So moving on with this, the challenge has shifted to characters for today rather than novels with the challenge to find
A literary character you want to have dinner (or drinks) with.
Can I not just ask for all of them? Not together. Obviously. I don’t have enough chairs!
It’s my blog and my rules, so let’s just settle on a top ten, perhaps?
But what do I want from a dinner guest, anyway? I’d want conversation and good humour and wit. I’d want fun! But also someone who would challenge my point of view. Who had a wide experience of the world… and possibly its less salubrious elements.
So let’s consider some wide travellers.
Cyril Avery from The Heart’s Invisible Furies would be on the list: his journeys around Europe and America, and more importantly his personal journey in the novel would make him a fascinating chap to talk to. And, for that matter, most of the cast of that novel! Even Cyril Two.
George Washington Black from Washington Black, a novel I still need to find time to review, by Esi Edugyan. His journey from slavery in the West Indies to flight to the frozen Arctic, to emancipation in America and England and his adventures along the way were fantastic – if perhaps a little fantastical!
On a similar vein, perhaps Viktor Frankenstein – although I am principally selecting him because the mention of the Arctic prompted me! Again, it would be the breadth of his travel and experience which would appeal – what other stories does the man hold beyond the creation? But equally, his creation would be an – unexpectedly eloquent if you’d not read the novel – interesting guest and on reflection perhaps more interesting than his creator! Not sure I’d want to share a dinner table with them together! Of the two, I think I’d actually go for the creature, Adam.
Moving on from Frankenstein, thinkers in general would be a stimulating conversationalists. Hamlet would stand eminent amongst those, although I wonder whether anyone would be able to get a word in edgeways! And we might still be waiting for him to decide on his starter whilst we finish our dessert.
Similarly, Sherlock Holmes would either provoke great conversation or cause huge offense. Either way, it would make for a memorable dinner party! And there is always the chance that he may actually look like Benedict Cumberbatch!
That accounts for five places already, and there is a dearth of women on the list. Does this say more about me or about the historically misogynistic and patriarchal literary world? If we consider women, then I think Mrs Havisham from Great Expectations would be fascinating … although I may object to the mouldering wedding dress!
But she is such a walking cliche! Let’s invite some more modern ladies!
Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy – the eponymous Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – and Beatrice from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing would both hold their own in a chat with Sherlock Holmes! Witty, piercingly intelligent, independent and just a touch dangerous!
And finally, lets turn to a couple of raconteurs and fantasists, weavers of tales of wonder and – in more tedious terminology – unreliable narrators.
I’d start by inviting one of those characters who I’ve not re-read for years but who has inhabited and lived on in my mind ever since I first stumbled across him. Peer Gynt by Ibsen skirting the boundaries of fantasy, invention, mythology, history and social satire. Watching The Greatest Showman as I type, there are elements of Peer Gynt in the character of P. T. Barnum – as imagined by Hugh Jackman – spinning yarns from the air and fortunes from fantasy.
And finally, whilst there are so many many more to choose from, I’m going to call on The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair from Susanna Clarke’s gorgeous Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. A direct descendant of Rumpelstiltskin and Shakespeare’s Puck and other dangerously alien elfin figures in literature, his form of caprice was wonderful in the novel.
And now I fret that there’s no one from Pratchett in the list. So I’m going to hang my own arbitrary decision to stop at a list of ten and add one more – not that it’s easy from his pantheon: Moist von Lipwick? Lord Vetinari? Sam Vimes? But, no, my first encounter with Discworld took place in the the mountains of Lancre and amid all the competing voices, we’d need someone grounded and authoritative. So my final guest would be Granny Weatherwax.
“A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.”Wintersmith