Friday, February 14, 2014

Ten Couples in Literature Worth Talking About (An Obligitory Valentine's Day Post)

Earlier today I Googled "Great Literary Couples" to see what might turn up, and I wasn't in the least bit surprised in the results. A lot of Jane Austen. Like a lot. I have a little bit of a problem with this, and rather than spend time going into all the reasons why that is, I thought it might be better to focus instead on Great Literary Couples worth talking about.

So in honor of Valentine's Day, I took a poll here at the Read Furiously Offices and compiled the list of Literary Couples We Love. Presented to you in no real order.

Hazel and Augustus (The Fault in our Stars)

Though I'm sure most of the world has read this book already, I won't go into spoilers because this book is too good to ever spoil. And with the movie soon coming out, it's worth noting this is a couple that people are going to be talking about a lot.

Lois and Clark (Any Superman comic worth reading)

Though DC Comics NEW 52 might not currently think so, there probably isn't a more important relationship in all of comics than Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane. I could go on for a while about all the reasons (and maybe one day I'll do a post dedicated entirely to that), but for now we can just say that Superman wouldn't be the legend he is (both in the comic and the real world) without Lois Lane.

David Sedaris and Hugh Hamrick (Pretty much any of David Sedaris' books)

This is the only couple on the list that isn't fictional, but they're still worth including because when reading Sedaris' work and the way he talks about their relationship, it's hard not to long for a partner like Hugh.

Katherine and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)

The relationship that inspired a million YA novels. They're not the most uplifting of couples out there, but the impact they've had is undeniable.

Scott and Ramona (The Scott Pilgrim Series)

For a relationship based on fighting off a girl's evil ex-boyfriends, it was probably one of the more realistic ones in comics

Charlie and Sam (Perks of Being a Wallflower)

So yes, I'm going to steal a quote from the movie for this one, but I think it perfectly sums up what's so great about Charlie and Sam:
I know who you are, Sam. I know I'm quiet... and, and I should speak more. But if you knew the things that were in my head most of the time, you'd know what I really meant. How, how much we're alike and, and how we've been through things... and you're not small. You're beautiful.

Tristran and Yvaine (Stardust)

It's a story of finding the one you love right under your nose. It's a story of loving someone so much that initially they annoy the hell out of you.  It's Neil Gaiman. 'Nuff said.

Dirk and Duck (The Weetzie Bat Series)

And Dirk got his Duck. In the magical world of LA, there's probably nothing more magical tan the relationship between Duck and Dirk.

Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy (Bridget Jones' Diary)

Yes, I'm ending our list with two characters who are directly based off of Jane Austen characters, yet Helen Fielding manages to take these characters and breath life into them, make them endearing enough that you can overlook their inspiration. Plus, what woman doesn't like to be told someone likes them just the way they are.
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

We should love an ending... But we don't

Thinking in terms of structure, the ending should be considered one of the best parts of a story. It's the payoff, the moment when all the strife and conflict our characters have had to endured finally comes to a head. We get to see the people they've become, the new versions of themselves crafted by the events they undertook. From the moment we begin a book, it's what everything is leading to, and really we should be excited when that moment finally arrives. Yet often times it's the moment many of us dread.

I speak from personal experience on this, of course. It took me two years before I worked up enough nerve to finish reading Y: The Last Man. And volumes eleven and twelve of DMZ are so far down on my reading pile, it'd be an actual chore just to get them out. Even though I'm very much looking forward to reading them, I'm just not ready for the final story from the war-zone that is New York City to be told. So instead, every time I go to pick up a new book to read, I'll opt for something where the stakes aren't as high as finality.

This isn't a phenomenon specific to book series either. How many other furious readers out there have gotten so wrapped up in a book they've felt the need to set it aside with just a few chapters left, let it sit there on their night stand, and come up with excuse after excuse to never finish it. Sometimes we may even purchase books we're so excited to read we don't start for fear of when we'll finish it (note Boxers and Saints and King City on the pile as well, I want/don't want to read them so badly).

There's an anxiety that comes with the end of a book, worrying whether the author will drop the ball on an ending and leave you disappointed. There are so many things that could go wrong with an ending (Let's be honest, there's nothing worse than when the writer throws in a poorly executed Deus Ex Machina just to tie things up). That chance the characters won't get the happy ending you think they deserve. Or even if they do, the knowledge that you'll be saying goodbye to these people you've let into your life once you turn the final page. It can be like watching your best friend pull away, knowing it's the last time you'll ever see them.

We want to go on these journeys with these characters, and never want them to end. It's why there will likely never be a final issue of Superman, or a last Babysitters Club book, or why - even after Doyle finished his last Sherlock Holmes story - his exploits continue to be told by countless other authors, even today. 

These are stories we connect with, characters we adopt into our lives. It's not something for which you can necessarily be blamed. After all, if the story doesn't end, then at least there's the potential for more. And sometimes that can be better than reaching the bittersweet parting we encounter upon the last page of a story.

Yet really all we're doing is denying ourselves the pleasure that comes from closure. A story isn't a story without an ending, even if it's only the point we exit the narrative. But when we do this, all we're doing is creating an artificial end that will never offer any of the closure we want. We have potential, potential that the story will go on, that there is so much more for the characters to do.  But that's all it will ever be, and it will never be the same as the real ending (good or bad). 

So in celebration of endings, I set out this week to uncover those last two volumes of DMZ and finally finish the story of Matty Roth and the Free States. And I'm inviting the rest of you furious readers out there to join in and finally finish that book you've been putting off for far too long.
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