Saturday, March 05, 2005

Favourite Characters

To celebrate World Book Day, the Independent asked 100 "literary luminaries" (love the term!) who their favourite characters in literature are. You can read their answers here.

Who would you choose?

I'd have to toss a coin to decide between Mr. Petulengro in George Borrow's Lavengro and The Romany Rye (very much overlooked Victorian classics - Borrow was the writer of the original "road" novel), and the eponymous Captain Corelli, created of course by Louis de Bernieres. Lost my heart to the both of them - they charmed, they made me laugh. What more do you want in a man?

Fell in love with a couple of Paul Bailey's characters when I gobbled down as many of his books as possible pre-Litfest last year. Gabriel in Gabriel's Lament and Steven the young rentboy in Sugar Cane (it's sequel).

"Don't you think Gabriel's a bit of a wimp?" Paul asked me when we were talking about his book during one of our (several) bar propping sessions "Most readers do."

I was a bit miffed that the author didn't feel like defending his protagonist. Okay, so Gabriel is a cross-dresser and can't get turned on unless he's wearing a woman's frock. But he's a survivor, coping heroically with his monster of a father and his mother's mysterious disappearance. I love his gentle, almost feminine strength and dogged determination. And the guy can cook up a storm ...

Paul then started telling me about the real-life guy he based the character of Gabriel on. And do you know - I felt terribly divided in my loyalties. The writer part of me was fascinated to see the idea for the character had come from and flattered that his creator would reveal inside information. The reader part of me was absolutely appalled - I didn't want my belief in the character to be undermined ... even by the author!

And had the oddest feeling that Gabriel existed somewhere quite independent of this author who claimed ownership ...

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