Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fictional 100 - now what am I going to read?

I blogged about the first ten entries in Lucy Pollard-Gott's marvelous book of essays, The Fictional 100, back in September. Since then, I have been slowly making my way through the book. Reading it between major reading projects, reading it when I only had a short time (each essay is only 3-5 pages long), and reading it when I really had to know what Pollard-Gott thought about a character in a book I had just read.

I love the premise of the book--essays about who the author thinks are the literary characters who have had the most influence on society and culture--and I love the writing. So many times I found myself mentally nodding along with Pollard-Gott or feeling that rush of adreneline when the penny drops and I finally see why a character has resonated with me even when superficially we are light years apart.

I liked the essays best that were about characters I already knew about but perhaps didn't fully appreciate. One such one was Dorothy Gale, from The Wizard of Oz. I read the books as a kid, watched the movie on TV with my family umpteen times, introduced my kids to both the books and the movie, and even stopped to experience the Wizard of Oz museum in a little bitty town in Kansas when I saw the billboards announcing the place. I loved how Pollard-Gott showed how "Dorothy's adventures describe the arc of the archtypal 'hero's journey,' the kind of mythic quest documented in all its fascinating variety in Joseph Campbell's classic study, Hero with a Thousand Faces."

I also truly enjoyed her essays on Electra, Huckleberry Finn, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hester Prynne, Bigger Thomas, Sir John Falstaff, Tarzan, and Long John Silver.

I know this book will be a well-thumbed reference that I go back to as I reread classics and old popular favorites and it has really inspired me to branch out beyond my Anglo-American comfort zone and read literature from other cultures. I now have a reading list!

Visit Fictional 100's website where you can find more info and a list of books and other resources on many of the characters in the book.


  1. Thanks for the post-- this is a new title to me, but the idea sounds fascinating. I think I'll check it out.

  2. Sounds like a fascinating book - I'm adding it to my Amazon wishlist!

  3. This book sounds really good -- a great way to learn about new books and characters and to think about ones you already know in new ways. Fun!

  4. Hi there,

    This sounds like a tidy little reference to have to hand. I'm going to look into it. Thanks for chatting about it.

  5. Sounds like a must-read for all book lovers. I think I'll have to give this as a gift idea to my mom--I might be able to convince her to buy me a book this way!