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January 4th, 2006

Characters to Like

So, I'm reading THE SEA, by John Banville. (It caused some controversy because it won the Booker last year, despite several readers believing that it wasn't as good as other books nominated for the prize.) It's a short, literary book narrated by an alone (and sometimes lonely) old man, looking back at his life and loves.

In other words, it's the same book - in summary - as GILEAD, by Marilynne Robinson.

Except, it's totally different. The old man in GILEAD was likeable. The reader understood how and why he reacted the way that he did. He was *different* from many readers (especially this one), but he was the sort of person you wanted to spend time with.

THE SEA's old man (gee, there's a book title in there somewhere) is not likeable. He is lustful. He is vain. He is judgmental. Now, he *is* honest. And he deserves pity. And he turns a phrase beautifully, often using vocabulary that has me reaching for the dictionary. I look forward to finishing the book - it's been an enriching read so far.

But it's made me think.

I have a trunk novel, CODE OF THE DRAGON. I believe that it needs some character adjustment - the main character has great motivations, but he's not likeable. And I'm seeing, first-hand, in award-winning literature, just how the likeability factor plays out.

Mindy, who doesn't believe you have to like all characters, but...

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