I read this “Literary Best Friends” meme (I’ve been blogging for a while now and I still don’t actually know what a “meme” really is…) on Litlove’s Tales from the Reading Room, and decided to write about it myself. My list was actually a bit harder to come up with than I’d expected…I tend to make friends with writers, rather than characters, and many of my favorite characters wouldn’t really make great friends (Humbert Humbert, anyone? Or any character from Iris Murdoch…). I ruled out memoirs, biographies, and essentially everything but fiction, and this is what (or who, rather) I came up with:
Meg Murray from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time – All my life I’ve felt very close to Meg’s frustration and clumsiness, to that feeling of shame that comes from imagining that your failings are somehow both obvious and deeply exasperating to those around you. Meg is so awkward, so not quite grown into herself, so resilient, and so fiercely loyal. And she has my name. Kind of.
Gandalf, from Tolkein’s Middle Earth Saga – It’d be handy to have a wizard like Gandalf as a friend, as is made repeatedly apparent throughout The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as he rescues all and sundry from various goblin-and-orc related dooms. He also gives great advice, has a great beard, and he’ll bring fireworks to my parties. Win-win-win.
Charlotte, from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web – I learned my first lessons about friendship from Charlotte and I can’t think of a better teacher. Charlotte is perceptive, generous, eloquent and kind. She’s patient and selfless. Wilbur was oh-so-lucky to have her.
Jo March and Beth March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – I guess it’s not surprising that several of my literary best friends seem to come in pairs. What better way to know you want someone as a friend than to see their closest friendships for yourself? Jo and Beth compliment each other so well, care about each other so much, and take care of each other as best they can. It’s easy to be drawn to fiery, reckless Jo, but I like quiet, selfless Beth just as much. Jo would probably have been all kinds of lost without her.
Anne Shirley and Diana Berry, from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series – Anne and Diana have such a lovely friendship. Anne is headstrong, brilliant, and protective of those she loves. Diana is patient, generous, and infinitely good-hearted. I think they both bring out the best in each other, which is something my best friends definitely do for me.
Caddy, from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I’m not sure what to say about why Caddy is on this list, except that I’m not alone in wanting to be close to her – – most of the male Compsons (Benjy, Quentin, Jason) are nearly obsessed with her (and Faulkner referred to her as his “heart’s beloved”). I’m sad Faulkner (to my knowledge) never wrote from her perspective as Caddy is compassionate and fearless and she had the good sense to run away from all the insanity around her. I’d love to have known her better.
Ruth, from the Book of Ruth; I know there are myriad religious interpretations of this story (not surprising, as it’s in the bible), but for me, this story is about friendship, and Ruth is an excellent friend.
Adam Dalgliesh – I’ve got a little crush on P.D. James’ poet-detective, Adam Dalgliesh. And a little crush on his London flat overlooking the Thames. He’s private, intensely literary, possibly a little bit twisted, and just kind of sexy.
Hermione Granger, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series – Harry and Ron would have been lost without her. From the very first book, Hermione shows herself to be an exceptional friend: ridiculously intelligent, creative, loyal, confident, funny and, despite all odds, only very occasionally condescending and obnoxious. And she’s never without a book, or seven. My kind of girl.
Nancy Blackett from Arthur Ransome’s The Swallows and Amazons – I wanted nothing more than to be Nancy Blackett when I was younger. Now, I’d love to have her (either the grown-up, or the child) as a friend. Nancy wouldn’t go by “Ruth”, her given name, because she was a pirate, and pirates are supposed to be ruthless. I loved her for that, which should tell you a lot about my childhood moral code. Nancy is a badass, an adventurer, and a good older sister, all qualities I admire and try to emulate.
The Glass Family – I’m not sure I’ve ever cared more for a literary family than I do for J.D. Salinger’s Glass family, and Franny and Seymour are probably my favorites. If you don’t know why they’re on this list, pick up Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, or Franny and Zooey. Right now.
So there they are…a quick attempt at my literary best friends. I’m sure there are dozens of worthy characters I’ve left of this list (Anne Elliot, Jeeves, Winnie the Pooh, Viola, Cass Seltzer from 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, Juliet Ashton from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, just to name a few) but so be it.
In other news, this is my hundredth post, which seems like a lot, even though it’s taken me a while to get here. Since 100 is a big number, I feel like I should say something special to commemorate the occasion, and while nothing literary comes to mind, it seems fitting, considering the theme of this post, to say that as much as I love my literary friends, and as much as certain books mean to me on a really personal, even conversational, level, I love my real friends more. All in all, I think I’ve been exceptionally lucky in my friendships, and even though I often can’t understand why the totally awesome people I’m friends with like me so much, at least I know it’s reciprocal. I like them lots and lots too. So thanks to my friends, fictional and otherwise. You’re all lovely.