1. Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's, a novela by Truman Capote) Young country girl from small texas town comes to New York and becomes a pseudo-socialite. Lives in an apartment and lives as a leech off rich older men. Becomes friends with writer who lives upstairs. Likes to say things that shock people, especially with (mostly lies) of her personal life. Does she find the home she's looking for?
2. Captain Ahab (Moby-Dick, a long classic work of fiction - some is based on author's experiences - by Herman Melville) Crusty semi-deranged monomaniacal whaling ship captain chases white whale mostly all over the world in order to exact revenge for the whale taking the captain's leg off on an earlier voyage. The whale wins.
3. Tom Joad (The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck) An "everyman" in the Great Depression gets out of prison and flees with his extended family when they lose their share-cropper home in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. They head west in an old truck overloaded with their belongings. Grandpa croaks enroute and gets buried along Route 66. They seek work as fruit pickers in California and are constantly screwed over by the farm owners. Tom and Jim get crossways with anti-union busters. Jim is killed. Tom gets the living crap beat out of him. They dance, and more.
4. Sofie Western (Tom Jones, a classic by Henry Fielding) Set in 18th century England. Tom Jones is a bastard living with wealthy benefactors. The book is about his adventures when he is turned out on his own. He has sex with everything that moves and much that doesn't, including his own mother, but not really. Eventually finds out who his father is/was and gets accepted in society and gets to keep Sophie. This is a funny, though pretty dirty, book written 200+ years ago.
5. Friday (Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Dafoe). Shipwrecked 17th century Scottish sailer lives on remote island for 28 years, grows wheat and makes bread. Rescues black man from cannibals and keeps him as his loyal sidekick, still on the island. Calls the man Friday, just as if this wasn't insulting, because that was the day of the week he rescued the guy. Teaches Friday how to speak English and then makes him wait on him mostly. Gets rescued. Goes back to Scotland and gets eaten by cannibals. Kidding. Actually I think he dies from bagpipe poisoning. Don't rightly remember. Don't care. Liked Dafoe's book about the frisky girl Moll Flanders much better.
6. Jack Dawkins (Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens) Much better known as the Artful Dodger, a young pickpocket who lives with a gang of orphans (remind me to go into more detail about the word "orphan" with regard to a misunderstanding the Pirate King of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" had) headed by a good-hearted but criminal man named Fagin. Earlier, Oliver is put in an orphanage and basically abused and underfed, then sold. Then ends up with the gang of orphan thieves. As with all of Charles Dickens' child hardship stories, the boy makes good in the end and goes to live with Bob Crachit. I think. By the by, did you know that Mrs. Crachit (in the best version) was played by Susannah York? Worked for me, I'll tell ya.
7. Jim Hawkins (Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson) To begin with, I feel I should remind you that Robert Louis Stevenson despised Henry David Thoreau. That just needs to be repeated at every opportunity. I don't particularly like either one of them, or, for that matter, ANYONE who insists on using three names. Young Hawkins lives with his mother who runs an inn and one day this blind seaman comes to live at the inn and when he dies, the boy finds a treasure map in his pirate chest and Long John Silver would gladly kill him to get the map, but the boy and some friends sail off to the island of Hispanola to find the treasure and if you want to know if they found it our not you will have to read the book. Hispanola is the island that holds the Dominican Republic and Haiti today. No treasure in Haiti. Long John Silver opened a seafood joint in Port-au-Prince, but went under. It was Haiti, after all. Something about an apple barrel, too.
9. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee) A tale of three children one summer in small town Alabama during the Depression. Black man with bad arm gets falsely accused of raping a moron dog-ugly white girl and Atticus the lawyer (who is also the father of two of the kids in the story) defends him. Although Atticus clearly proves the black man's innocence, the white jury convicts him anyway, and he is later shot and killed escaping from jail. Then the girl's white trash father breaks the boy's arm on Halloween. Arthur "Boo" Radley is a mentally deficient man living next door. In the movie, Robert Duval debuts as Boo. He kills the racist white trash father who broke Jem's arm. Sheriff says that's okay, we'll just forget about it. The other kid, Dill, is visiting a relative from the town for the summer and becomes friends with Jem and Scout. Dill chews only with his front teeth, but this is not really important to the story. Atticus shoots rabid dog.
10. Lara Antipova (Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak) Love story about a Doctor who is really a poet. The Russian Revolution takes place. Zhivago leaves his wife and takes his lover Lara to Siberia to the frozen-solid family home. Many compromises and accommodations have to be made to survive. Lara and Zhivago have a daughter together. They all get separated. Zhivago sees Lara years later through the window of a streetcar and runs after her. So he finally finds her, but dies of a heart attack from running after her. I'm not making this up. The girl grows up like an orphan in the Soviet Union and plays the balalaika very well even though she's had no lessons. They (Lara and Zhivago and the commissar and maybe others) put messages for each other in a loose brick in the house in the city. I think Lara 'does' the commissar, but you never know for sure. Or if you do, I didn't read that part. A balalaika has three stings. Oh, this book is set in Russia. After the revolution, it is set in the USSR.
Oh! Too EASY, Drill Sgt! Is that what you say? Is it? Ok, try these on for size, smarties:
11. Jim Casey (See Grapes of Wrath, above. Casey is the friend who gets killed by the union busters.)
12. Santiago (Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemmingway) Old man in pre-Castro Cuba fishes for a living in a boat in the sea. Is befriended by a little boy and they fish together. A big fish is caught. You had to be there, I guess.
13. Ginger and Merrylegs (Black Beauty, Anna Sewell) Black Beauty and even Ginger are shocked that Merrylegs the pony bucks off the boys who switch him with switches while riding him. Merrylegs is not repentant though. Snorts at the thought. Black Beauty and Ginger are separated and Beauty is sold and meets a white horse who has been a calvary horse in the Crimean War. His rider was shot off his back, he said. Hard to verify this horse's story. Before that, there is a fire in a stable started by a dumbass with a pipe. And then a fat bad-riding doctor runs Black Beauty practically into the ground one night and he gets put up wet and gets sick. Black Beauty, not the doctor. But the mistress lives. Yay! A boy pulls wings off flies in a window, and a poor horse who is pulling a heavy brick wagon slips and falls and is whipped and beaten to make him get him up. I didn't like those parts. Ginger and Merrylegs are horses, by the way, and they all talk. Sort of like Gulliver's Travels in that regard.
Note: A calvary horse is one who has been to the Holy Land.
14. Humbert Humbert (Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov) Mother has boyfriend but he likes her daughter. Make that "is obsessed" with her daughter. Sick sick sick. Ptooey. Humbert Humbert is the perv.
15. Yossarian (Catch-22, Joseph Heller) World War II tale of a bomber crew in Italy. Yossarian is the bombardier. Every time they go out on a mission, the odds of them getting shot down go up. They want to get out of there alive. There are a lot of catches that stop them from getting out of their nightmare. The only way they can get out is to be crazy. If a person tells his commander he WANTS to go on more bombing runs, then he is crazy - because no one would want to do that. But when they say that, they send them out on more and more runs to give them their wish. That there is the catch #22. It was kinda dumb, but there is an Italian girl, so that makes it more interesting. Not Sophia Loren, though.
16. Oliver Mellors (Lady Chatterly's Lover, D.H. Lawrence) Mellors is a crude gardener who apparently turns his lady employer on. "Thar she shits, and thar she pisses" he says. That's the only part I remember. This is an English story and author, of course. You would like this if you like crudity a lot and can make yourself believe a refined wealthy lady would fall in love with an uncouth idiot.
Note: Some have said he wasn't an idiot at all and that I am mistaken. Perhaps. Perhaps my memory is bad because I was 13 when I last read this and was just looking for the dirty parts.
17. Nick Papadakis (The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain) Drifter goes to work in a highway gas station and restaurant owned by an older Greek man with a younger wife. Try not to guess what happens. Ok, so they become lovers and decide to kill the hardworking older Greek cuckold and take his restaurant. They get him juiced up and put him in the back seat of the car and push the car over the side of a cliff. That part really reminded me of "Double Indemnity" 'cause they pushed that guy over the edge of a cliff in a car too. I think. Maybe not. Anyway there is a motorcycle cop who keeps snooping around and a poor cat who climbs a ladder and gets electrocuted. But they finally get what they want and are off free and clear with each other and have the restaurant and everything, but as they drive into town they have a car accident and she dies in it. After all that trouble. Nick Papadakis is the Greek husband, in case you didn't pick up on that. I can't remember what the hell the story had to do with a postman. I hated this book.
18. Ashley Wilkes (Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell) American Civil war tale about people who were on the wrong side of the war and thus got screwed over really badly. The heroine has the outrageous name of Scarlett O'Hara and she loves Ashley Wilkes but he loves her sister. Rhett Butler loves Scarlett but she couldn't care less and marries him. In real life, union general Sherman burned Atlanta, just because, and so they do that in the book too. Ms. Mitchell was not nearly as original as you may have heard. Scarlett finally sees the light and takes a shine to Rhett Butler but he tells her, "Frankly my dear, I don't really care that much anymore." Or words to that effect. Because of the war going super-poorly for the South, Scarlett gets really poor and they have no food and Scarlett has to grub around on the ground and eat roots and stuff and she can hardly even support her two slaves, who, frankly, aren't that helpful either. So, then Scarlett says, mostly to herself, I guess, "As god is my witness, I'll never be poor again!" Which struck me at the time as mostly an idle threat since Scarlett had never been to college. There was quite a lot more to this one.
19. Randle Patrick McMurphy (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey) Takes place in a looney bin in Washington state. McMurphy is a small-time criminal who gets committed to the crazy hospital. The action is quite interesting as McMurphy interacts with other mental cases who are kept drugged up and bullied by the head nurse. This idea was later ripped off in a movie called "Girl Interrupted" starring Winoa Ryder and Angelina Jolie. If you're interested. McMurphy rebels against the head nurse, not realizing she can give him a bad report and keep him locked up in the looney bin for a thousand years. When he learns that the others are there voluntarily and only he is committed, he becomes somewhat unhappy. The Indian Chief is strong enough to rip the water fountain off the floor and run it through the barred window and he escapes during the night. In the movie version you can see him running off across the fields to freedom as someone plays the handsaw in the background. In the book, you can't see him running off or hear the weird saw music in the background. Before the Chief escapes, McMurphy gets his brain fried by electroshock treatment and is vegetableatized, but the Chief smothers him with his pillow before leaving. Said smothering was both to put McMurphy out of his misery and to pay him back for giving the Chief a stick of gum and teaching him how to play basketball. This book is much better than I am probably making it sound.
20. Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte) This is a 19th century classic written by a great British author, so I will try to pretend I liked it so you don't think I lack culture in the arts. If you still think I do have culture, that is. Most of you have read my blog for too long to think that, though. Like most classic 19th century English books, this story has a moral. So did Black Beauty, though I didn't inflict it on you. The moral to this book is to wait for the movie. The book is about 800 pages long, more or less, so that should warn you off. The book is narrated by the title character, and, boy, can she narrate. She starts off with her childhood, which is probably more logical than starting with her death, and she has a lot of it. She is prone to fainting. Or fainting until prone. Whichever. But women fainted a lot in the 19th century. They even had fainting couches, but that is another story. Not wanting to spoil this for you, I will just tell you that she survives childhood, gets educated, and then gets a job. She works for this Rochester guy who owns a big house but dresses like a woman sometimes. This is A-OK with Jane, though. Bronte describes Rochester as "self-willed" and I wonder who isn't. She does things like this often enough to make me think that I too can be a writer if you can just say anything at all like that. Rochester has a young "ward" named Adele. Wink wink nudge nudge. After a bit, Jane tells Rochester she loves him and he feels her too. She agrees to marry him and they get ready to marry and she has her wedding dress and everything. Only thing is, he is already married, but he says they can go to the south of France if she wants and live together. Well, Jane says thanks just the same and hits the road in the middle of the night. Then she gets older. Considerably later in her life after more adventures, Jane returns and finds the house has been burned down by Rochester's crazy wife who goes to the roof and commits suicide. One can't help but wonder why she didn't simply sit still and burn to death. At least I wondered about that. Jane wants to become a missionary to India but wants to make sure Rochester, who humiliated her, is ok. This makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Sure. Well, when she arrives, in addition to the no more house, she finds he has lost a hand and his sight. Wink wink nudge nudge. "And what have YOU been up to, mister?" she says. No she doesn't. I just made that part up. Actually Rochester has lost his eye and his hand in his fire rescue attempts (guess he didn't know the bitch was up on the roof, eh?) But Jane finds his eye and hand and returns them to him. "Lost" them, get it? Trust me, my version is MUCH more entertaining than Bronte's. They never tell where he was living. I figure since the house burned down, this all must have taken place in the barn or chicken coop. He is worried that Jane will be repulsed by his repulsive self, but she tells him, no, this is still better than being a missionary in India. At least that is the impression I was left with. Spoiler alert: this book never really ends.