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  • Kat Rosenfield 5:15 pm on 2016/04/07 Permalink
    Tags: Characters, curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal, dangerous liaisons, , , public enemies, ,   

    The 10 Worst Traitors in Fiction 

    Whether for love, for money, or just for the fun of it, hideous betrayal never fails to make for a compelling story. From classic literature to contemporary fantasy, some characters are the best of the best (or worst of the worst, depending on how you look at it) when it comes to disloyal shenanigans. Below, we’ve rounded up the ten biggest traitors on the page.

    Winston, 1984
    There’s no shortage of double-crossing in George Orwell’s bleak dystopian novel about a man struggling beneath the thumb—and constant surveillance—of an all-powerful government; Winston has been sold up the river several times over by the time he turns traitor himself. But the moment when he cries out, “Do it to Julia!” (the “it” in question being mauled to death by rats) is a stunner of a betrayal, as Winston gives up not just the woman he loves, but the last dying shred of his own humanity.

    Brutus, Julius Caesar
    Et tu, Brute? Damn straight, Ceezy. The whole Roman senate rose up to assassinate Caesar in Shakespeare’s political tragedy, but it was Brutus’ knife that cut the deepest —because in addition to doing serious damage to Caesar’s epidermis and internal organs, it also really hurt his feelings.

    Peter Pettigrew, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    Everyone put your hands together for the most hideous traitor in wizarding history. Peter Pettigrew not only sold out his friends to Voldemort, he allowed Sirius to take the fall for it while he himself lived a life of luxury as the Weasleys’ prized pet rat. If not for this son-of-a-blast-ended-skrewt, James and Lily Potter would still be alive—along with Cedric Diggory and all the many wizards who lost their lives during the second coming of the Dark Lord.

    Charles Trask, East of Eden
    Steinbeck’s novel inspired by the story of Cain and Abel is packed end-to-end with double-crossings and back-stabbings by three generations of perpetrators. Out of the book’s many betrayals, the moment when Charles Trask drugs his brother Adam and takes his wife to bed is a standout for sheer soullessness.

    The Marquise de Merteuil, Dangerous Liaisons
    This old-school epistolary dive into the sexual intrigues of the aristocracy in France’s Ancien Regime is rife with two-faced friends and lovers, but no one plays all sides like the beautiful, villainous Marquise. By the time she gets her comeuppance in the form of exile and a ruined face, she has betrayed basically every major character in the book—sometimes more than once.

    Edmund Pevensie, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
    The good news is, Edmund ultimately redeemed himself to become a crowned King of Narnia and a wise, just ruler, along with the rest of the Pevensies. The bad news is what he did to require redemption: he sold his sibs and Mr. Tumnus down the river for a few bites of Turkish delight—which makes him not just a traitor, but a traitor with abominable taste in candy.

    Dennis Nedry, Jurassic Park
    Granted, Nedry didn’t have a world-ending catastrophe in mind when he betrayed his employer, stealing a bunch of dinosaur embryos and shutting down Jurassic Park’s security systems in order to make his escape. He just wanted to make a quick, cool million bucks. But for sheer scale of consequences, Dennis Nedry is one helluva turncoat; even Benedict Arnold fell short of unleashing a horde of hungry velociraptors on an unsuspecting public in the process of changing sides.

    Mr. Wickham, Pride & Prejudice
    Bad, naughty Wickham made a play for the honor of Darcy’s sister, shamelessly flirted with half the Bennett daughters, and nearly brought the family to ruin when he seduced Lydia into eloping with him when he abandoned his military post. Not only is the dude a traitor to King and country, he’s a traitor to every basic Edwardian notion of common masculine decency.

    Danglars, Mondego, and Caterousse, The Count of Monte Cristo
    These so-called “friends” of Edmond Dantès were so jealous of his good fortune in life and love, they accused him of treason, kicking off a series of increasingly unfortunate events that culminated in Dantès’ imprisonment in a 19th-century island supermax jail. (Bonus extra traitor credit: Mondego not only sold Dantès up the river, he married the man’s fiancé to boot. Rude.) On the other hand, you don’t get this epic tale of adventure and vengeance without a big, stinkin’ betrayal to kick it off, so…thanks, gentlemen.

    Gollum, The Lord of the Rings
    Poor, pathetic Gollum battled his demons all the way to Mordor, but his heart always belonged to the One Ring—aka his preciousssssss. Hence, the ghastly moment when he stopped leading the heroic Frodo toward Mount Doom, and started luring him into the lair of a giant, Hobbit-eating spider.

  • Jenny Kawecki 6:30 pm on 2016/03/29 Permalink
    Tags: Characters, , , , ,   

    6 Fictional Characters Whose Memoirs We’d Love to Read 

    There’s nothing better than a good tell-all memoir…except, of course, a tell-all memoir from someone whose past, present, and future we’ll never get to dig into. In other words, there’s nothing our fiction-obsessed souls crave more than to read every last detail about the lives of some of our favorite fictional characters. What were they thinking? What inspired them to make the choices they made? How did they become who they are? Here are six fictional memoirs we would totally binge-read.

    Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
    To be honest, Mrs. Bennet kinda reminds us of a Mindy Kaling character at her most extreme: unapologetically interested in whatever she’s interested in, constantly worried about what everyone is thinking about her, and incredibly funny (whether she means to be or not). And there’s a lot we’d like to know about Mrs. Bennet: for instance, why (and how) did she marry Mr. Bennet? What was their courtship and early marriage like? What did she do once all five of her daughters were married? And what on earth is her first name? We’re sure Mrs. Bennet has a lot to say.
    Memoir title: Consider My Nerves

    Irene Adler (Sherlock Holmesby Sir Arthur Conan Doyle):
    To my mind Irene Adler is hands-down the best character in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and even more compelling in her various screen depictions. From her time as an opera singer to her experience as a constantly underestimated woman in the male-dominated Victorian era, her tell-all would be inspirational, gripping, and definitely scandalous. And you can bet she’d have a twist or two you’d never see coming.
    Memoir title: Adled

    Baz (Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell)
    Oh, Baz. From his incredibly defined widow’s peak to his suspiciously pointed incisors to his impeccable dress shoes, there’s nothing we don’t love. And yet, there are so many questions we need answered, namely: what was it like to be a vampire in middle school? What secrets are hiding in the old family manor? How do you correctly tie an ascot? Teeming with villainous quips and life advice for classy wizards, we’re sure Baz has a lot to share with the world. Plus, there’s that whole kidnapping incident to relive.
    Memoir title: Running on Numpty

    Godot (Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett)
    We’ve got just one thing to say to Godot: for all the time he’s kept us waiting, he had better have a good explanation. Like, say, a 200-plus-page explanation. We’re not saying he owes us a memoir, but it certainly wouldn’t go amiss, you know? Perhaps Godot was waylaid by land-pirates and spent the next decade swabbing the deck; perhaps he was simply too caught up contemplating the meaning of life to get out of bed. Either way, we really wish he’d share his side of the story with us.
    Memoir title: Better Late Than Never

    Neville Longbottom (Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling)
    Neville was this close to being the Boy Who Lived; nothing but a seemingly arbitrary decision kept him from being the center of Harry’s prophecy instead. But even more intriguing than his single degree of separation is his subtle-but-powerful transformation from a bumbling boy to a badass horcrux-slayer. What fueled his gradual change? What was it like almost being a part of the Golden Trio? And how satisfying was it to flaunt his success at those Hogwarts class reunions? There’s nothing we love more than an underdog—except, perhaps, an underdog exposing the seedy side of his wizarding upbringing.
    Memoir title: (Almost) The Chosen One

    Tock (The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster):
    Tock, the faithful watchdog: he’s adorable, he’s smart, he’s always, always punctual. So what’s it like to be the only one in your friend group who’s consistently on time for brunch, just sitting there awkwardly holding down the table? Tock knows. What did he do before Milo showed up? What was he even doing in the Doldrums to begin with? How much of a jerk was Milo, really? It’d be hard not to relate to the ever put-upon Tock, especially when it comes to never living up to expectations (tick, tick, tick).
    Memoir title: Tock’ed Up: My Life in the Doldrums

    Whose fictional memoir would you love to read?

  • Diana Biller 3:00 pm on 2016/03/25 Permalink
    Tags: animals, Characters, , , , ,   

    The 5 Creepiest Rabbits in Fiction 

    Easter is upon us, bringing its usual associates: egg hunts, little girls in frilly white dresses, Peeps, and, of course, the Easter Bunny, hop-hop-hopping along. A Google image search for this confusing figure produces an array of unsettling illustrations and photos, including a manic-eyed bipedal rabbit with teeth that extend over the lower half of its face. Anyone who has ever felt rabbit teeth sinking into the soft flesh of a finger knows this is not the way a rabbit smiles. It’s a threat.

    Not convinced? Then join me for a frightening tour of fiction’s creepiest rabbits, ranked from only-slightly-unsettling to hide-under-the-bed-sobbing-terrifying, and be warned.

    Fiver, from Watership Down, by Richard Adams
    This one really isn’t the poor little fellow’s fault: he’s a clairvoyant, and clairvoyants are inherently creepy. No one wants to be told their warren is about to be destroyed, particularly not when that prophecy comes in rhyme, and then there’s the whole thin line between seers and insanity that seems to permeate mythology. A clairvoyant bunny that may or may not go insane? I’ll skip it, thanks.

    Nail Bunny, from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, by Jhonen Vasquez
    Poor Nail Bunny is really only creepy because of his outward appearance and the company he keeps, but I’m afraid any bunny who has been nailed to a wall for three years, has x’s for eyes, eventually becomes a floating head, and is one hallucinatory voice of a bonafide homicidal maniac has to be included. Sorry, Nail Bunny, but on the upside you were featured on seemingly thousands of disturbingly adorable backpack patches at high schools around the country in the late 1990s and early aughts, so here’s to you.

    Bunnicula, from Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe
    Appearing on a dark and stormy night, Bunnicula the vampire rabbit has fangs instead of normal bunny teeth, which in all honesty seems like a less unsettling option, because at least then it won’t be a surprise to find them sinking into your neck while you sleep. Bunnicula confines his vampire tendencies to vegetables, which he sucks dry, possibly turning them into vampires themselves…or at least he has stuck to vegetables so far.

    The March Hare, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
    What’s scarier than a normal rabbit with a normal rabbit’s teeth? A crazy rabbit, with a crazy rabbit’s teeth. Appearing at the Mad Hatter’s tea party and sporting a blue bow tie and straw hat on his head in the original illustrations (although it must be said that in those illustrations the real creepy one is Alice herself, who looks like she’s about to pull a Lizzie Borden), the March Hare is, unsurprisingly, rendered most terrifying in Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation. Invite to tea at your own risk.

    The Seeing Hare, from The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
    I’m pretty sure pencils could be rendered creepy in Grossman’s Magicians series, which casts a heavy layer of unsettling darkness over everything it touches, but the Seeing Hare is a particularly upsetting entry on this list. We’ve already discussed the inherent terror of the clairvoyant rabbit; well, here we have a clairvoyant rabbit who sets traps for those who seek it and responds to questions about the future with answers like “death” and “despair.” Sometimes followed immediately by someone dying. So…Happy Easter?

  • Jeff Somers 8:15 pm on 2016/03/09 Permalink
    Tags: Characters, , whoooooo!   

    7 Fictional Characters We’re Dying to Take with Us On Spring Break 

    If you’re heading off to spring break, let’s talk about squad. Your squad isn’t just the people you happen to book tickets with, the people whose snores will keep you awake as you cram five to a bed in some regrettable hotel room, the people who will almost certainly owe you money before your adventure is over. Your Spring Break Squad will make or break your trip. The difference between an epic adventure you must all enter into a solemn oath to keep secret until only one of you is left alive and a vaguely enjoyable vacation lies in the people you choose to travel with. Every companion should be chosen for what they bring to the table. If we had the power to bring literary characters to life, for example, we could put together a Spring Break Squad that would break reality and plunge the world into a chaotic eternal party—and here’s who we’d choose.

    The Wild Card: Dean Moriarty from On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
    Moriarty, a.k.a. Neal Cassady in real life, was a key figure in the greatest road novel of all time, and was, by all accounts, the sort of deranged, try-anything free spirit every spring break squad needs. He’s the guy who pushes you to pursue adventures, disregard posted signs, and explore places that aren’t in the guide books. He’s also the reason every good spring break trip needs a generous Bail Fund, but hey, experiences of a lifetime don’t come free.

    The Infiltrator: Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote
    While a freewheeling wild card is necessary to inject that buzzing electrical line of crazy into your spring break, you also need someone who cleans up well and can talk their way into anything, and gorgeous and determined Holly is perfect. Whether it’s a party you weren’t invited to, a restaurant that claims to have no reservations, or a police station where Dean Moriarty is being held on suspicion of awesomeness, a Holly Golightly will chatter her way in and dance her way out. As an added bonus, she’s an expert party-thrower, so if things get slow she’ll soon set things right.

    The Tour Guide: Boris from The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
    When in unknown climes, it’s essential to have a world traveler who is not only connected, knowledgeable, and perhaps just a little shady, but also a lot of fun to be around. Anyone who has read The Goldfinch knows that while the actual main character can be a drag at times, Boris is always reliable fun, the sort of guy who can find anything, anywhere, and seems to always know at least one person at whatever party, bar, or jail he happens to be visiting. Spring breakers need a Boris to find supplies, to make connections, and to arrange transportation while entertaining the heck out of you.

    The Outlaw Lawyer: Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson
    Okay, we all know what we really mean is Hunter S. Thompson himself, and we also know that Mr. Duke isn’t the lawyer in the book, his associate Dr. Gonzo is—but we don’t mean a literal lawyer (unless, of course, you’re having a truly epic spring break, in which case yes, we mean a literal lawyer). We mean an Adventure Lawyer, the sort of person who can talk you through barriers, find loopholes in local regulations, and navigate various states of consciousness with aplomb, and that would be Mr. Duke, who can handle the local authorities and hallucinations with equal ease.

    The Bank: Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Someone has to pay for everything, right? And that someone needs to be a person who understands and appreciates a good party. Congratulations, we just described Jay Gatsby, a filthy rich romantic who sees a grand party as the best way to communicate his thoughts and feelings. Whatever Gatsby is feeling while you’re on spring break, he will seek to express that feeling by funding a lavish party, and one can imagine Gatsby, with his links to organized crime, is also no stranger to funding bail on occasion, also a key skill for any spring break squad member.

    The Security Detail: Deadpool
    The best spring breaks are like the best weddings: there’s gonna be fisticuffs. Whenever various groups of people are wandering around seeking fun and adventure, those groups are going to find themselves at odds with each other, and you’re going to need someone who can kick a little butt and keep everyone safe and the party on course. At the same time, you want someone who’s fun to hang out with on those rare occasions when you’re not fighting with opposing party people. Plus, a man who can heal from almost any wound is ultimately very useful, because statistics show at least 50% of all spring break trips end in West Side Story–style knife fights.

    The Wizard: Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher
    Finally, since we’re imagining literary characters accompanying us on our spring break adventure, why wouldn’t you want a wizard? Magic solves a remarkable number of problems, ranging from hobgoblin attack to bogarted beer kegs, possession by demons to incarceration. While someone like Gandalf or Dumbledore might have the magical chops, they don’t exactly seem like monster party people—but Harry Dresden would be a lot of fun to hang out with even when there’s no need for magic. Plus he doesn’t dress like a priest of some sort, and it won’t look like you’re hanging out with your grandpa while you’re on spring break.

  • Nicole Hill 9:15 pm on 2016/03/08 Permalink
    Tags: , Characters, , , , , , jane steele, lyndsay faye, ,   

    Jane Steele Is the Hard-Edged Jane Eyre You Never Knew You Wanted 

    Lyndsay Faye is a certifiable meddler in fiction. Her debut novel, Dust and Shadow, pitted Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper in a masterful showdown between a fictional giant and an enigmatic true-life menace. The pairing seemed a more even match than even Moriarty could provide. In a world where Holmes pastiche is a cottage industry, Faye captured Doyle’s characters near-flawlessly, while setting before them a new challenge worth their respective salt.

    Now she’s back, focusing that same tender, exploratory devotion to Charlotte Brontë’s masterwork with Jane Steele. In Jane Eyre, poor, plain Jane gets hurtled from mistreatment to mistreatment, until finally she finds ethically questionable romance with Mr. Rochester. As readers, you can connect deeply with Jane on an emotional level, as she endures an endless parade of indignities and anguish. While she’s an incredibly strong woman—you’d have to be to withstand the secret in the attic—Jane is at the disadvantage of living in the 19th century and having little control over her own circumstances. As an orphan, and then as a governess, she’s got little means to rise above whatever misery befalls her.

    Not so much with young Jane Steele. Jane Steele gets things done, and she’s got the trail of bodies in her wake to prove it. Faye’s novel shares the basic elements of Brontë’s: a heroine orphaned at a young age, a sinister aunt, a demented boarding school for wayward young women, a new life as a governess, a secretive, erudite lordling pitching woo despite his shady past.

    It’s all there, because it all makes a great story. What makes the narrative unique is that Jane Steele knows this story. She’s not a stand-in for Jane Eyre; she’s her biggest fan. It’s a unique device, bestowing this meta awareness on Jane, and it adds a winking playfulness to the proceedings. Truthfully, it’s a quality any story about a serial-killing Jane Eyre groupie should have.

    Yes, Jane Steele has murdered, “for love and for better reasons,” and the story of Jane Eyre has inspired her to tell her own, deepest, ugliest secrets and all. Each chapter begins with a relevant passage from Brontë, serving as an anchor for Steele, who is buoyed by the similarities between herself and her fictional hero, yet dryly critical of how her predecessor handled her trials and tribulations.

    This Jane is a different bird. Though still sensitive and quietly altruistic, she’s also scrappy, droll, and endlessly industrious. Often, she’s a firecracker just waiting for a fuse to be lit. But she’s far from a manic menace; Jane Steele is plagued by the deeper consequences of her actions, by the perilous fragility of truth, by the weight of her own conscience.

    Thus, by the time Jane Steele meets Mr. Thornfield, the splendidly sarcastic army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars to inherit her childhood home, she’s more a match for him than Mr. Rochester’s Jane ever was. She and Thornfield both have skeletons—many literal—in their closets, and it puts them on a more even footing as they pursue a romance. Whereas Jane Eyre’s innocent, unyielding stoicism endeared her to Rochester, adrift in his own failings, it’s Jane Steele’s crackling chutzpah that catches the tormented Thornfield’s eye. He sees in her much of what he sees in the mirror: someone running from a past darkened by tragedy not entirely of their own making.

    The result of all of this is a Jane Eyre for our age, with a heroine who can wield both a knife and a well-placed insult. That her crimes are endearing instead of alienating is both a tribute to Faye’s deceptively charming style and to Jane’s sturdy yet pliant moral code. Who could begrudge a few casualties when you’re having this much fun?

    Jane Steele is on sale March 22, and available for pre-order now.

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