Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that?"

Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”
Claire Messud--and several other writers--respond to the question, "Would you want to be friends with the characters you write about?"


Brittany said...

Hm. I have a very soft spot for J. Alfred Prufrock. I would kiss him on his bald spot.

Christopher said...

You would dare?

Brittany said...

I would dare to disturb his universe ;)

I have so much sympathy for Prufrock! This year I had a stroke of inspiration, and I had my AP students create a character who writes a blog about their day-to-day using at least 7 lines from TLSOJAP and they were all brilliant and captured everything I kind of love about high schoolers. They are so self-conscious and awkward and nervous when they're not pretending to be grown ups who know it all.