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“And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like…”

My last few posts have been about some pretty serious issues – solvency, sustainability, regulation. And I’ve received exactly zero comments from readers on them. So I think it’s time to check and see if anyone is out there and willing to go on record about something that really matters:  favorite fictional characters. After all, it’s summer and time to start thinking about beach reading. Here’s my list from literature, stage, screen – and cartoons. It’s purely personal and influenced entirely by my own tastes and life experiences. I hope you’ll add your own favorites to the list…

10. Lisbeth Sander (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) – Just one of the wildest protagonists ever created. Brilliant, scarred, compassionate, ruthless. Made me want to start reading novels again after years of being a “non-fiction only” person.
cowardly lion

9. Cowardly Lion (“Wizard of Oz”) – I never missed watching this movie on TV when I was a kid. It came on every year about Easter time. The flying monkeys scared the hell out of me, but Burt Lahr as the Cowardly Lion (“Put ‘em up, put ‘em up!”) made me laugh every time.

8. Viola (“12th Night”) – How can you have a “literary favorites” list without a Shakespearian character? And Viola – the stranded stowaway from “12th Night” – tops mine. I saw the play most recently in an open air theatre in Spring Grove, Wis., – and I’m ready for a return trip to that venue this summer.

7. Doc Ricketts (“Cannery Row”) – I grew up in Steinbeck country and spent lots of time on Cannery Row. I just felt a connection to Doc and the cast of woebegone characters in that novel. I read it for the first time when I was about 21 years old and writing this reminds me that it’s about time for a re-read.

6. Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse) – Professor Maurie McCutcheon of the University of the Pacific taught a class entitled “Literary Humor” during my sophomore year. He was the perfect instructor for one of the funniest writers (Wodehouse) and one of the most hysterical characters (Jeeves) of all time. Thank God for the British.

5. Bullwinkle (“Rocky and Bullwinkle”) – When I was a kid, Bullwinkle was broadcast on Sunday mornings after Mass. I would make my mom race home so I could watch it.  Ten bonus points for anyone who can name Bullwinkle’s home town and his alma mater. Twenty bonus points to anyone who sends me a T-shirt with the school’s name on it!

4. Holden Caufield (“Catcher in the Rye”) – Salinger rocked my world when I first read this book in 1974 and still does so today. ‘Nuf said.

3. George and Lenny (“Of Mice and Men”) – I know, I know, more Steinbeck characters. But I can’t leave them off my list and you can’t have George without Lenny. “Tell me again, George, about the land of milk and honey.” Touching, moving, sad, inspiring.

2. Atticus Finch (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) – I loved the character in the book (also read for the first time at about 17 years old) and Gregory Peck’s portrayal in the movie goes down as one of my favorite all time performances. Atticus represents the hope that we can be the person we aspire to be, even if we sometimes fall short.

1. Randall P. McMurphy (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) — An assist has to go to juicy fruit“Chief” on this, but Ken Kesey’s character in the novel and Jack Nicholson’s performance in the film moved me. The World Series broadcast, the fishing trip, the effort to rip up the standing sink and be free (“At least I tried…”) are so comical, powerful, human. My favorite line? “Mmmmm…Juicy Fruit.”

14 Responses

  1. Recently saw To Kill a Mockingbird (again). As moving as the first time I saw it. Would highly recommend Josh Wedon’s Much Ado about Nothing that’s available on now Netflix streaming. Modern setting, wonderfully done. Actors you will recognize.

  2. Rocky and Bullwinkle live in the town of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. The population of Frostbite Falls is variously given as 23, 48, 29, 31.5 and 4001 over the course of the series.

    Bullwinkle is originally from the state is Moosylvania, a small island in the Lake of the Woods, and is actually its governor.

    no points,
    gotta love google


  3. The Bullwinkle answers are Frostbite Falls, MN and Wassamotta U. I wish I could have chimed in on some literary master piece but cartoons were my specialty.

    • As an Italian, you’d think I’d be offended by the school name, but it’s so funny I can’t be!

  4. Andy Dufresne from Shawshank Redemption for perseverance and lesson to be optimistic when thing get tough.

    • Andy was #11 on my list. One of my favorite movies — and based on a Steven King short story. 10 bonus points for the other feature film that was based on a short story published in the same collection…

  5. Bullwinkle’s hometown in International Falls, Minn. which he called “Frostbite Falls.”

    His alma mater is Wossamotta U

  6. The name is Christmas. Lloyd Christmas.

  7. The Outlaw Josie Wales, in the movie by the same name. It brings to light some harsh aspects of post-Civil War life, in a way that only a cheesy spaghetti western can do. However, to pass over it as such is to miss the interplay between the loner (Josey Wales) who spends the whole movie trying to stay a loner, only finding himself transformed from villain to hero, and loner to leader. The script is a “Missouri boat ride” of zingers and one-liners, at which it’s not hard to chuckle. Not quite a literary classic, but “a buzzard’s gotta eat the same as worm.”

  8. If you like P.G. Wodehouse, then you might want to check out “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome. Published in 1889 – laugh-out-loud funny!

    Other recommendations: Anything by Bill Bryson (in particular, (1) One Summer (2) At Home and (3) In a Sunburned Country).

    Finally: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – Non-fiction – Fascinating account of both the Chicago’s World’s Fair and a serial killer.

    All great reads and perfect for summer!

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