Thursday, March 11, 2010

More Swedish Mystery

Day 30 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project.

Jo is now reading The Inner Circle, by Mari Jungstedt, set on Gotland, an island off Sweden. It is an Inspector Anders Knutas mystery, and, as it is the third in a series, I have to assume she is reading it because she read the first two!! And also, as she told me, because she is interested in the location, the research, the history--it's about an archaeological dig.

Julie, who discovered she liked A. S. Byatt by reading Possession, is now reading Byatt's The Game, a book about sisters. She found it at Babbitt's, where we also found some of the books in Byatt's trilogy that begins with The Virgin in the Garden. Still Life is my favorite in that trilogy, also, at first, about sisters.... The trilogy "ended" with Babel Tower...but then resumed with a fourth book, A Whistling Woman, which I mentioned here earlier as I'd passed it on to my dad, who is writing a novel, and he has now passed on to me the novel Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, which, I take it, is his preferred novel "model."

I've heard lots of stories about writers not being able to let go of certain characters, coming back to them in later books. Likewise, I've heard about readers not being able to let go of certain characters, and demanding that writers bring them back....sometimes back from the dead!

Where do you stand on reviving characters for later works?


Mike Peterson said...

Kathleen: I'm against bringing back characters, especially from the dead! Think of Ishmael, living a life with Ahab- now in anger management. Or Styron's Sophie's Z., no longer a victim of murder-suicide, coming back to a life she cannot stand, where she has previously said, "Fuck God!" Won't she be pleased? Characters die for a reason, or they should have. No author kills them for play. "Sophie's Choice" is my favourite book, but I'd be angry if she were brought back. She's dead and the sadness of that is what makes the book so great. Besides, Styron's dead too.

Kathleen said...

Ah, Mike! Funny & dark at once. Indeed, in so-called literary fiction a character's death is usually crucial to the whole work, isn't it.

But I have heard of writers killing off a character in a series--say, a detective--so they could be done with that series, and the readers complaining!! Sort of like a soap opera and its little miracles.

Anonymous said...

The revival of characters for subsequent works has a long and honored history.

If we turn to Shakespeare, we have Falstaff revived for "The Merry Wives of Windsor." (Brought back at the request of Queen Elizabeth, if the legends are true.)

If we turn to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, we have Sherlock Holmes (initially revived in a "reminiscence" - in essence a "hitherto untold story" of an adventure preceding the affair at Reichenbach Falls - and then brought back full blown in the "Adventure of the Empty House"). Admittedly, as was remarked by someone at the time, he may have been revived, but he was never quite the same man after that. Doyle was tired of the character, but his readers weren't (nor was his Mother).

Then, for a modern take on things, we have "Juliet in Mantua" by Robert Nathan. (I remember loving the quirky telling of Romeo and Juliet's life after their exit, stage left, from Verona, when I read it once upon a time, back before I sat through five or six performances of "Twelfth Night." Another story in which the - apparently - dead return.)

Nowadays, though, the death of an author is no bar to the on-going appearance of works bearing their names. Sometimes an homage works - sometimes it doesn't. Some of the post-Doyle sequels were dreadful. (I wrote a particularly horrid one myself years ago.) Adrian Conan Doyle's were mediocre. Nicholas Meyer's "Seven Percent Solution" was an acceptable pastiche. August Derleth's Adventures of Solar Pons were a series that I would describe as a kindly homage. Robert L. Fish's "Schlock Homes" were a wicked send-up.

So, a resurrected character can be charming - awful - funny - or just awkward.

As for me, I'm re-reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, again. From elements within it, I speculate that Lisbeth Salander's twin sister probably would have appeared in one or more of the subsequent stories. (Just like in a soap opera!)

But the ones we have are the ones we'll get, I'm afraid.


Kathleen said...

Bob, we have a lot of August Derleth at Babbitt's!

It's also fun to find a minor character in one novel turn up as a major character in another novel.