Friday, March 7, 2008

Booking Through Friday Night

Before the panel this week:

Hero March 6, 2008
Filed under: Wordpress — --Deb @ 1:33 am

You should have seen this one coming … Who is your favorite Male lead character? And why?
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

(And apologies for this going up late . . . my post-dated post didn’t publish when it was supposed to this morning! It’s just a few hours late, but still–sorry about that! )

The first thing I thought of when I first read this was "Lucky Hank" from Richard Russo's Straight Man. Then I remembered Sully from my other favorite Richard Russo book, Nobody's Fool. So, fuck it, I'm writing a compare-and-contrast of the two of them.

In real life, Sully and Hank would not know each other well. Hank is a college professor, married to a high school teacher. He has two grown daughters, and is a property owner and published author. Sully, on the other hand, is divorced and rents a room from his junior high English teacher. He's been carrying on with a married woman for over twenty years, has a son he rarely sees (the first time we meet this son, he has found Sully hitchhiking on the side of the road and picked him up, and it takes Sully an absurdly long time to realize who he's riding with). Sully works odd jobs, all under the table, all manual labor. Sully, in short, is the essence of instability, whereas Hank has (at least on the surface) a pretty normal middle-class life. If Sully's path ever crossed with Hank's, it would probably be because Hank's deck needed remodeling.

But they share the same irreverant spirit. Both men land in very deep shit throughout the course of their novels. Hank gets gigged through the nose by a colleague (long story), nearly drummed out of his position as department chair, jailed for DWI (in one of the many hilarious moments in this book, he uses his one phone call to call his drinking buddy, who isn't home. He's dismayed to find the man in the next cell, who explains that he'd tried to call Hank with his one call) and at the center of a university-wide intrigue over staffing and budget. His daughter's marriage nearly falls apart, his estranged father returns to town, and his father-in-law is also thrown in jail. Sully's luck isn't much better. His landlady nearly dies, his best friend reveals that he's dying, the woman who may be his daughter gets shot at and beaten up by her abusive husband in front of his house and he, too, goes to jail for punching a cop.

Neither of them let it get the best of them, though. They both have an excellent sense of humor, even when nothing's funny.Nobody's Fool will move me to tears if I read it in the wrong mood, but it's also very funny, as is Straight Man, which I didn't even want to read at first. (The rest of Russo's books were really good, and Straight Man sounded to me like he'd essentially written about himself.) Both men revel in disrupting the status quo, messing with people, and generally being a pain in the ass. A good day to either of them would be if they'd managed to anger everyone with whom they came in contact, and come to think of it, they both had days like that. Neither one is afraid to go to extremes: Sully slips sleeping pills to his boss's Doberman in order to steal back a snowblower; Hank threatens to kill a goose a day until he gets his budget.

Yet, neither of them are malicious people. They're both their own worst enemy, and both of them often don't understand their own behavior. Russo lets you get to know both of them intimately, and when you understand their past, you understand why Sully's marriage didn't last and why he likes renting a room from his former English teacher; and why Hank struggles so hard with his fate as an academic. Both of them are great characters. Check them out.

1 comment:

Keetha said...

I'm with you on both those characters, Sully in particular was lovable. I just recently finished Lonesome Dove so Gus McRae is fresh on my mind.