What Literary Character Do You Most Identify With?
In grad school, I once managed to silence a whole room by declaring what literary character I most identified with. This was after a reading in our tiny grad school building and the question was posed by, of all people, Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm. We were all drinking cheap red wine and eating carrots and celery dipped in a nebulous white sauce, and doing what people in graduate school usually do — which is bullshitting.
Anyway, I silenced the room by saying Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Which is a thing that you should not say in answer to “what literary character do you most identify with?” I just meant… I don’t actually approve of all the killing. …I was just thinking of him; Mr. Bateman, who tries so hard “to fit in” — as he says through his gritted teeth, in the course of the novel. He’s so desperately sad, and so desperately trying. And if you pay close attention, he might not kill anyone in the book, and the killing may just be in his head — but anyway, I wasn’t concerned with that. I was concerned with this, this passage:
…There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.
…And I feel this way all the time. As though I have presented an idea of myself to the world, but this idea has nothing to do with who I really am. Like I present a faded fake photograph of myself. …Anyway, this answer silenced the room at the grad school. After a second I realized this. “…No! Not because of the serial killing!” I said. But it was too late.
And then, I felt dumb. Up until then, normal people had been saying duh normal things like “Holden Caulfield?” or “Bridget Jones?” Rick Moody glared at me. I had ruined the conversation.
And I still feel weird about my answer. Or I did, until just now. Because just now, not five minutes ago, while I was typing up this essay, I called my girlfriend on the phone and asked who she most identified with in literature, and she said– …She said. Wait. Wait for it. …She said: “Jessica from Sweet Valley High.” Which; um. Uh. …This could be a worse answer than mine. I’m not definitively saying it is; but hypothetically, how can you pick something worse than a serial killer? …By going all Sweet Valley High with it, I guess. …Mayhaps I need a new girlfriend.
…ANYWAY. Ahem. So. …So. So; who do you most identify with in literature? What’s your deal? Remember that any answer is better than the ones given above. “Jane Eyre,” “Stephen Dedalus,” “One of the glitter sparkle vampires from that glitter sparkle vampire book”; these are all better answers. Anyhow, let us know in the comments.
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image – American Psycho (Blu-ray)
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”