Thursday, February 07, 2013

Fiction, schmiction, he's still a man, isn't he?

I stumbled on this item (via @GrantaMag) this morning from Slate Magazine, listing the most attractive men in novels and poems. (The ladies are here.) And I realized, for all my susceptibility toward fictional film and TV characters, I'd never really thought about the fellows on the page. Which is probably a good thing, but still, not a bad notion to consider on a Thursday morning.

The Slate writer has a couple of good ones on the list, including Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird and Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby. The others I've never heard of or simply don't agree with. I would, though, like to add a couple of my own:

Hector from The Iliad because poor Hector tried to do all the right things and that egomaniacal, heel-susceptible jerk Achilles still did him in and then dragged him around the city walls for good measure. *Shakes fist* I will always hate you Achilles!

Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. Okay, probably not a popular choice because he really is a jerk, too, given that he has his former wife locked up in the attic. So, poor choice in real life but on the page, well, I just can't help it. He's got the dark and broody, riding on horses, hunting with hounds, being all decisive yet conflicted thing going on. I don't know what's wrong with me, but there it is.

Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. Let me underscore that this is the Jean Valjean from the pages of a really long but really great book with a whole unnecessary 100 page interlude on the lives of 19th century French nuns. This is not the Jean Valjean of the Hugh Jackman vintage. (Yes, I hated the movie. Sorry.) True story: I cried for 20 minutes after reading Valjean's death scene. I didn't want him to go. Damn books, making me feel things...

And finally, and perhaps most disturbingly, Thomas Cromwell from Hilary Mantel's historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, about Henry VIII. Now, everything I've read about Cromwell says he was likely not a nice dude. At all. But the way Mantel writes him, you can't resist. He's lonely, he's driven, he's kind (okay, except to Anne Boleyn and a half dozen other characters). Most of all, though, he's hilarious. I would totally want to spend an afternoon drinking Woodchucks with the Mantel version of Cromwell. In fact, I don't know if I'll be able to read the third book in the sequel because I'm pretty sure he dies. History has the worst spoilers!

So who are your picks for attractive fictional gentlemen or ladies?

12 comments:

Penprickle said...

Aral Vorkosigan, hands down, from Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series. Lord Coombe from Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Head of the House of Coombe and Robin. Ramses Emerson, Cyrano de Bergerac, Nikki Falcon, John Halton, Mayland Long.

Yum.

Harper said...

I despise Achilles too. When I finally read the Iliad a couple of years ago, I actually kind of fell for Odysseus - weird since he left me cold in The Odyssey! Duncan Idaho in the Dune trilogy. Sherlock Holmes. When I was a kid, Sam from My Side of the Mountain.

Liz said...

Penprickle, I don't think I've read any of those books but am now intrigued! Time to head to the library. Agree 100 percent on Cyrano. He breaks my heart.

Liz said...

Harper, I know what you mean about Odysseus. He's great in The Iliad but then he just becomes kind of dull in The Odyssey. I think it's because Homer gave him a sense of humor in The Iliad before turning him mopey for the sequel.

Quill said...

Liz: The Vorkosigan series, the Amelia Peabody books, Emma Bull's Falcon, Looking for the Madhi, and Tea with the Black Dragon are probably available at your library. Those Burnetts are extremely out of print, but you can get them free at Project Gutenberg.

I agree with you about Rochester; he's an ass, but nonetheless vital and attractive...and has a sense of humor!

Jen Anderson said...

History *does* have the worst spoilers. I watched The Crucible the other day (for the first time) and at every dramatic moment when it looked like they might avoid the high body count, I started running through my memories of the Salem witch trials. I knew Daniel Day-Lewis' character's name rang a bell, so I was pretty sure which way things were going to go for him. At least I was able to keep myself from googling to make sure before the movie ended.

Ruth said...

I've been falling in love with fictional characters since I was a small child and I fell in love with some school bus driver in one of those cheap little golden picture books. I think he was known as Joe. My mom always referred to him as my " first boyfriend". Mr.Rochester was another major love as well as Yossarian from Catch 22.

Kaylia said...

I'm with you... they missed some mighty fine men.

Liz said...

Jen, I know exactly what you mean. I broke down and Wikipedia'd Cromwell halfway through the first book. I just couldn't resist....

Ruth, what a sweet story about the school bus driver. I love it. And Yossarian is a GREAT choice. God, I need to re-read that book.

Kaylia, amen to that. But it least it gives us the chance to make our own lists. :)

Sleepymama said...

Okay, so now I have to read practically every book on both of these lists to figure out the best guy out there. I do, however, still swoon over Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird! ( Sigh!)

Sleepymama said...

btw, definitely agree about Rochester...he didn;t know the first wife was a nut job when he married her. He had to lock her up for everyone's safety. Shipping her off to an institution back then would have been a death sentence and much her than locking her up. So, I forgave him because his romance with Jane was very gentle and tender.

Michelle said...

Now, Ramses from the later Amelia Peabody books (once he's all grown up), Maddyn from Katharine Kerr's Deverry series, Kate Ross's Julian Kestrel. When I was little, Prince Caspian and Gilbert Blythe and Almanzo Wilder.