Posts Tagged With: books are uniquely portable magic

all time favorite literary charaters

I hate New Yorkers

Thing C posted this to my facebook wall Friday afternoon. We share a strong common love for The Great Gatsby. We talked about the post at breakfast Saturday morning. I remarked that it’s funny and sad because it’s true. He agreed, especially the I hate New Yorkers part. We laughed that Nick was all, “bye Felicia” to New York to go home to the midwest.

Nick Carraway, without a doubt, is one of my all time favorite literary characters.

Actually, this reminds me of a question from the “Proust Questionnaire”: Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Here is my answer: Nick Carraway, Katherine Minola (from Taming of the Shrew), Colonel Christopher Brandon, Princess Elizabeth (from The Paper Bag Princess), Kate Cummings (from The Secret of the Strawbridge Place), and Ron Weasley.

My love for Nick Carraway began when I first read Gatsby in American Lit my junior year of high school. I’m acutely aware that there is many a Nick Carraway character analysis out there in the world. But what I love about him is that he’s hopeful, but realistically so. Not like Gatsby with the unattainable green dock light. Nick is at once involved in the shenanigans yet remains apart from it. He understands what he sees and isn’t blinded by all the gilt trappings. He understood that though Gatsby was doomed, because he would never be able to relive the past, his intentions were pure.
One of my favorite lines is this one about the Buchanans: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Katherine is less shrew than misunderstood. It’s rather obvious her younger sister is her father’s favorite. It’s rather obvious he takes no interest in Katherine other than to wonder why she’s not more like her precious sister. Being big sister is not easy…especially when you have a parent that constantly pits you against each other.
That would make me bitchy too.
She’s also more savvy than most of the men in the story…that’s surely irritating! She has to be married off to one of these idiots? Again I say, that would make me bitchy too.
(disregarding all the ploys to get to Bianca)
Enter Petruchio.
He’s her match in every single way. And throughout all his “mistreatment” of her she never truly loses herself. She tricks him into believing he “tames” her.
The love and respect between Katherine and Petruchio is real.
And finally when they return to Padua for her sister’s wedding she can use her true voice and is respected for it. “Fie, fie! Unknit that threat’ning unkind brow. And dart not scornful glances from those eyes.”
It’s all a matter of how you’re perceived.

Colonel Brandon is so much more than he initially appears. He seems so quiet and not terribly interesting at first glance. But as we spend more time with him we learn that his integrity is the hallmark of his character. He has great capacity for love. He has great patience and his kindness is overwhelming. I love his friendship with the Dashwood ladies. Especially his love for Marianne. She learns to appreciate the strength and sincerity of his love.
When he and Elinor are discussing Marianne’s “immature” romantic notions and he disagrees with Elinor that Marianne should “wise up”, he says: “When the romantic refinements of a young mind are obliged to give way, how frequently are they succeeded by such opinions as are but too common and too dangerous!”
How precious is this man?

The Paper Bag Princess is a children’s book by Robert Munsch. A favorite of my girls when they were little, so much so that when invited to a come-as-your-favorite-princess birthday party Thing 1 went as this spunky princess.
Princess Elizabeth is set to marry a prince called Ronald, but a dragon comes and burns down her castle and kidnaps her betrothed. Does Elizabeth give up? Absolutely not! She dons a paper bag and sets out to save Ronald.
She’s a “can-do” kind of girl. She’s all about being the hero of her own story.
Girl Power!
Here’s a cute reading:

Kate Cummings is a girl growing up in Ohio during the depression. She is smart and spunky. Kate is brave and loyal. She has so much heart. This girl is passionate about everything she does from reading Sherlock Holmes to learning how to do the breast stroke. She loses her patience when tested, but never her kindness.
Kate and her friend Oscar spend their summer searching for the secret of the farm where she lives, the old Strawbridge Place. It’s rumored to have been somehow connected to the Underground Railroad. Their summer is an adventure which changes both their family’s lives.
I met the author when I was nine years old. She inscribed this book and it’s “sequel” to me. It’s in my top twenty favorite books of all time.
Kate is a hero but she’s also just a regular girl.
Kind of like:

Ron Weasley is best known as the redhaired sidekick of boy wonder, Harry Potter. Now I adore Harry, but Ron is my absolute favorite character from that series. Even more than Sirius Black, and I freaking LOVE him! Ron is stalwart and true. He is a fierce friend who would never betray the trust of his friends. He’s much brighter than he receives credit for…especially when Hermione is always flexing her brain.
Ron understands the importance of family, and this goes beyond the other Weasleys. He’s a pureblood without the bigotry that’s occasionally associated with being such.
Ron stood up to “notorious mass murderer Sirius Black” with a broken leg to protect Harry and Hermione. Ron wasn’t afraid to make sacrifices for the good of others, even at the age of eleven when he climbed on the horse on the giant chessboard.
I love Ron’s sense of humor. I love his loyalty. I love that he’s not starstruck by Harry, he just befriends him. He’s flawed, that’s for sure. He’s occasionally jealous of the attention Harry gets. He struggles with his personal insecurities but never waivers. Even when he leaves during the never ending camping trip, his loyalty never waivers.
Book Ron is better than movie Ron. Only because something was lost from page to screen.
Weasley is our King!

Who are some of your favorite literary characters?
Please share in the comments.

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food for the soul

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once said: There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

I believe this with an unparalleled fierceness.
I tell all parents of young children this is my philosophy of child rearing: First you feed a child with food, then with books, then you worry about whether or not their shoes fit.
If you could see the looks on their faces. They have that initial moment of WTF? but then I see their eyes widen as they begin to understand how this makes some kind of sense.

I believe this principle applies to grownups too.
You ever been to someone’s home and find no books and feel like there is something so completely wrong with that? I don’t trust a person who doesn’t read.
I love to explore what other people have on their shelves.
We all know that someone who has books on the shelf for show, you know damn well that person doesn’t read them, they’re there lined up like little soldiers just to impress.
If you looked at my bookshelves, the majority of the books are either children’s books or biographies. Of course there are other things mixed in, adult fiction and textbooks, even some pretty amazing nonfiction too.

We must eat food to sustain our physical lives.
But books are food too. Soul food.
They feed our imagination. They feed us inspiration. They feed us information. They feed us laughter and love and tears. They feed us fear and loathing. They feed us when food isn’t what we need to ingest.

When Thing 2 was a small girl, we were waiting at the doctors office. I was reading and she was reading. She had just begun to read “proper” books, and was reading her first chapter book. It was the first time I didn’t read to her as we waited somewhere. It was the first time I read my book and she read hers. When the realization washed over me I began to cry.
After a big breath, I said to her: You’ve given yourself the best gift you’ll ever receive.
She looked at me from behind her coke-bottle glasses with confusion. I indicated the book.
She said: You gave me this book.
I said: Yes I did, but you learned to read it. And from now on you’ll be able to read anything you want. What a wonderful gift you gave to yourself!
She thought about this for a moment and then gave that jack-o-lantern smile (She was missing three teeth at the time.) and said: You’re right!

Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 love books. And shoes. They’ve been influenced by my parenting philosophy quite literally. (There’s a trees and two apples and never are they terribly far apart.)
I know that they will pass on their love of books to their children, and their nieces and nephews, and one day, their children’s children.

This quote has been attributed to Stephen King: Books are uniquely portable magic.
And they feed the soul.

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