Mismatches Aren’t Always ‘Mismatchy’

In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, married couple Shadow and Laura spend time together. Which is not surprising, except for the fact that she’s…dead.

Yup, relationships in literature can sometimes be strange, offbeat, unusual, unexpected, or improbable — making it seem, in comparison, like Felix and Oscar were kindred spirits in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. But drama or humor can abound when there’s interaction between people with very different situations, personalities, and demographics.

Most examples I’m about to give are nowhere near as extreme as Laura and Shadow’s “till death doesn’t do us part” union. But the relationships I’ll mention are still of the rather unlikely sort — albeit often positive.

For instance, there’s Queequeg and Ishmael in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. A masterful black harpoonist and a fairly ordinary white seaman — raised thousands of miles apart in dissimilar cultures — who become pals after their quirky first meeting at a New England inn.

Or take the friendship that develops between elderly nursing-home resident Ninny Threadgoode and middle-aged visitor Evelyn Couch, who are not related and originally didn’t know each other in Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Ninny and the stories she tells turn out to be life-changing for Evelyn.

Flagg’s novel partly looks back to distant decades, while Camille is set a short time after the death of Marguerite Gautier (“The Lady of the Camellias”). In Alexandre Dumas fils’ novel, an unnamed narrator and Marguerite’s former lover Armand Duval meet/interact in a non-ordinary way as the story of the late Gautier unfolds.

Another “diva” of sorts is opera singer Roxane Coss of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. When Roxane is among a group of people taken hostage for months, she has an affair with opera-loving, married businessman Katsumi Hosokawa — a pairing that could only happen in such an artificial situation.

Or how about the relationship in Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son? Beleaguered but resourceful protagonist Pak Jun Do ends up audaciously appearing at the doorstep of a famous North Korean actress (Sun-moon) to replace her military husband (Commander Ga).

Fictional relationships rarely get as unpredictable as that of married couple Henry and Clare in Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. Henry bounces around in time, always staying an adult as he randomly encounters Clare when she’s a kid and when she’s a grown-up.

Back in the friendship realm, an against-the-odds bond develops between Kiki and Carlene in Zadie Smith’s On Beauty — unusual not because those two women are from different countries (the U.S. and England) but because their less-than-ethical husbands (one a white liberal and the other a black conservative) are bitter rivals in academia.

Then there are unusual work pairings, some of which can almost be friendships as well. For instance, in Charles Portis’ True Grit, Mattie Ross hires Rooster Cogburn to find her father’s murderer, and those totally opposite characters (female/male, young/older, straitlaced/dissolute, etc.) end up feeling a fondness and respect for each other.

Jeeves and Bertie Wooster are also friends in a way — even though Jeeves is the (much smarter) butler and Bertie is his employer in P.G. Wodehouse’s novels and short stories.

Humphrey van Weyden and Wolf Larsen are far from buddies in Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf, but their relationship is fascinating as it evolves. The physically weak Humphrey is rescued from the water, and forced to stay and work on the boat captained by the strong, bullying Larsen…until the tables start to turn.

Some other seemingly mismatched relationships: English captain John Blackthorne and Japanese translator Mariko, who become lovers in James Clavell’s Shogun; lower-class white kid Huck and escaped black slave Jim, who develop a friendship in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; “deformed,” goodhearted Quasimodo and beautiful, compassionate Gypsy dancer Esmeralda in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame; and Nino and Giuseppe, half-brothers many years apart in age who share an affectionate but sporadic bond (Nino is not very responsible) in Elsa Morante’s History.

Also: white woodsman Natty Bumppo and the Native American Chingachgook, close friends in James Fenimore Cooper’s “Leatherstocking” novels at a time when most settlers treated Native Americans horribly; brilliant, young, computer-hacking “punk” Lisbeth Salander and brilliant, middle-aged, somewhat-more-conventional journalist Mikhail Blomkvist, who have a complex relationship in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.); and Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Cowardly Lion in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Also: mismatched college roommates Walter Berglund (a friendly “nerd”) and Richard Katz (abrasive indie rocker) in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom; Professor Virgina Miner and non-intellectual Chuck Mumpson, who become attracted to each other in Alison Lurie’s Foreign Affairs; writer Paul Sheldon and his psychopathic fan, Annie Wilkes, who torments Sheldon in Stephen King’s Misery; religious, dying teen loner Jamie and popular, rebellious teen Landon, who have a poignant relationship in Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember; and Jackie Kapp, a jeweler from an immigrant family who gets to know famous New York Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson in Eric Rolfe Greenberg’s The Celebrant.

When it comes to far-fetched relationships, animals can be involved, too. For instance, there’s Pi and Richard Parker the tiger, thrust uneasily together after a shipwreck in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi; lonely lower-class farmer Link Ferris and high-class collie Chum in Albert Payson Terhune’s His Dog; and Mrs. Murphy the cat and Tee Tucker the dog, pals who talk to each other in Rita Mae Brown’s mysteries.

What are some of the most unusual relationships, friendships, and other pairings in literature?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area β€” unless you’re replying to someone else.)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

151 thoughts on “Mismatches Aren’t Always ‘Mismatchy’

  1. Mismatches have been the seeds of great literature from Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Huck and Tom, and the Prince and the Pauper, though the last one is more circumstance than relationship. Great contrast for irony and other effects is the hallmark of classic literature and contrast will always be a constant in literature especially when people are of two different races, classes, or even genders.Mismatches of all sorts even play out in movies from one genre to the next.

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  2. Hi Dave, I’ve just finished “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and now have to adjust my list of favourite books. Such an emotional rollercoaster from cover to cover. And such beautiful relationships. Not only Henry with Clare at various ages, but also Henry with Henry at various ages. Like Brian, it also made me think of “The Curious Life of Benjamin Button”, but it also reminded me a little of “Lolita” at times, though not quite as icky…

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    • “The Time Traveler’s Wife” does indeed send a reader’s emotions all over the place, Susan. As you say, because of the constantly interrupted relationship between Henry and Clare as well as the relationship between Henry and Henry (I had forgotten about the latter). And then there was Clare and Henry’s daughter…

      I agree — the interaction between the adult Henry and the kid Clare in part of the novel approached “Lolita” territory and made a reader feel queasy. Great observation.

      Another thing I liked about the novel, besides the poignant relationship and the time-travel pyrotechnics, was the sense of place. I lived just outside Chicago for a year, and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” had all kinds of recognizable scenes in that city.

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  3. Hi Dave — great column, as always. How about Neil Klugman and Brenda Patimkin, in Philip Roth’s “Goodbye, Columbus”? Talk about a total mismatch! “Goodbye, Columbus” is one of those books I just have to reread from time to time; it never gets old.

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    • Thanks, Pat! Glad you liked the column!

      I’ve never read “Goodbye, Columbus” — just “Portnoy’s Complaint,” when it comes to Philip Roth’s earlier career. If it’s good enough to be rereadable multiple times, it’s now on my list.

      Interesting — a fictional Klugman (Neil) preceded a real-life Klugman (Jack, who played Oscar Madison on TV) as a member of an odd couple. πŸ™‚

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      • That’s true, Dave. And just as interestingly, Jack Klugman played Brenda Patimkin’s father in the movie “Goodbye, Columbus”, which stayed very true to the novella. It’s just a sweet and very funny story about a young Jewish man, Neil Klugman (played by Richard Benjamin in the movie), who works in a library, and has a summer fling with the very WASPy Brenda (Ali MacGraw). I’ve never cared for Ali MacGraw, but she was very good in the movie. The movie is a little gem, but I prefer the book. As for “Portnoy’s Complaint”, it has always been on my “to read someday” list, but never got around to it. Would you recommend it?

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        • Wow — I didn’t know Jack Klugman was connected with the “Goodbye, Columbus” movie! Name-wise, sounds like it was meant to be. πŸ™‚

          And thanks, Pat, for your descriptions of/thoughts about the film and novel; I will look for the latter during my next library trip.

          It has been many years since I read “Portnoy’s Complaint,” but I remember it being absolutely hilarious — even as it made a reader cringe at times!

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  4. I am late to the discussion yet again! The two “odd couples” that I thought of immediately were Pip and Miss Havisham from “Great Expectations” and Woody and Lady from the fascinating novel “Lady” by Thomas Tryon. I love novels that delve into the relationships between children and adults. O Henry’s “The Last Leaf” also comes to mind. The long term impacts that some adults have on the lives of children within their sphere are amazing!

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    • Two memorable odd-couple relationships that have young males and significantly older women interacting, lulabelleharris. Thanks for those mentions!

      I agree — child-adult encounters can be fascinating, whether between people who are related or not related. Another such relationship that comes to mind is that of Jane Eyre and her teacher/mentor Maria Temple at the initially bad and later improved Lowood school in Charlotte Bronte’s novel.

      “The Last Leaf” — one of the best and maybe the most moving of O. Henry’s many stories.

      And it’s never too late to join these discussions. πŸ™‚

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  5. I love your columns because you mention so many of the books I have loved but you didn’t mention Blanding’s Castle by Wodehouse and the eccentric uncle (I believe his name is Emsworth) who loves his pig, a very important relationship. Wodehouse was so much fun to read, I used to spend hours on end reading, eating and sleeping Wodehouse. I especially loved the PBS series with Peter O’Toole, who played the uncle of the pig and also enjoyed the couple that were so in love and had a strange time at the castle. The young man kept asking his lady friend who loved him why? He felt that his face was always red and he was short but was he gorgeous on PBS, his red face and his being diminutive didn’t detract. They made such a gorgeous couple as was the series, beautiful to look at and so enjoyable and pleasant, like an ice cream soda.

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    • Thanks for the kind words and terrific comment, Claire! I haven’t read any Wodehouse other than some of his Jeeves works, but I’m very glad you mentioned his Blandings Castle stories. That uncle and pig — you have me intrigued!

      Wodehouse is indeed so much fun to read — really one of the most humorous writers ever.

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  6. Enjoyed the article very much, but then I always do. Evelyn Couth and Ninny Threadgoode are two of my favs in lit. Plus, I simply can’t think of any better names to come up with for characters in a book, a play or a film, well other than Sipsey. These names make them jump out of the page; they seem so real to me, right off the bat. The friendship between Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison is quite unnatural, at least at first. All kinds of lives are valued in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop (which is how I think Fannie should have spelled it) Cafe. But those lives are not unrealistic in any way, shape or form. I loved the respect Fannie brought to all these characters, no matter their personal paths in life, and the way she wove the time frames into such a fascinating plot. Excellent writing. The best reading. And to be able to get a screenplay out of a story like that – just perfect!

    Thanks again, Dave.

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    • Thanks, hopewfaith! Glad you liked the column. πŸ™‚

      You wrote an excellent, eloquent comment about “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.” Such a warm, insightful, tolerant, funny, serious, masterful novel. And, yes, the names of some of the characters are great.

      The relationship between Idgie and Ruth is wonderful to see — friends and more than friends, despite rather different personalities. And Ruth went through hell in her marriage to the vile Frank.

      I haven’t seen the film, but I heard it made Idgie and Ruth to be pals more than what they probably were: two women in a romantic relationship they kept hidden in the more homophobic time of many decades ago.

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  7. Driving Miss Daisy comes to mind. Set in the south,1948, a wealthy woman’s father hires a chauffeur for his daughter. Hoke,her driver,confidant became her best friend. Different in ways on surface,racially, financially but both learned to trust each other,go against what society determined,to be true to themselves. There was a genuine fondness, love,which is color blind. Morgan Freeman and the late Jessica Tandy were brilliant in this heartfelt film, most deserved of all the accolades it won back in 1990.

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    • That movie (originally an Alfred Uhry play) is a terrific example of an unexpected pairing, Michele! Not that it was unusual for there to be an African-American man chauffeuring an affluent white woman, but, as you eloquently note in your comment, their friendship transcended their respective “statuses” in society.

      Thanks for the excellent comment!

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  8. Damn Dave you are brilliant at coming up with great topics for discussion. Loved your essay more even more than usual as it is loaded with fabulous examples from some of my favorites, Moby Dick in particular . Better still I’m on a quest now for American Gods , I know Neil Gaiman as the writer of one of the best Doctor Who episodes for the modern era ( The Doctor’s Wife) for which he won a Hugo award yet somehow was unfamiliar with this novel. Speaking of God’s for really bizarre pairings I submit Zeus . Less relationships than short affairs or even one night stands the strangeness was usually delicious and the consequences pretty far reaching. Take the case of the fair Phoenician princess Europa whom he abducted in the form of a bull the results of which produced Kings, Demi Gods and the name of a Continent . Had it been one of us there’d of been jail time and years of child support ,but at least we need not fear the wrath of Hera. πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you for the very kind words, Donny! You made my day. πŸ™‚

      Neil Gaiman is a very eclectic writer! I didn’t know he had penned “Doctor Who” episodes. From what I’ve heard, he has written comic books, too. I like it when authors have a stake in pop culture as well as the literary realm.

      I’m just about finished with “American Gods” (I’m reading the epilogue now), and it really is an unusual/riveting hybrid of real life and fantasy. The characters are a bit like Harry Potter in toggling between two worlds (in Harry’s case, the muggle and wizard worlds). As I mentioned elsewhere, commenter “glmeisner” (a Neil Gaiman fan) recommended “American Gods” to me.

      Last but not least, thanks for your engagingly written thoughts about Zeus’s odd pairings. Some of those Greek gods were, um, eccentric…

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  9. Hi Dave, bebe already beat me to Sherlock and Holmes, as well as to Mr. Rochester (as you mentioned, both the former Mrs. Rochester and Jane Eyre would seem to be mismatches). You also beat me to one of my favorite “odd couples” — Jeeves & Wooster. A similar bond exists in Dorothy L. Sayers’ novels between Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter. They met while serving together is WWI, and Sgt. Bunter helped to nurse Wimsey back to health, especially from what was then called “shell-shock.” They made a pact that if they both survived the war, then Bunter would become his valet. Bunter always refers to Wimsey as “My lord,” but it’s obvious that they are more friends, and Lord Peter relies on him in many ways. Although, Lord Peter is way more smarter than Bertie Wooster, who would be totally lost without Jeeves.

    I enjoyed reading about some of the animal stories, and I too loved “The Incredible Journey,” as well as many of Albert Payson Terhune’s collie books. This brought to mind one of my favorites, “Black Beauty,” by Anna Sewell. There are many horse characters of course, but I was thinking about the owners of the horses, especially Black Beauty. Some were kind and good people who treated their horses well; then there were others who were either indifferent to the welfare of the horses or just downright cruel. This was especially true of the horses who were used in cabs. I was reading about this book, and apparently the author suffered a disability when she was 14, and had difficulty in standing or walking. She became interested in horses at this time, and eventually as an adult wrote this novel not as a children’s book, but to highlight the plight of some horses, usually those working animals, and practices such as blinkers, “bearing reins,” and docking their tails. The book was successful in banning such things as “bearing reins” in Victorian London, and advanced animal rights for horses elsewhere.
    “…. there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham….” β€”Black Beauty, Chapter 13, last paragraph.

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    • Thanks, Kat Lib, for those great odd-couple examples — including ones mentioned before and ones you mentioned for the first time. I enjoyed “meeting” Lord Peter Wimsey when I read Dorothy L. Sayers’ “Strong Poison” a few months ago; I hope to meet him again in other Sayers mystery novels.

      Wonderful, interesting thoughts and information about “Black Beauty,” Anna Sewell, and her compassionate feelings about horses. Literature definitely has various heartbreaking, hard-to-read scenes about suffering horses — in Charles Portis’ “True Grit,” John Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony,” Emile Zola’s “Germinal,” etc.

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  10. Hi Dave first book on my mind was George and Lennie in Steinbeck’s β€˜Of Mice and Men’ as mentioned by Brian.

    Sherlock and Watson , Sherlock was a loner and Watson a married individual lived in 221B Baker Street, Sherlock`s home. In my mind Jeremy Brett is the incomparable Sherlock although the current BBC Sherlock is excellent.

    Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre and his mystery destructive wife locked up upstairs whom no one knew about until Jane came to the picture.

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      • Oh you must..they are all available in DVD`s and the fourth series is being filmed. They are all like watching a movie with excellent cast and storyline.
        Oh btw..forget those Robert Downey Jr. movies i have watched one for then minutes and that`s that, he was no Sherlock that`s for sure.

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      • I actually haven’t seen the latest series with Cumberbatch as Sherlock, although I hear that he is great in that role, but I am leery about watching anyone other than Jeremy Brett as the iconic Sherlock. I have all of those movies and series starring him on DVD. I started to watch the Miss Marple BBC shows with two other actors after Joan Hickson and was very disappointed in them. But who knows, I used to think no one could be better than Basil Rathbone as Sherlock!

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        • Kat Lib…do watch them..I never have heard of Cumberbatch before starting to watch Sherlock..I was in awe..later I found out he was in some movies. Now he has become an American Household name.
          Currently I am watching Columbo , every single one has a well known actor “who had done it ” but it does not spoil anything for the viewers because that is the theme of the show.

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          • Bebe, ever since I had some disabling medical conditions five years ago and was able to be on SSDI, and then take my pension, for some strange reason I haven’t been watching any TV shows or movies. I have quite a collection of DVDs of both, but I usually only want to read. I’m sure eventually I’ll go back to them, and I will definitely check out the new Sherlock when I do. Glad for the heads-up on the Robert Downey movies — I had a feeling he’d be a terrible Sherlock.

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            • Kat lib..somehow I missed your comment…I hardly watch much tv these days except a bit of news. Since I am at the public library it is easy to find some DVDs. But reading is so much better.

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        • I remember you also raving about the Miss Marple series, so I looked that up after Sherlock Holmes while playing around on Netflix last night. I didn’t see the series on Netflix, but I did find it on Amazon Instant Video. Watched 2 episodes from Season 1 on my iPod….I am now hooked on Miss Marple.

          And it looks like I’m going to rediscover my love for Doctor Who (found that on Netflix as well). I used to watch that show on PBS all the time, but I sort of slacked off my TV-watching.

          Thanks, guys.

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    • “Of Mice and Men” is definitely a classic odd-couple pairing, bebe. And Sherlock and Watson — GREAT example! Those sidekick relationships can be so interesting…Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Frodo and Sam in “The Lord of the Rings,” etc.

      Yes, Rochester and his first wife, too! Actually, Rochester and Jane were also an odd pairing in certain ways, but it worked. πŸ™‚

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      • Hi Dave just started reading a book recommended by my Nashville friend “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce.
        Harold mid 60`s just retired married Maureen long ago for love. The marriage went stale a long time ago, where Mo is dusting constantly they don`t have any conversation she is just a wall to him.
        He receives a letter from Queenie a long time friend in another part of England 600 miles away from hospice dying of cancer.
        Harold was going to post the letter..took off in his sailor show with no phone then decided to went on to walk all the way to see Queenie.

        I don`t know how the book will end because I just started it..the longtime married couple totally mismatched leading a dull life.

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        • My sister loved this book so much, and there is apparently a new book by the author telling the story from Queenie’s angle, which sounds really interesting. My sister was raving about this one as well (though she hadn’t finished it yet).

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          • Kat Lib, it’s interesting when another book tells a similar story from a different angle! That was also the case with Margaret Atwood’s “The Penelopiad” (which looked at “The Odyssey” story from a women’s perspective), Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea” (which looked at things from the perspective of the first Rochester wife from “Jane Eyre”), Gwendolyn Brooks’ “March” (largely about the father in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”), etc.

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            • Regarding novels based on minor characters from major novels i.e. ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, ‘March’ etc. I must put in a pitch for Sena Jena Naslund’s ‘Ahab’s Wife’, narrated by the wife of Captain Ahab (only mentioned in one paragraph of the epic ‘Moby-Dick’). It includes much background on that character and, of course, provides a window into the mid-19th century world and the status of women. It is structured much like ‘Moby-Dick’ and, although it does stretch coincidence to include the real-life Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne and even a ten-year old prodigy named Henry James, it is quite powerful and worth the investment in time.

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              • Wow, bobess48, I had never heard of that one! Enthusiastically on my to-read list.

                And I know what you mean about squeezing a lot of “celebrities” in a novel. Hard for an author to resist. I remember reading the great baseball/time travel book “If I Never Get Back,” and was impressed with how author Darryl Brock managed to organically fit Mark Twain into the story. But then he also included a totally superfluous scene with Ulysses Grant before going off the rails with a General Custer appearance in the so-so sequel “Two in the Field.”

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                • Sorry, Dave. That’s Sena JETER Naslund. Thought something looked wrong with that name. Just wanted to add that it probably would have been TOO self-referential if Herman Melville had shown up. One that I haven’t read yet, dealing directly with Melville, is Jay Parini’s ‘The Passages of H.M.’, a novel about Herman Melville. Parini also wrote ‘The Last Station’ about Tolstoy’s tempestuous marriage and his final days, which was a film a few years back with Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren. Of course, I may have opened up an entirely new topic for your blog–Novels About Novelists. One of those that I recommend very highly is Colm Toibin’s ‘The Master’ about Henry James.

                  FYI: Sena Jeter Naslund is a native of Birmingham with Huntsville, AL ties. Her brother lives here and has a writer’s group that meets in our meeting rooms near Reference. I have seen her at the library as well as at a writing workshop at UAH (University of Alabama in Huntsville) a few years ago. She has also written a book about the four little girls killed in the church bombing in B’ham–‘Four Spirits’ (Sena was a college student at the time) and ‘Abundance,’ a novel about the fictional journals of Marie-Antoinette. One of her first novels was ‘Sherlock in Love’ about the detective’s romantic life.

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                  • Yes, Herman Melville showing up might have indeed been a bit much. πŸ™‚

                    Novels about novelists — a very interesting topic! I wonder if there are enough of those kinds of books for a blog post. Real-life authors certainly make cameos in fiction here and there.

                    Sena Jeter Naslund sounds like an excellent, eclectic author, and Alabama certainly has had its share of notable writers — Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Fannie Flagg, etc.

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        • bebe, that Rachel Joyce book sounds very interesting! Just put it on my to-read list. A longtime married couple is indeed a mismatched couple if they no longer have much to say to each other.

          Pilgrimage-type novels can be fascinating. One of my favorites of that kind is Sir Walter Scott’s “The Heart of Midlothian,” in which the Jeanie Deans character walks all the way from Scotland to London to try to get a royal pardon for her sister.

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          • Dave on Cumberbatch I know you are a fan of Star trek if you have not seen this one Star Trek Into Darkness he is the new Khan was great in the role. The movie didn’t have a good review with all new casts but time moves on.

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            • I’m definitely a “Star Trek” fan, bebe, but missed that last movie. And, as you say, not every “Trek” production is great. The number of acting roles Cumberbatch has had during the past few years is astounding!

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        • bebe, this is the Stephanie we knew at HP? Horrible news, and to happen at a relatively young age. 😦 She was so nice, and much more responsive than most of the other people at the site. And it seems like she was smart enough to leave HP. Not fair.

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          • Yes the same..wonder if she left or let go ?
            Her hands were tight as I see it…she tried her best to help us . The sad part is the family and her wife( i did not know Melissa) need money now for her service.
            Such is the irony while someone else is thriving 😦

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            • Of course! Stephanie might have been nastily laid off as HP and AOL bigwigs maximized their profits. Great point, bebe.

              Yes, Stephanie tried to help as much as she could within the constraints of a treat-readers-and-bloggers-badly place. And it is indeed sick that her survivors need money while a certain someone is a thriving multimillionaire.

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              • I don’t remember this woman as she may have been before my time at commenting on HP. This is still so sad to me that there weren’t enough funds to pay funeral costs. My niece’s husband just died a few weeks ago at age 46, and they had 3 kids (his, hers and theirs). A friend of theirs started a Gofundme page and there had been $11,000 raised last time I looked for it. My niece had very mixed feelings about this, but her husband left her with only a $2,000 IRA. So sad!

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                • Kat Lib, HP’s moderators were mostly “hidden,” but Stephanie would post a friendly comment from time to time and try to help if a comment was deleted for no reason (which, as you know, happened an endless number of times).

                  I’m very glad $11,000 has been raised for funeral costs after the tragic death of your niece’s husband. Unfortunately, in this economy a lot of people can’t save a decent amount of money. Before I sold my house last year, I was down to less than $1,000 in lifetime savings, even after cashing in my 401(k). I know you’ve had financial struggles, too. Yet the rich get richer. 😦

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                  • Well, Dave, since I never ever got a response to any of my questions about a comment being deleted, it must have been after the time of Stephanie, as she sounded like someone who actually cared. Since I don’t believe in any gods or goddesses, I still have to thank something for my relatively good financial situation these days. After many years of working for businesses, I lost a job with a construction company over 20 years ago. I found a job working for a very small and local HMO, which was bought shortly thereafter by one of the biggest healthcare companies in the country. I worked for them for almost 20 years, and today I’m on SSDI, very shortly to go onto regular SS, I have Medicare and the best supplement, I have a pension that covers my mortgage and cleaning costs, and an OK 401K that covers emergencies. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but am humbled by the fact that I went from having nothing to being able to survive on my own and still give cash to my niece.

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                    • As you know, Kat Lib, HP was and probably still is notorious for not responding — which made Stephanie so unusual. Sorry you didn’t get a chance to interact with her. HP’s unresponsiveness was/is disgusting. Readers and commenters helped make the site grow so rapidly, but HP showed no gratitude.

                      It’s great that your financial situation is now relatively good! (Though I know that life has its difficulties in other ways.) I’m solvent now, too. I guess there are different routes to making that happen. πŸ™‚

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                    • Very nice of you to keep your niece in mind during her difficult period. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the kindest, most open-hearted, family oriented people tend to be those who don’t wear religions on their sleeves. Rather than beat their chests over what *good Christians they are*, people like you see where help is needed, and quietly go out of your way to perform good deeds.

                      Duty calls, so you guys have a good evening:)

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                    • So good to know Kat Lib that you have worked so hard and now doing okay..
                      I was trying to fine some comments from Stephanie to a thread end of 2013 when HP was changing the format. Dave was in that thread too but the way they deleted so much I could nor find them. Then after all that they overnight changed to FB, perhaps unknown to so many staff .
                      I wonder if Stephanie and others were terminated.

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                    • Yes, bebe, so many comments deleted by HP. 😦 And it’s definitely possible Stephanie was laid off. Once HP went back on its word and changed everything to FB, it really didn’t need a lot of moderators.

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                  • “I know you’ve had financial struggles, too. Yet the rich get richer”

                    I drive past the homeless sleeping on a cold dark street, like bodies in an open grave underneath a broken down neon sign that used to read Jesus Saves.

                    A mile away live the rich folks, and I see how they’re living it up, while the poor they eat from hand to mouth, the rich are drinking from a golden cup. And it just makes me wonder why so many lose, so few win.

                    Song lyrics from Something To Believe In by one of my favourite rock groups, Poison.

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                  • Dave you are such an ethical and good person, I am so honored to be fortunate enough to be in touch with you and comment to this wonderful blog of yours.
                    Now I am trying to figure out how to pay a little for Stephanie without giving out my name, not much info there ..I see some famalier names couple of bloggers, Mac and some staff as well.

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                • Kat Lib Stephanie was a visible person..I know of her since 2009 and we had interaction including Dave with her in some threads in 2013. I think her hands were tight and perhaps no one knew when thrive-anna changes the format to FB. I hardly could sleep my hp e addy have her helpful emails.

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                  • I still go to HP to get the main headlines every day, and I noticed that her Thrive eCourse is starting next Sunday on oprah.com in order “to help you on your thriving journey.” Good grief!

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                    • “Good grief,” indeed! The idea and pompous slogan of that eCourse would almost be funny if the hypocrisy of who’s behind that course wasn’t so annoying.

                      “…thriving journey”? I guess Journey was thriving when “Don’t Stop Believin'” became a big hit… πŸ™‚

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                    • I couldn’t reply to your last comment, but I have to say that you often make me laugh, but your Journey reference was really LOL. Thanks, Dave! πŸ™‚

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                    • Yesterday I was there to look any condolences for Stephanie..nada..none…
                      Thriving journey riding on other`s back ?

                      \http://cdn2.thegloss.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/ack.jpg

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                    • The “Ack!” from the “Cathy” comic! Perfect, bebe! And so clever and true about AH — she is talented in her way, but she mostly thrives on the back of the work of others.

                      No condolences on that fundraising site for Stephanie and her survivors? That IS sad. Do you mean from AH or in general? But I’m guessing someone as nice as Stephanie has been the subject of personal condolences from many.

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  11. Dave, you mentioned Jack London and that reminded me of movie version of “White Fang” which has a city boy learning about mining in the Yukon from a seasoned older man.

    That set me thinking of Sheila Bumford’s “The Incredible Journey.” In which the three pets wander 300 miles to get home. A cat, an old dog, and a young dog make up the odd couple type cast for this book. The Movie “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” didn’t do any justice to Bumford’s excellent story.

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        • GL, another thing that struck me about “American Gods” is that some British-born novelists (such as Neil Gaiman and Lee Child today, and Charles Dickens long ago) have/had a real fascination with America, and its “heartland.” Same can be said for Irish rock band U2, which even wrote a song called “Heartland.” πŸ™‚

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          • That is true, a number of British authors have a great love of the US. I wonder if its the same reason some American authors put things in cities where they don’t live. I know a couple of authors obsessed with Boston and New York don’t live there.

            The inverse could be true as well. I know of two Chicago based authors who write about Chicago.

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            • Yes, geographical obsessions run the gamut, whether they’re of a domestic or international nature.

              And in terms of the U.S./U.K. connection, there have of course also been American authors obsessed with Britain or Europe in general — with Henry James being a prime example. Even Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne (“The Marble Faun”) in some of their work.

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          • Rattle and Hum was a great album because the band really explored their interests in American music. All of their subsequent albums were good (jury is still out on Pop), but none of them showcased the band’s appreciation of rock/rockabilly, gospel, jazz, and blues the way Rattle and Hum did.

            *sighs* How do you expect me to get any work done this week if you bring up U2, one of the best bands in the world?? SMH @ Dave trying to make me start a side convo on music…

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            • “Rattle and Hum” IS a terrific album. U2 indeed absorbed a lot of American musical influences for that record. I enjoyed the movie, too.

              I agree with you on “Pop.” It has two or three tremendous songs (“Gone” and “Please” are my favorites), but the rest of the tracks I can take or leave.

              Apologies for my blog not being a U2-free zone. πŸ™‚

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              • I really enjoyed the movie too, not only because it starred U2, but because some of the scenes were shot in Memphis. I recognised downtown and the Riverfront, Whitehaven/Graceland, and of course the Sun Studio scenes with the Memphis Horns.

                Add Staring at the Sun, and you’ve got my list of fave Pop tracks.

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              • I don’t mean to be a contrarian here, because I used to be a great fan of U2, especially their earlier work, but I somehow remember that when Rattle and Hum came out there were some critics who were offended by U2’s talking about taking “Helter Skelter” back for the Beatles from Charles Manson, and thought they were putting themselves as important or more so than the Beatles. I didn’t really care either way, but I’d be interested to hear your and Dave’s thoughts about that. I have my favorite musicians in just about category, so please don’t criticize my favorite rock star, David Bowie! πŸ™‚ Honestly, I think that one’s music tastes is as different as one’s taste in books or art, and I think there is something very good about that.

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                • The talented Bono does have rather a sense of self-importance, Kat Lib, but somehow I missed that “Helter Skelter”-related criticism back in 1988. U2 tends to do mostly original material, but on “Rattle and Hum” they did a couple of covers of songs from pretty iconic people — “Helter Skelter,” as you note, and “All Along the Watchtower” (a Jimi Hendrix-like version of that Bob Dylan song).

                  Although I’ve liked a good deal of U2’s later work, I agree that their very peak would probably be from their first album “Boy” in 1980 to the “Achtung Baby” album of 1991. After that the albums were more mixed, with some spectacular songs (such as “Walk On”) mixed with a number of good not great songs. Almost inevitable with any long-running band.

                  I agree that musical tastes are as varied as literary tastes, and whatever/whomever someone likes is fine by me. πŸ™‚

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                  • I suppose I’d have gone with “The Joshua Tree” as my favorite album, but my favorite song would be “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” I must admit that when there was a PBS fund driver back in1986 (?), I donated money to them in order to be benefit Amnesty International.

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                    • “The Joshua Tree” (1987) might also be my favorite U2 album, with “The Unforgettable Fire” (1984) my second favorite. Both nicely within that 1980 to 1991 span. πŸ™‚ “Sunday Bloody Sunday” — which, as you know, Kat Lib, is from the band’s 1983 “War” album — is a GREAT song!!

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                • I remember that controversy, along with the general criticism the band received for that tour and album. Bono quoted the “Charles Manson stole this song from the Beatles…we’re stealing it back” line at the start of Helter Skelter, which was the opener for the Rattle and Hum movie.

                  I don’t think Bono meant that in a disrespectful way. I took it as the band having respect for the Beatles, and them wanting to return the Helter Skelter title to the originators. I see his quote as him removing Charles Manson’s association from Helter Skelter, and returning it to its proper place as a Beatles album track. People tend to automatically think of Manson’s warped ideas for a race war instead of The Beatles’ song when they hear Helter Skelter, so I guess Bono’s quote meant that he wanted U2 to return the proper context of Helter Skelter back to The Beatles.

                  I’ve never seen David Bowie live. Closest I’ve been to hearing his music at a concert was at a U2 concert during their 360 tour. The band walked out on the stage to Space Oddity.

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                    • Charles Manson completely distorted Helter Skelter and the entire White album. In U2’s early days in Dublin, they were major followers of British Invasion artists, with The Beatles being at the top of their list. I can understand why Bono wanted to strip the association of Helter Skelter away from Manson and restore it to The Beatles.

                      But even if my theory doesn’t make sense, U2’s version of Helter Skelter is still badass. Edge is killing that guitar.

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                    • Great clip, Ana. (Twenty-seven years ago! The band certainly looks young. πŸ™‚ ) As you know well, U2 has always been superb live as well as in the studio.

                      U2 was definitely inspired by the British Invasion. And although U2’s sound is more melodic, The Clash was an influence, too, among other influences.

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                  • Ana, I agree with you, but I remembered the controversy and wondered how you felt about it. I also remember those who put Bowie down for many different reasons, which used to drive me crazy, but I loved him in all his different iterations.

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                  • I hadn’t heard that about their 360 tour. I sort of remember Bono saying at some point about Bowie being a rather strange dude, but that’s about it (which is actually true). I saw Bowie live only three times, twice for his “Spider” tour and once for his “Sound and Vision” tour. Before he walked out on stage for the latter, they were playing “Ode to Joy” that brought tears to my eyes. Back in the 90s, I watched and saw (probably 47 times) the video of his “Serious Moonlight” tour.

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                    • The concept for the 360 tour was sort of sci-fi/science-y. The stage was this huge claw like structure with changing lights. During the performance of their song Beautiful Day, Rep. Gabby Giffords’ astronaut husband (isn’t his name Mark?) also appeared via satellite to recite some of the lyrics. It was a great, great tour. Affordable tickets, nice set-list, great sociopolitical moments….it was awesome.

                      So cool that you’ve seen Bowie so many times. He is hands down one of the most influential musicians in the business. So many artists today owe their success to him. I fell in love with him after watching his Live Aid performance. He did Heroes. I regret I never saw him live. He mostly only tours Europe now.

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        • There is a quasi-sequel, “Anansi Boys.” It is set in the same world but involves only one character from “American Gods.” The story is very different in some ways but in others almost identical. It is a funnier story and I would recommend it if you wanted another Gaiman book in a similar vein. Otherwise “Fortunately the Milk” is a very fun read. Perfect for dads to read to their kids.

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    • “White Fang” is a GREAT novel, GL — almost as good as London’s “The Call of the Wild.” I’m not remembering that city boy/seasoned older man element; perhaps the “White Fang” movie (which I haven’t seen) added it. The novel does have White Fang the wolfdog’s memorable odd-couple relationship with the man he meets in the Yukon.

      “The Incredible Journey” is another excellent novel, and the unusual relationship of that trio is also memorable — and very poignant. I liked the book a lot better, too!

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  12. I read ‘American Gods’ about eight years ago but never recalled the mixed marriage. Thanks for reminding me, Dave! About a year before I read that I read ‘Time Traveler’s Wife’ which, as you said, is a strange coupling and reminds me of the film version of ‘The Curious Life of Benjamin Button,’ which only took the premise from the strange F. Scott Fitzgerald short story of a person who is born as an old man who gets younger through the years. I think there was a marriage in the story or at least a coupling which could only evolve as one person ages in one direction and the other in the opposite direction, making couples who are ‘peers’ an impossibility. The movie made a big romance in which Cate Blanchett ages naturally as Brad Pitt actually looks like a (digitally enhanced) sixteen-year old. It’s not surprising that the screenplay is written by the man who also wrote the screenplay for ‘Forrest Gump’, another film radically different from its source material as each of them possess the same story arc. I don’t recall the smart-assed idiot in the novel being married to anyone but Tom Hanks’ sweet-tempered fool in the movie is remarkably evolved when it comes to the devotion and love of a spouse.

    But following from the ‘odd couple’ premise of your post, initially I thought of George and Lennie in Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’. Most of us know how that relationship ended. Then there’s another literary (and cinematic) odd couple, Joe Buck and Ricco ‘Ratzo’ Rizzo in James Leo Herlihy’s ‘Midnight Cowboy’. The crippled but street-wise artful dodging Ratzo helps the naive wannabe gigolo Joe Buck survive in the harsh New York City culture. Needless to say, neither fellow thrives.

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    • “Mixed marriage” — I like the way you put that, Brian! One alive and one dead is mixed indeed. πŸ™‚

      And you’re right about “The Time Traveler’s Wife” having some similarities to “The Curious Life of Benjamin Button” when it comes to age-mismatched pairings. Reminds me a bit of the first “Back to the Future” movie, in which Marty McFly goes back in time and fights off advances from his future mother!

      Re “Forrest Gump,” I’m continually amazed at how a movie can have such different elements from a novel it’s based on — though I confess to having never read or watched “Gump.”

      “Midnight Cowboy” and “Of Mice and Men” — GREAT examples of odd pairings in each!

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