And now we move on to Part II. Here you will find no classic literature, because I am a very pedestrian fan of books, more attracted to children’s lit and popular novelists than Dickensian moppets or Austen’s pre-feminist ilk. Even so, I think you’ll find some much loved, highly regarded characters here, and maybe a surprise or two along the way.
Guert Affenlight, The Art of Fielding
“So much of one’s life was spent reading; it made sense not to do it alone.”
The Art of Fielding contains a whole host of characters worth appreciating, but there are none I love more than Affenlight, the president of Westish College, where the bulk of the novel takes place. Affenlight is a man of 60 with a life of scholarship behind him who falls quite unexpectedly in love with someone he certainly shouldn’t, and the book explores how much unexpected sense their relationship makes. Simultaneously, it examines his relationship with his daughter, such that you get a feel of how strange, maddening, and wonderful fatherhood can be. Affenlight is one of the more sympathetic characters I’ve come across. Even though his romance is doomed, you’re rooting for him to the very end, something I do so rarely for book characters.
Tucker Crowe, Juliet, Naked
“We get together with people because they are the same or because they are different. And in the end, we split with them for exactly the same reasons.”
I’ve probably never mentioned it here, but Juliet, Naked is my favorite novel, and Tucker, a former rock star with an undying cult following, is my favorite character. Tucker is at a point in his life where he’s meeting all the children he’s fathered and beginning to foster relationships with each of them, a strange situation to be in no matter who you are. Simultaneously, he’s raising a son, corresponding with an oddly compelling stranger who lives a world away, and attempting to live in obscurity so as to avoid the aforementioned cult following. The normalcy of his existence is peppered with the weirdness of being reminded of his former overactive fertility and the possibility of taking up with Annie, the American stranger. Not a remarkable man by any means, Tucker is appealing in his relatively mundane character, and I would have it no other way.
Sunny Baudelaire, A Series of Unfortunate Events
“‘Godot,’ said Sunny, which meant, “We don’t know where we are or where we’re going.”
I’ve studied this series extensively (that’s not a joke, either), and there is nothing about it that isn’t appealing, from the basic premise (orphans run into a variety of tragic situations as the extremely unreliable narrator comments on how you really shouldn’t be reading such a sad tome) to the bizarre characters the orphans meet along the way. My favorite part, though, is still Sunny Baudelaire, a baby whose utterances, when translated, make more sense than anything else anyone is saying. She’s forever referencing literature and other languages or simply boiling down the situation the orphans find themselves in such that it makes sense to her older siblings, who can inexplicably understand her words. And it’s delightful every time.
Severus Snape, the Harry Potter series
“You were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a fan of the Harry Potter series, and there’s no character I love quite as much as Professor Snape, former Death Eater and one of Dumbledore’s closest companions. This is a man who is willing to do the unthinkable for his cause, and when it is finally revealed in one of the series’ final chapters what that cause is, he becomes so much more than the needlessly cruel man Harry comes to know in and out of the classroom. Everything he ever did after his stint on the dark side, all the way up to killing one of the series’ undisputed heroes, was for a greater purpose, quite possibly the greatest. Deeply flawed and more complex than perhaps any other character in children’s literature, Snape is one of my all time favorites, not just in books, but in entertainment.