Which five characters from novels would you have dinner with?

We had similar discussions, once, on my favorite message board.

We talked about which five authors would you have dinner with: for me, that would have been Anton Myrer (yesterday’s post should make that clear, yes?) and John Steinbeck, William Shakespeare, Louisa May Alcott,  and Laura Z. Hobson.  And we’d discussed five poets: my choices were Lord Byron, Billy Collins, Rod McKuen (I actually DO know him, and have had drinks with him)  Emily Dickinson, and e.e. cummings.

Interesting mixes, don’t you think? Would have made for some lively dinner conversation.

I cannot recall if we discussed five characters, though, so I’m assuming we didn’t, because I think I would have remembered those five, just as I recall the others.  But here’s my choices…

You surely won’t be surprised that the one I’d choose first would be George Virdon; again, you have only to read yesterday’s post to understand that. George is as real to me as any person I know. There are many characters in THE LAST CONVERTIBLE that have wonderful qualities–Chris, the wonderful girl they all love, and Terry, and Liz, and Jean-Jean, the one who brought the Empress to Harvard in the beginning. But George won my heart. George was the one everyone depended on, the one who loved just one girl, knew he would always love just that one girl, no matter what.

He wasn’t too good to be true, though; don’t get me wrong. It’s funny….when I saw “Saving Private Ryan,” the character of Miller, played by Tom Hanks–that was George. I don’t know if that means Tom Hanks could have played George if they’d ever made a decent movie of this book, but the qualities that character possessed in that film–more than once I found myself thinking “That could be George.”

I’d choose Joselyn Stone–Jossie, as she prefers to be called–from Laura Z. Hobson’s UNTOLD MILLIONS, which is another book I’ve mentioned here before, as well. She was just 22 at the beginning of the book, smart and independent and eager to move into the next stage of her life now that college was behind her. I actually thought about trying my hand at copywriting, which is what Jossie did, even though she longed to be a journalist–which I had been, and thought of returning to that, too.  I read that book for the first time just as I was coming into a similar stage of my own life, and perhaps that is why Jossie is my favorite Hobson character, and this book my favorite of all Hobson’s work (which is stellar; again, don’t get me wrong!)

I suppose that’s the point right there: the characters I love most are those I can identify with.

Like the next one: Justine Wynter Morrison in BREAD ALONE, which was the first book I ever read by Judith Ryan Hendricks. And I read it when I was going through precisely the same thing, right down to considering a move to Seattle! Wynter is so well-written that I honestly felt as if I could open the door and she’d be there, and I would know her. We would be friends. We would work in the same bakery, creating new kinds of bread, and we would listen to the same kind of music, and together we’d get over broken hearts and move on to whatever life promised next.

Probably won’t surprise you, either, that I’d have loved to have dinner with Jo March. I remember asking for just two Christmas gifts when I was ten: Louisa May Alcott’s LITTLE WOMEN, and a diary. (Yes, I received them both.)

There were elements of me in Meg (love of home and husband and all things domestic)  and in Beth (shyness, love of music and cats and dolls)…no Amy….but a lot of Jo. I always wanted to write and I started trying when I was very young. I loved her exuberance, I loved her passions and even her temper; I loved how she would mess up, but would, with all penitence and remorse, do her best to make things right and try again. And again. (I did want her to marry Laurie, though…..good thing the Professor was as sweet as he was. I look at my own husband now and know I have married the same kind of man. Again…a good thing.) Jo would probably be the one who knocked over her wineglass at the table, but she would have started some wonderful word games, too, so no one would care about a spot on the tablecloth.

Last, but not least, I’d ask Ethan Allen Hawley, from John Steinbeck’s last novel, THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT. At first read (I was still quite young) I saw mostly his humor, his quips and wisecracks. As I grew older, though, got kicked around more myself, I saw the sadness, the loss, and understood his longing to take back what was lost. Every time I read it, I discovered more layers to the man, read more into his thoughts, and cared more about his wants. I wanted him to have what he wanted, simple as that, but not at the cost of his own soul.

And I actually made a good friend based on our mutual love and admiration of that novel. Nice. I think Steinbeck himself might have liked that.

So there you have it. Steaks on the grill, a wonderful salad, homemade bread (Wyn would expect nothing less) and strawberries and cream. Good wine. Good music. Wonderful, wonderful conversation. And at the end, we’d be trying to figure just how soon we could all get together again.


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