Novels We Like Can Have an Unlikable Cast

Can we like novels filled with unlikable characters?

Yes, though it’s kind of depressing when there’s not even one main player to sympathize with or admire. Instead, we hope the story line is compelling enough and the writing impressive enough to make up for the absence of congenial characters.

This topic came to mind after I finished Donna Tartt’s The Secret History earlier this month. Many of the novel’s Vermont college students and other characters are cold, spoiled, whiny, annoying, entitled, users of drugs, heavy drinkers, and/or other negative things. Heck, some of them are killers, too. Still, I mostly liked the book overall for its originality and excellent writing. But I liked Tartt’s later The Goldfinch a lot more — it’s a masterpiece of fiction with a very satisfying conclusion, AND its flawed Theo Decker protagonist has some positive qualities.

Another excellent novel with virtually all unlikable characters is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. That book’s white gang members sweep their way through the mid-1800s American West slaughtering innocent Native Americans, Hispanics, and others. Even “the kid,” Blood Meridian‘s nameless teen character, is only somewhat less despicable than the men he falls in with. But this novel is often considered McCarthy’s best, for its powerful prose and truth-telling. Indeed, many white men in that time and place were a brutal bunch — exemplifying how a novel filled with unlikable characters can be quite realistic given the many hateful real-life people of the past and present.

In Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog, former Iran military man Massoud, the drug-using/irresponsible Kathy, and the adulterous/takes-sides deputy sheriff Lester are all unlikable protagonists and/or do dumb, nasty things as they fight over ownership of a California home — though the novel does have a sympathetic secondary character in Massoud’s wife Nadi. But the feverishly intense House of Sand and Fog is a riveting read.

Then there’s Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin, in which one can sympathize somewhat with the title character’s difficult lot in life yet not like her that much. And the major characters surrounding her — including her husband Camille, her lover Laurent, and Therese’s mother-in-law — are far from admirable, with Laurent joining Therese in becoming murderers. Yet Zola’s early-career novel is quite readable, though much less accomplished than his later classics such as Germinal.

Humor also helps to make a novel appealing despite unappealing characters. For instance, the buffoonish Ignatius J. Reilly and most of the other people in A Confederacy of Dunces are either unlikable or very weird (which actually can be welcome in a novel). But John Kennedy Toole’s book is hilarious, and quite different, so it’s okay that there’s no character who readers would particularly want to meet in real life.

What are your favorite novels with few or no likable characters?

Here’s a review of, and a video interview about, my 2017 literary-trivia book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for, which covers Montclair, N.J., and nearby towns. The latest weekly column, about a graduation and parks, is here.

81 thoughts on “Novels We Like Can Have an Unlikable Cast

  1. “Madame Bovary” is not one of my favorite novels, but I remember that not one of the characters was particularly likable. They weren’t too memorable either. I am unable to speak or understand French but this novel must be better in the original language for it to have such a great reputation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tony!

      Yes, some novels have few or no characters one really likes. We instead get our pleasure from the drama, the plot, the prose, etc. I liked “Madame Bovary” a lot but it’s certainly not one of my favorite 19th-century French novels. I prefer a number of works by Balzac, Zola, Dumas, Hugo…


  2. I do like an unlikeable cast, I have to say. Obvi characters like Becky Sharp come to mind. I find most of the characters in Wuthering Heights very unlikeable. Old Ebeneezer Scrooge is a horror although he comes good. Scarlett O’Hara is a spoiled, first class bitch. Lisbeth and Blomkvist are not what you might call nice. And I am struggling to think of a single character I liked in O’Connor’s Star of the Sea, the lead pIus Mulvey in particular, but I love that book. I guess it raises the issue of, even if you don’t like a character and flawed characters are my abso fav in reading and writing, there has to be something worth reading on for, something we can identify with, a kind of grand guignol of awfulness, that is fascinating because of what they are up against, or how we may have had thought, ourselves. Equally there’s things, I watch I’ve switched of maybe two or three episodes in–I can think of one this week, that’s the third series — because I don’t care at all about what happens next to this particularly unlikeable character. I can’t think of a book I’ve put down over an unlikeable.

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    • Thank you, Shehanne! Eloquently said, and many great examples of — and points about — unlikable characters. Excellent authors can definitely keep us reading even if most or all of their characters are unlikable. “Wuthering Heights” is certainly a terrific example of that! The prose, the passion, the craziness, etc., keep us riveted.

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      • You are so right. I find it very difficult to think of one nice quality about any of them. But when my younger girl asked me which of three readings was the best, for her wedding last year, I not only did not hesitate in terms of the towering cathedral of prose the lines, ‘If all else perished and he remained,’ is, I thought, I need to read this book again (3rd time). Lots struck me differently about it especially the achievement, given Emily Bronte’s life and circumstances, but one thing did not change. In fact I might even have thought the lot of them were worse than I remembered.

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        • I agree that “Wuthering Heights” is even more amazing given the author’s youth and mostly sheltered (though not easy) life. Just one of those incredible things. It would’ve been interesting if she had lived long enough to write other novels — would she have been a “one-hit wonder,” or a longtime talent?

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          • I’ve often wondered that. I first read that book at 17 and all I knew about the sisters and it seemed very romantic to me living on the moors and having a pen name. But we visited Haworth some years ago and I thought…right…. Funny how we will read a book and not think too much about the author beyond their name.

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            • Yes, seems kind of romantic, and maybe it was in a way, but there was a lot of harshness in the reality. And then all three dying young. 😦

              That said, great that you visited Haworth! Wish I had done that when I was in England.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I have to say, that maybe the anticipation of Haworth –we go to Yorkshire a lot but we had never gone there because it wasn’t near where we go– the anticipation was probably greater than actually getting there.

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                • Yeah… Haworth was not at all as I imagined it or indeed quite as it is described either and I guess to be fair to the actual parsonage..well.. it has its limitations. Quite what you do about bringing the basic visitor requirements into the 21st century, I don’t know. But hey, maybe disabled people find it quaint not being able to get beyond the door and every visitor thinks the same re the portaloos in the carpark….

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                    • I think it is a difficult one. But I did feel this needs to somehow come into the 21st century. I just felt that there was an element of being so awestruck by walking in the hallway and the stairs… all the rooms are roped off, once trodden by Emily, Charlotte and Ann, we should overlook everything else, including the fact that even that kind of museum is old hat these days and I have no idea how they get away with this no disabled access or basic facilities bit. We have Captain Scott’s Discovery ship here because it was built here Obvi that is not in the class of Haworth, nor is it so old but figuring it wasn’t enough to charge for people to peer into roped off areas and that that actual concept is now quite dated, you can wander a fair bit of it, no guides making sure you don’t touch a thing, pose for pictures all over it, after you go round the specially built visitor ‘museum’ bit and that is very good.

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                    • Definitely seems like it needs some improvement! Disabled access is so important, as are basic facilities. I’ve done many a museum with roped-off rooms — I guess that can sort of work if there aren’t too many visitors crowding in for a peek that has to unfortunately be quick so other visitors can have their turn.

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  3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy Dave. Baby Kochamma a vile individual . Her one sided love for an Irish Catholic priest, her relationship with whom is the only meaningful event in her life, With her meaningless and empty life she set out to destroy the lives her own twin nieces and was successful to live in misery.

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    • Excellent addition to this discussion, bebe! Such an unlikable character — and an example of someone with a ruined life trying to have company in her misery by ruining the lives of people around her. 😦


  4. Pingback: Novels We Like Can Have an Unlikable Cast — Dave Astor on Literature | ADEDIGBA MATTHEW OLUWATOBI

  5. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are your favorite novels with few or no likable characters? —

    I have neither read nor seen “The Misanthrope” authored by the playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, aka Moliere, but it appears I share certain characteristics with its titular character, Alceste, as an exhaustive examination of my shelves shows almost all my favorite novels feature either few or no likable characters.

    Happily, however, an unlikable character — or three — does not an unlovable book make. And it may be an indicator of my own brand of misanthropy that I might even argue the converse, as I find Rebecca Sharp unlikable and William Makepeace Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” lovable.

    Long live the Dead Rabbits!

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, J.J.! Very nicely stated, as always!

      Well, there are certainly MANY great novels — including “Vanity Fair” — with unlikable characters in major roles.

      I haven’t read “The Misanthrope,” either, but I’ve seen a production of Moliere’s “Tartuffe” — excellent!


  6. Though the contents of books are highly various,
    the experience of readers is uniformly vicarious
    and had at some remove, so that danger,
    seeming near, remains afar
    and somewhere else than where we are,
    as does pleasure, sorrow, love and death,
    alive between the covers, yet they draw no breath,
    though breathe we readers must, so long as we have light,
    while characters of every kind will strut a while within us,
    some repulsive, some delight,
    until we too must turn to dust,
    and then sweet prints, good night!

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  7. Dave You and I both read The Dragon Trilogy by Stieg Larsson , so many unsavory characters there. Below is c&p from search engine.
    One of them would be Martin Vanger is the CEO of the Vanger Corporation, His father, Gottfried, sexually abused both Martin and his sister Harriet, and made Martin watch while he raped and murdered women. Martin learned a great deal from him, and considered it his “duty” to satisfy his father’s violent sexual urges.
    When Henrik hires reporter Mikael Blomkvist to solve the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance, Martin befriends him in order to throw him off track. Nevertheless, Blomkvist’s assistant Lisbeth Salander uncovers evidence implicating Martin and Gottfried to several murders.
    Just as Martin is about to kill Blomkvist, however, Salander appears and hits him in the face with a golf club, shattering his jaw. Martin flees in his car, with Salander in pursuit n her motorcycle. Martin drives into a fuel tanker and trapped under it. The tanker then explodes, killing him.

    The actor who played Mikael Blomkvist have passed yesterday , have watched all three of the movie a brilliant portray by Michael Nyqvist

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  8. Hi Dave,

    It is too oxymoronic to say I LOVE unlikeable characters?! And I’m so glad to see most of my favourites already mentioned.

    The novel that immediately came to mind was “A Confederacy of Dunces”. Both Ignatius J and his mother were just so much fun. The second novel that I thought of was “We Need to Talk About Kevin” but Kat Lib beat me to it!

    With more respect than I can put into words, I must disagree with your take on Sonya from “Crime and Punishment”. Though she was necessary to Raskolnikov’s storyline, she was my least liked character, because she was just too ‘good’. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like her, or that she wasn’t brilliantly written by Dostoyevski, but she was just wasn’t as much fun as the more flawed characters.

    Of course, this all depends on your definition of unlikeable; and I think whether they are unlikeable on purpose is also very important. As Kat Lib has said before, Austen knew that Emma was going be more unlikeable than the Bennett sisters. And in that particular instance, I don’t think it was a good thing. But George R R Martin creates characters that you just love to hate – and I don’t see anything wrong with that!

    Another novel that I think did unlikeable in the ‘wrong’ way was “Wuthering Heights”. Not only did I not like those characters, I couldn’t figure out why they liked each other. There was just nothing entertaining about that story, and if it’s not entertaining, why would we bother?

    Thinking about this, Dave, makes me realise how many different kind of unlikeable there can be. I remember trying to explain to someone that I didn’t particularly like Lisbeth Salander, and a defender of the Larson novel telling me that was the point, she wasn’t supposed to be good or right. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the words to say that my dislike of Lisbeth had nothing to do with whether she was good. I just didn’t think she was as much fun as I’d been expecting, and I didn’t think she was as well written as the Vanger family, who I really liked even though they were sadistic and awful.

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    • I know what you mean, Sue. The best-written unlikable characters can be “likable” in the sense of being fascinating. Or, as you aptly note, we “love to hate” them!

      Ignatius and his mother in “A Confederacy of Dunces” ARE highly entertaining to read about, though I wouldn’t want to deal with them in person. 🙂

      Sonya in “Crime and Punishment” is indeed almost one-note in her goodness, but, as you say, so necessary to a novel that might have been too depressing without her. And of course she was central to the redemption theme.

      Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse is ANNOYING, and I still didn’t particularly like her after she wised up a bit. Much different then the likable/admirable Anne Elliot in “Persuasion.”

      “Wuthering Heights” does have a bunch of unlikable characters who strangely interact with each other, but somehow it all works for me in a powerful way.

      Lisbeth of Stieg Larsson’s Millennial Trilogy is definitely not fun. After what was done to her, I guess it would be hard for her to be likable. But her courage and brilliance won me over.

      Great, wide-ranging comment by you!


      • Hi Dave,

        Sorry for the late reply. I agree with not wanting to meet the Reillys in real life, and I guess that’s why I’m ok saying I like the bad guys in fiction. Or not liking the good ones. If I met Lisbeth in real life, I’d probably have a lot of empathy for her, and want to help her, but in the novel I was a little disappointed. Maybe Larsson was trying to do too much with her, or maybe I was expecting more because of the hype surrounding the books and movies. And it’s not like I didn’t like her, I just didn’t love her as much as everyone else did, but again, this was more about the way the character was written, rather than about her personality.

        I’m glad “Wuthering Heights” worked for you. I read it straight after “Jane Eyre” which may have impacted my experience with it. I’d like to re-read it one day with different expectations to see if I get anything different from it.

        I love how depressing “Crime and Punishment” is, but again, only because it’s fiction. Real life depressing is not so fun. And yes, Sonya was absolutely crucial to any possible redemption, but I don’t think the novel needed to be saved from being too depressing. Though having said that, Dmitry was a great character for breaking up the depressing parts!


        • When it comes to real-life people we don’t want to deal with, too bad we can’t just physically stuff them inside a novel. Might be more difficult to do with the Kindle version…

          One of the great things about fiction is how we react differently to some books — I was absolutely enthralled with Stieg Larsson’s trilogy. I definitely didn’t love or even like Lisbeth or Mikael Blomkvist, but I was very interested in them — and very impressed with them.

          Like you, Susan, I’m much more of a “Jane Eyre” fan than “Wuthering Heights” fan — while acknowledging that “WH” is also great, and even more original than the very original “JE.”

          And, yes, “Crime and Punishment” still would have been amazing without the redemption and humor, but the redemption and humor made it even “amazing-er.”


  9. I think you’re absolutely right, characters can be unlikable as long as the writing is good. Personally I love The Secret History. It’s incredibly luscious and reminds me a little bit of The Great Gatsby – another book with not very nice characters wonderfully done.

    Two novels spring to mind – The Harry Quebert Affair and The Finkler Question whereby I thought the main protagonist and ensemble characters were mostly jerks. And whilst I persevered till the end, I would never pick them up again. Hanging out with them was not fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Daphne!

      I liked “The Secret History” a lot, too, but it was one of those novels where not liking most of the characters eventually wore me down a bit.

      Excellent mention of “The Great Gatsby” — hard to find a person in there that a reader feels really good about. One of those novels where things like the magnificent writing carries things.

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  10. Dave, another book that I read not long ago in the same vein as “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn was “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. The latter was interesting to me and I read it in a day or two, but on reflection, none of the characters were that likeable, even while rooting for the main character. By the way, why do two bestsellers made into movies (and written by women) refer to the main female characters as “girls” rather than the women that they are? Any ideas, or does it just sound better or are the authors acknowledging the fact that these two females were immature? Sorry, but I just got off on a tangent there, but it’s the first time I compared these two books in the same sentence.

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    • VERY good point, Kat Lib — I hate to see “girl” used to describe a woman. Heck, H.G. Wells and Ray Bradbury didn’t write novels called “The Invisible Boy” and “The Illustrated Boy.” I suppose it could partly be a one-syllable vs. two-syllable thing (“girl” might sound catchier than “woman”), but it still all seems very sexist — even when female authors wrote the novels and I assume chose the titles.


    • I’m beginning to think I left half my brain cells in North Carolina. I just received one of my rewards gift cards from Barnes & Noble, and I used it to buy 3 paperbacks, get one for free, for only $3.00 (mostly shipping). I started reading one of them last night, “In a Dark Dark Wood” by Ruth Ware, which was considered similar to “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train.” The minute I started to read it, I thought it seemed very familiar to me. I know I don’t have it here in my home, but it’s possible I got it from the public library. However, as I’m reading it, I don’t remember the plot or the ending, so I’ll continue to read it, especially since it was a freebie. This is not the first time I’ve done this! 🙂

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        • I’ve been out most of the day, but I’ve just been reading about an attack by Trump against one and both of the anchors of “Morning Joe” that appears on MSNBC every weekday from 6 to 9. I’ve become disillusioned with both co-hosts through the years, mostly because the male host, Joe Scarborough, was once a Republican Representative, and Mika was more on the liberal side (she’s the daughter of the late Zbigniew Brzezinski ), but much to their probable now dismay had Trump call into their morning show every morning during his early campaign. Trump tweeted today about both cohosts, and an especially sexist one about Mika, which even Republicans called out as unbefitting for a president. I still can’t believe that this man was elected President of the US; he and most of his cohorts are a very unlikeable cast of characters!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I read about that, too, Kat Lib — Trump making a disgusting remark about a supposed facelift Mika Brzezinski had. There’s no end to Trump’s noxious (and often virulently sexist) comments — which he aims even at people who are hardly liberals.

            “[Trump] and most of his cohorts are a very unlikeable cast of characters” — expertly said!


  11. “A Clockwork Orange.” Book by Anthony Burgess, saw Kubrick film in college many years ago. Miscreants, very violent, juvenile delinquency, real evil characters as took place in dystopian near future Britain where violence in many forms the norm. Not many appealing characters, off putting. I prefer the distasteful character who gets redeemed like Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” but just like I open myself up to theatrical experiences, some have been dark in various ways, not just the song and dance happy go lucky musical, I have to respect the authors and their characters in the forms they chose them to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “A Clockwork Orange” is a great addition to this topic, Michele! Thanks! You’re right that it’s hard to find someone to like very much in that Anthony Burgess novel.

      It IS nice when bad characters get redeemed, but, yes, if some characters are irredeemable, well, that’s life (real or fictional life).


  12. Trying this again:

    Whether characters are likable or admirable is not a primary concern for me when reading a novel, as it appears to be for some people. If the story is absorbing and the total package (style, characterization, circumstances, plausibility, even for wildly improbable circumstances), then I don’t step back and stand in judgment of the characters. Cormac McCarthy’s novels often have brutal characters doing horrible things but that is not the foremost thing that occurs to me when I read one of his novels or I’ll immediately be taken outside of the experience. I just finished re-watching the Coen Brothers’ ‘No Country for Old Men’ (preparing for a Coen Brothers film series I’m doing starting next week) and Joel Coen said the story has a good guy (Sheriff Bell), a bad guy (Anton Chigurh), and a guy in between (Llewellyn Moss). Chigurh is like a supernatural villain, like the Judge in ‘Blood Meridian’, kind of an angel of Evil. He is nevertheless fascinating because he has a system of justice that is completely reasonable when seen from inside his inhuman mind. McCarthy often has characters that are not inherently good or evil but often do some foolish things–Llewellyn falls in that category, as well as the boys in ‘All the Pretty Horses’ and ‘The Crossing’. ‘Moby-Dick’ is one of the great novels and fascinating no matter that Captain Ahab is so obsessed he has lost any concern or compassion for the fate of his crew. Dostoevsky is the master of making unadmirable characters fascinating. Raskolnikov is a murderer and so are one or more of the Karamazov brothers but those novels are so fascinating that we understand them without even thinking of the question of approving of their actions. If you stood back and judged every character in fiction that killed people and used that as a litmus test for whether to read the novel you wouldn’t like very many fictional characters or read many novels or spiritual books such as the Bible. Sometimes a character may be evil with a capital E. Sometimes a character can be unbelievably stupid or naive and that will lead them to do very destructive things. The essential thing for me is that the writer be skillful enough in his/her writing that I can understand and possibly even identify with the characters.

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    • I definitely see your VERY eloquently conveyed point, bobess48, and I appreciate all your great examples. But if amazing novels include at least one very likable main or secondary character, it’s kind of a bonus — as with Sonya in “Crime and Punishment” and the good brother in “The Brothers Karamazov.” Those and other iconic books with “troubled” protagonists would feel a bit different if there weren’t a relatable character here and there. For instance, Ishmael and Queequeg provide a bit of comic relief in the early on-land portion of “Moby-Dick,” and Ishmael is the sane observer through whose eyes we see and judge the obsessed Ahab. Sort of like how Nelly Dean grounds “Wuthering Heights” with her (relatively) calm narration of all the craziness and eccentricity going on around her.

      Good luck with the Coen Brothers film series you’re handling!

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      • I can think of two examples in which the primary character is repulsive and also narrates his story–Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ and Henry James’ ‘The Aspern Papers’. I think Humbert probably realizes he’s vile but his behavior is like an addiction and he just feels compelled to be a perv. We provide the sane observer in that case, or Nabokov is sort of the silent center of sanity I suppose. In ‘The Aspern Papers’, the unnamed narrator does have a sympathetic sounding board, kind of like Nellie in ‘Wuthering Heights’ although the Aspern narrator’s listener never speaks so she is sort of a silent observer as well. The great trick that James pulls off with that novella is that after that last line we are in no doubt of how vile and narrow-sighted that fool of a narrator is, even if he doesn’t realize it himself.

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        • A repulsive character (a la Humbert Humbert in “Lolita”) narrating a novel can make for fascinating reading! Nabokov is certainly an author who can pull that off.

          I haven’t read “The Aspern Papers” yet, but am looking forward to getting to it eventually!


  13. Hi Dave, my sister is one who won’t read any novel that doesn’t have a likeable character. I don’t feel the same way, but I’m not sure what that means about her or me. She bought “Gone Girl” but bequeathed it to me after she knew more about the plot. After we both read Lionel Shriver’s book “So Much for That,” which we both loved, she tried to read the book “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” but gave it back to me after reading just a few chapters. I had a feeling that she wouldn’t care about the mother — she’s a mother herself and I thought she wouldn’t care for it, while I thought it was brilliant. I was just listening to her song, “Different Drum” which always meant a lot to me.

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    • Thank you, Kat Lib!

      While it’s kind of depressing to read a novel with no likable characters, it’s great when authors make it worth the time anyway — by creating unlikable characters who are REALLY compelling, by writing wonderful prose, by offering a riveting plot, and so on.

      “So Much for That” — I LOVED that novel, too. But Lionel Shriver’s work definitely has a downbeat side.

      And, yes, people have different tolerances to novels with no characters to like and admire.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dave, I guess I’ve not yet recovered from my road trip last week, so I should have said that “Different Drum” was sung by Linda Ronstadt and written by Michael Nesmith, and not my sister! 🙂

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        • That’s okay, Kat Lib! I knew what you were saying. 🙂 I actually still have the “single” of “Different Drum” that I bought as kid a half-century ago, and saw Linda Ronstadt in concert a couple of times in the 1970s. What a voice!


          • Yes, she did have a wonderful voice, one of the best ever. As to my top 10 favorites, they fluctuate from time to time, but number 1 & 2 for me will be Karen Carpenter and the newly added Annie Haslim in a dead heat, followed by (in no particular order) Joan Baez, Holly Near, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Linda Rondstadt, Patti Scialfa, Joan Armatrading, and Nina Simone.

            OK, I’m off on a different tangent,.:) I also love the girl groups and solo artists from Motown that were so prevalent back in the 60’s. Also, one of the best songwriter/singers ever is Nanci Griffith, who appears in both the folk and country sections, but she’s more of the former than the latter. I must admit that I couldn’t tell you anything about female singers today, including the biggest names like Taylor Swift or Katy Perry.

            Anyway, I first heard “Different Drummer” when I was living in Manassas, VA. A young girl (and yes, she was a girl) came to my door trying to sell vinyl records in the way Girl Scouts sell cookies and others sell candy bars today. I took pity on her and bought a record from her of the Stone Ponies that I knew nothing about, but it became one of my favorites because of “Different Drum.”

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            • You listed MANY magnificent singers, Kat Lib! Hard for me to add many more — maybe Sarah Vaughan, Natalie Merchant, Whitney Houston, Adele, Barbra Streisand, Judith Durham (The Seekers), and Amy Lee (Evanescence), among others.

              Girl Scouts formerly selling LPs door-to-door! Never heard of that before. Nice that it turned out to be a great purchase!


            • Those Motown girl groups and female solo artists are among my favorites too–know who they liked to listen to, out of the white girl singers with whom they often shared the stage? Dusty Springfield, whose The Look of Love (Bachrach-David) is simply sublime. Give it a listen if you haven’t heard it in a while– I can almost guarantee enjoyment, if not revelation!

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                • jhNY, I just listened to that recording and it is a truly great cover of a song that has been recorded by many great singers. I did love Dusty Springfield way back when. Of course you and Dave have mentioned some great female singers, which made me think of others that I forgot in my list of 10. Is there any reason why we came up with the idea of having lists of the best 10? It just seems rather arbitrary in a way. So, I will add to my list of 10 to include Laura Nyro, who I discovered the same night back at UT Austin as Joni Mitchell. I used to listen to her one side of “Eli and the 13th Confession” every night while I was going to sleep back then.

                  There was a bar/restaurant in the ’90s in Bucks County, PA, that was owned by a friend of a friend, and he’d book singers/bands on Saturday nights with a very small cover charge. Among those we got to see were Richie Havens, Rick Danko, Fairport Convention, Livingston Taylor, and many more, but my favorite was Laura Nyro. Because we were friends with the owner we were allowed to sit through both sets at the owner’s table. I’m not sure if she had musicians backing her up, because she mostly accompanied herself on piano. Perhaps not the greatest vocalist in the world, but she definitely wrote many great songs, some recorded by others, such as “Eli’s Coming,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Sweet Blindness,” “And When I Die,” “Stoney End,” “Time and Love” and “Save the Country,” although ironically, her best-selling single was a cover of “Up On the Roof.”

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                  • Sorry not to have seen thus till today!!!

                    Laura Nyro was a firstrate songwriter, and a fine singer too, capable of creating a true performing intimacy which came across on records– heard her for the first time around 1969, or whenever “New York Tendaberry” (think that’s how the spelling came out), though everybody, me included, had by then heard her songs as covered by artists like the Fifth Dimension. She died way too young….”Up on the Roof” touches something deep inside a city dweller, especially here– it’s the closest thing to feeling free some kids have till they leave home. Makes sense it would succeed, though I’m surprised it sold more than any other song she wrote!

                    Had the opportunity to help Joni Mitchell locate a lost master tape some years ago, for which I received a ‘thanks’ on the album notes, which thrilled me because there was a long season when nearly the lp on my turntable was “Blue”– I have no idea, otherwise, how I would have made it through. Young romance has many pratfalls and pitfalls…

                    I also spent the day with Ritchie Havens as he copied his entire (unedited) Woodstock performance to a digital format– he was, for some minutes, hearing himself for the first time since the day of the festival! A good-hearted and deeply courteous man, up-close.

                    How marvelous it must have been for you to hear so many greats performing live and in such close proximity!

                    Always a pleasure swapping music anecdotes with you!

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    • Hey Kat Lib — After watching the movie, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, I became very interested in reading the book, although I have yet to do so. That was a fascinating story to watch unfold, and I’m sure even more fascinating to read.

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        • Lionel Shriver is a great writer!

          Speaking of brilliant reads, Susan, I’m currently in the middle of the “Corelli’s Mandolin” novel you recommended. Amazing book — wonderfully written, harrowing, humane, funny. And few novels capture the despicable nature of war like this one. I’ll mention “Corelli’s Mandolin” in an upcoming post.


        • Pat & Sue, I have to say that if one or all of us were living in a different country, the ending of that novel would have seemed far-fetched, but unfortunately it’s so true to the crazy world we live in today. Shriver did a masterful job in presenting Kevin and his family as a very possible family drama, as horrific as it was. The only comedic thing (to me) was when the mother was telling the father that one of the things that alarmed her was that he (Kevin) would sit for hours watching “The Weather Channel,:” I was thinking that OMG, I’m still mourning the loss of The Weather Channel from Verizon Fios to the new Verizon weather channel that is nowhere near as good as the original TWC. It’s almost enough to make me change back to Comcast, but I just can’t go there! 🙂

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          • One of us is living in a different country 🙂 I remember taking “Kevin” to my book group because I thought the writing was so sharp, and the characters were so well drawn. Sadly, all my group could focus on was whether the story was plausible, which seems like a waste of time to me, because of course it’s plausible. Even in another country, I know these things are happening. But there is so much more to this novel than just the ending (which I won’t say too much about because of spoilers). The disconnect throughout the whole book was brilliantly told, and who can’t relate to at least some part of that?

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            • Ha, Sue! I do know you live in another country, though I sometimes think you live right down the street from me :). Again, I’ll blame it on jet-lag even though I was driving instead of flying! I do think highly of your country for instituting strict gun control laws after a mass shooting years ago. It seems as though whenever there is one in the US, which seems to be all the time anymore, the answer put forth from many of our elected officials is to say if only we had more guns it would somehow solve the problem.

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