use her beauty to get what she wants and then she absolutely refuses to feel guilty about it. I think she and I would have at least tolerated each other well. Scarlett wasn't one for women friends, but give me her over that mealy mouthed, long suffering Melanie any day!

Winnie The Pooh. How can I not love him? He was always getting into trouble, always seeking out friends to help him and couldn't resist honey.

Toad from The Wind in the Willows.
I loved his attachment to routine and grounded self. When I first read this book to my daughter when she was in kindergarten, we both agreed that Toad was a good friend. The older I get, the more I identify with him.

The Cat in the Hat. A total anarchist. A rapscallion. And I LOVE it that he makes that sanctimonious fish's life miserable.

Jean Brodie. The first time that I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, I wanted to be one of her girls SO bad. I loved her refusal to settle for anything less than romantic.

Antonia Shimerda from My Antonia. Being a prairie girl myself, I am drawn to her stoicism and determination. She doesn't have Scarlett O'Hara's flash, but she's another one that I want on my team during the zombie invasion.

Charlotte from Charlotte's Web. Reading this book to my daughter was a much different experience than when I read it as a child. When I read this to my daughter, I was older and wiser and realized just what it costs sometimes to be a good friend.

Frankie Addams from The Member of the Wedding. God, I love her. So spirited. So hungry to live.

Harry Potter. And Hermione Granger. And Ron. And Dumbledore. And Snape. Such a gift of good characters in those novels. Honor and friendship and bravery and humanity.

Celie from The Color Purple. She may at first seem to be a strange pick as a heroine, but I loved the way she loved Shug, the way that loving her gave her the strength to stand up to Pa.

Elizabeth Bennett. Two words: Mr. Darcy. Enough said.

Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings series. Droll and majestic and loving and stern and a dichotomy of turns and twists.

Anne of Green Gables. When I read those books, I pined for red hair.

Fagin from Oliver Twist. Admit it. Didn't it kill you when he goes to prison at the end?

Anne Elliot of Persuasion. Not Austen's most intriguing heroine, but someone to be admired. Patient. Gentle. Wise. All the things I would like to be more of.

Jane Eyre. I loved the way she just got down to business, tore that wallpaper right off the day and got to work with an eye for justice and simply doing what was right.

Katniss Everdeen and Rue from The Hunger Games. Another set that would be part of my zombie fighting team. I loved Katniss' devotion to her family and refusal to be someone she wasn't. I loved Rue for all the same reasons, even though she wasn't as lucky.

Hester Prynne. She survives with dignity everything that is thrown at her. She's an interesting mix of bad and beautiful, holy and sinful. She is everywoman.

And last but not least, Eowyn of The Lord of the Rings. My favorite line of hers: "No living man can kill me." You go, sista.

So, tell me...who are the characters that stick to your ribs?


Optimistic Existentialist said...

It's really amazing how characters in books can resonate with us isn't it? It's as if we get to know them :)

Steph Lovelady said...

I love that you have your zombie apocalypse team all picked.

My Antonia used to be a very important book for me, but then my dissertation committee spoiled it for me. Long story, so I'll give you just a couple others.

Elaine from Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye for the way she goes from wounded to whole.
Leopold Bloom in Ulysses for the way he makes the best of so many heart-breaking situations in his life

Annemarie of Holland said...

Joe Gillayley in The Bone People by Keri Hulme. I always feel so sorry for him, trying to bring up a mute child that is not his, that came out of nowhere with no past, and failing in so many ways while at the same time wanting only to do good. The Bone People is the book I keep reading over and over again.

Joanne Noragon said...

You've quite covered them, except Fagin. He didn't go to prison soon enough.

I'd add Laura Ingalls. Read from adult eyes, the books are a story of grit and survival. I can only think that when the trains came through after the long winter, the engineers were looking at walking skeletons.

Bibliomama said...

Hugs to Steph for tipping me off to this post, and this blog. As for my answer, I think I must mull. My most recent reading has been full of people I never want to see again, and it's getting in the way.

ChiTown Girl said...

Awww...isn't there a way to save the old window? Maybe just reframe the existing panes? I'm sure you already thought of that, but it makes me sad that you have to give up your window. :(

Anonymous said...

I've been an avid reader all my life, yet I was baffled to see how many of the books you listed I've never read! Ok, part of that is that I just can't stand Jane Austen. I am profoundly annoyed by the cristallisation in her stories and characters and I just can't seem to deal with all that prim and proper but OH SO REBELLIOUS shtick the heroines often have.

But I love the idea of sharing what characters have stayed with us over the years, so here are mine.

Leto II, Paul, Chani, Jessica, Murbella and, above all, Darwi Odrade from the Dune saga. I re-read all the books every year and I still discover new layers and learn to love the characters more deeply. They are magnificent and "burdened with glorious purpose" and yet the falter and flail and betray and have to find their humanity and make such sacrifices.

Katniss Everdeen. I almost never read contemporary literature but somehow got sucked into The Hunger Games. I think they are really powerful, intelligent books. And Katniss, well, it's beautiful to see her find her strength. I really didn't want to leave her at the end of the trilogy. And I cried so much when Rue met her fate.

The women of Valley of the Dolls. Such poignant, tragic and yet beautiful characters and fates. I'm nearing the end of the book and I can't bear the thought of saying goodbye.

Romeo and Juliet. The epitomy of what it feels to seriously fall in love when you're young. Still my favourite play of old Bill. I'm not young anymore but I can still connect to their passion when I read the play.

Catherine from A View from the Bridge. She was one of the first characters that made me feel how difficult it is to emancipate yourself but how important too.

Ana from Real Women Have Curves. She's both a realist and a dreamer. She wants education because she knows it's her ticket to a better life but she refuses to give up on her dreams of becoming a writer. I actually played her on stage once and met the author (on whom the character is based) and was blown away by her strength and grace. I'll never forget that.

There are more, but this is a comment after all and I've already written quite a bit! Thanks for this cool question :)


ps: I now show up as nyota0uhura (my Wordpress username) instead of my usual Anna Rudschies, due to something new in your identification section in the comments. But it's still me!

e said...

I'm sorry to hear about your window. Have you heard of this product called Indow Windows? They are like storm windows that go on the inside. I'd be upset about losing my beautiful but drafty windows...

I love your character selections. I'll have to ponder mine. I do have one quibble, though. Eowyn doesn't say that no living man can kill her. The ringwraith says that and she says, "I am no living man!" and the stabs him. Love her. She is so much better in the books than the movies. More tragic, more regal, less love-struck teenager.


John Wooldridge said...

Bigwig in watership down.....strong, simple, deep and loyal. Yes he's a rabbit but what the hell, he hits a nerve for this here caveman.


Karen M. Peterson said...

One of my very favorite characters is Sam Gamgee. I love his loyalty and the lengths he will go to in order to help his friends.