The trouble with too many comtemporary novels is that they are full of people not worth knowing. The characters slide in and out of the mind with hardly a ripple. They levy no tax on the memory; they make little claim on the connecting power of identification. They make only the skimpiest contribution to an understanding of the human situation. They leave you cold.
The trend over the past few years seems to be to redo things. We've had our return to Star Wars (which was a superb money-making scam on Lucas's part and a waste of my time). In a year where the box office has slumped to record lows for intake, what is it people are going to see? Long-time classic stories like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe have been adapted to the big screen, and King Kong has been redone.
It would be easy to pick on Hollywood in a discussion of crap production. Why is it that I feel like so many movies are trying too hard and failing? I simply don't find the characters...believable. Or endearing. Or even deliciously evil. The only "new" movie superhero in the past few years to really appeal to me is Spiderman. And that's an adaptation of an old comic from the 60's.
For me, the problem with television and movies is that I have been spoiled by having a taste of greatness, so everything else falls short by comparison, but I'll save my spiel on the wonders of The Wire for another time. Like in the countdown to the new season, airing next month on HBO.
But when I look at the volumes upon volumes of books out there, I find myself wondering just what it is about some characters that captivate us? What is it that makes a character legendary and other characters entirely forgettable?
For me, character is critical. I want to find great authors with a series character that I am positively salivating to read more about. Dennis Milne and Logan McRae spring to mind, though I suspect in Logan's case I've been influenced by the mischievious tactics of the author and am simply just too bloody nosey to be able to live without knowing if he and Jackie had sex. If the next book doesn't answer that, I may have to ply the author with numerous drinks until I can get him to fess up.
Seriously, I suppose part of it is because they're both flawed but on a path, working on sorting things out. They aren't reckless playboys who don't give a damn about anyone or anything. Sure sure, Milne has a little problem with murder, but he's a principled killer. And I can completely appreciate the desire to throttle some people.
And that's a weird thing about me. When I think of characters I love, the overwhelming majority are male characters. Rebus, Thorne, Milne, McRae, Tony Hill.
So, what is it for you that makes a character so compelling that you must get your hands on every book in the series, or that you're sad to see the book come to an end because you want desparately to continue on the journey with the characters you've come to love?