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Booking Through Thursday | Quirky

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This week’s question is suggested by (blogless) JMutford:

Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?

Quirky means eclectic to me. I’m an eclectic reader and therefore I have quirky tastes in reading. If reading is a long journey, I’m definitely taking the road less traveled. Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate a conventional story with a plot and the usual character development, but sometimes an outrageous, unreliable, inimical, annoying character can spice up the whole story. Just think about how boring a movie would be without a bad guy, or somebody who possesses an ulterior motive.

An outrageously dishonest character would be Axel Vander from Shroud by John Banville. He identifies himself as a masterly liar who lies about almost everything, even when there is no need and even when the plain truth will be so much more effective in maintaining the pretense. I will not be surprised at his unreliable narration, shameless boasting and impudent lies as he spatters out the tale of his life.

Equally quirky, but also unbelievable is the cat Behemoth from The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Behemoth is an enormous (said to be as large as a hog) black cat, capable of standing on two legs and talking. He has a penchant for chess, vodka and pistols. In Russian, Behemoth is “Begemot”, the word itself means hippopotamus in Russian as well as the Biblical creature. The cat is a member of a foreign professor’s retinue who is in Moscow to present a performance of black magic and then expose its machinations. This foreigner, known as Woland, is Satan in disguise.

Nurse Ratched from One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey has over the years has welded an insurmountable power over the ward that even the doctor is rendered frightened, desperate and ineffectual. She has no need to accuse or to enforce obedience because all it takes to maintain that tight grip of power is insinuation, which allows her to force the trembling libido out of everyone without an effort. It’s so much fun to see how McMurphy resolves to oppose her every step of the way and raises the racket in her ward.


7 Responses

  1. Loved Behemoth. I hadn’t thought in terms of ulterior motive, or I should have remembered Steerpike in Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy. In the first book he’s definitely attractive as well as untrustworthy.

  2. I’m also fond of Behemoth; certainly one of the most singular and quirky characters of any novel I’ve read. A favorite pair are the enraptured Mr. Collins and the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice. Dickens abounds with such characters. Abel Magwich and Miss Havisham from Great Expectations come to mind immediately, and Harold Skimpole from Bleak House is also worth a mention.

  3. Geranium Cat:
    Also the unreliable narrator of When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro. He was very attractive but untrustworthy.

    Greg S:
    Not to mention Dickens has some of the most queer names for his characters.

  4. Most interesting suggestions. I have read John Banville’s trilogy and the recent The Sea, which I very much enjoy his description of the seaside town. I must have overlooked The Shroud, which sounds like an interesting book narrated by a liar! Your mention of Ken Kesey’s book brings back those hilarious scenes in the film. It’s one of those books that everyone was reading back in the 60s.

  5. John:
    You won’t be disappointed at Shroud, although it might be somewhat of a strenuous read at the beginning.

  6. […] bookmarks tagged impudent Booking Through Thursday | Quirky saved by 5 others     kanookle bookmarked on 02/05/08 | […]

  7. Funny people make a tag out of everything. 🙂

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