April 03, 2009
There’s that age-old question: If you could be anyone in the world, real or fictional, who would you be?
I still don’t have an answer.
Maybe Jon Stewart or Wolverine.
LeBron James or Trey Parker.
I’ve been thinking about that question because I just read Susan Petrone’s first novel, A Body At Rest (Drinian Press). The two main characters, a couple of smart-ass women in Cleveland who up and quit their drink-slinging jobs, go on a road trip to Iowa to find some sort of meaning to their lives.
Martha and Nina are avid readers, and an impromptu stop-and-needling at a shady/magical tattoo parlor leads to both women changing into fictional literary characters: Martha turns into Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen’s Emma, and Nina changes into Don Quixote from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
And when I say they change into these fictional characters, I mean that their bodies morph physically and their personalities and speech begin to reflect those of Emma and Quixote.
Nina grows tall, old, thin, Spanish-looking.
She grows a penis.
Martha gets Emma’s hips, a British accent and a new-found attention from men.
Once the two women figure out what’s going on, they’re on a mission to reverse it. It’s a fun read, and not as chick-lit-y as you’d expect.
But it got me asking the question of what literary character – from my shelves – would I most want to magically turn into.
Not Alex from A Clockwork Orange. Too torturous on both ends.
Not Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces. (Sounds like that pyloric valve that keeps shutting really hurts.)
Not Frodo Baggins.
Not Captain Ahab.
Not Nick Carraway or Jay Gatsby.
Not Holden Caulfield, any of the animals from Animal Farm, Humbert Humbert or Randal Patrick McMurphy.
Definitely not Fiver from Watership Down.
I don’t think being a rabbit is as enjoyable as it is adorable.
Most heroic characters in literature are also tragic, often facing some terrible obstacle or twisted ending that you love reading about, but wouldn’t want to live through.
I kind of want to be 1984‘s Winston Smith, but I wouldn’t want his paranoia.
Maybe I’d choose Ralph from Lord of the Flies so I could live out this Lost fantasy I now have.
Atticus Finch would be a cool one to be.
Being Howard Roark from The Fountainhead would be great. His determination and unwillingness to compromise are two things to be admired for.
But after careful consideration and walking up and down my shelves with my hand tickling my chin, I think I’d decide on being Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’d get to work for the BBC, escape the destruction of Earth and then travel the galaxy in my house robe.
Sounds, and reads, pretty kick ass.
Who would you choose?