Native-American Characters in Literature

Louise Erdrich 2The first residents of what’s now the United States were Native Americans, but they haven’t often been first in the casts of novels. Still, there are a number of such characters, including more in recent years.

Their depictions, of course, have been all over the map — from stereotypical to fully three-dimensional. We might see the virulent discrimination against, and the poverty faced by, many Native Americans, or see some of them doing quite well. There are set-in-the-past depictions (including the genocide and otherwise horrific treatment at the hands of whites) and present-day portrayals. It helps when the author is partly or 100% Native American, but some authors with no such ancestry have done a reasonably good job with Native-American characters.

One Native-American author is Sherman Alexie, who I read for the first time last week with Reservation Blues. That novel chronicles the ups and downs of a Native-American rock band — with content also including a romance, mystical elements, interactions between Native Americans and whites, the effects of Christianity on the characters, struggles with alcoholism, and more.

Another (partly) Native-American author is Louise Erdrich (pictured above). I read her novel The Painted Drum a few months ago, and it’s an absorbing tale of an important Ojibwe artifact and the impact it has on various characters.

Some novels with partly or 100% Native-American characters by authors who are not Native American? One famous example is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest‘s Chief Bromden, who ends up in the book’s Oregon psychiatric hospital after descending into clinical depression partly caused by his father being humiliated at the hands of whites. He is one of the Ken Kesey novel’s three stars, along with Randle McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.

Then there’s The Charlestown Connection and other crime novels by Tom MacDonald featuring partly Native-American private sleuth Dermot Sparhawk.

The above books are basically set during the time they were written, but there are also a number of books by modern-day authors set in the long-ago past.

For instance, the star of Isabel Allende’s compelling Zorro — which takes place in the late 1700s and early 1800s — is of mixed Native-American and Spanish descent. Among that novel’s most interesting supporting characters are Native Americans: Zorro’s mother Toypurnia, his grandmother White Owl, and his lifelong best friend Bernardo — all well-drawn and non-stereotypical.

Two in the Field — the sequel to Darryl Brock’s riveting time-travel/baseball novel If I Never Get Back — takes 20th-century-protagonist Sam Fowler to the 1870s to search for his lost love Caitlin with the help of a Sioux guide. Sam even meets General Custer, against whom Native Americans won their famous (and rare) victory against the always-encroaching white menace.

They didn’t fare as well in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, in which the vicious Glanton gang massacred many Native Americans and others during an 1849-50 rampage in the Southwest.

Literature fitting this topic written during the 1800s? Many Native Americans appear in James Fenimore Cooper’s five “Leatherstocking” novels — the most famous of which is The Last of the Mohicans. None of them are as prominently featured as white guy Natty Bumppo, but Natty’s friend Chingachgook is an important secondary character and several other Native Americans have noticeable supporting roles. While Cooper gets somewhat stereotypical at times, he was fairly enlightened for a white author of his era in decently depicting Native Americans.

“Injun Joe” of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is more problematic. That half-Native American is portrayed as quite villainous, although Twain does offer some sense that one motive for the character’s actions is a desire to avenge the discrimination and ostracism he faced throughout his life.

Of course, some novels set in other countries also have indigenous characters — including the Eskimos of northern Canada in James Houston’s White Dawn and Mordecai Richler’s Solomon Gursky Was Here, Aboriginal Australians in novels such as Thomas Keneally’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, and so on.

I realized I’ve only touched the surface here. Your favorite novels that include Native-American or other indigenous characters?

Many of you know “Kat Lit,” a great/frequent/long-time poster here who hasn’t commented for a while. She tells me she has been dealing with a move and some health issues, says hello to everyone, misses everyone, and plans to return here when she can.

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In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest weekly piece — which compares the way my town coddles powerful developers with a neighboring town’s more community-minded approach — is here.

From One to More: Widening Our Reading of Certain Authors

Isabel AllendeHave you ever read just one novel by an author — her or his most famous work — but then waited years to read some of their other, lesser-known books?

I’ve done that, and am not always sure why. Perhaps part of it involves wondering if a different novel by that author would be as good, or not finding other books by that writer in my local library, or a desire to keep reading a variety of writers for the first time, or…

The author who is my most recent example of “one and done (for a while)” is Isabel Allende (pictured above). I read her masterful The House of the Spirits quite a few years ago…and loved it. It’s really almost as good as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s groundbreaking One Hundred Years of Solitude — which partly inspired The House of the Spirits — and Allende’s debut novel is actually more “readable.” Anyway, this week I finally started another Allende novel — Zorro, a fictional work about the younger years of the fictional vigilante — and am very engrossed in what is an excellent book.

Which led me to look back at other authors whose most famous novels I read years before trying some of their other work.

Margaret Atwood is one. I was impressed with The Handmaid’s Tale when I read it not long after its 1985 release, but for whatever reason I didn’t move on to other Atwood works until around 2010. I’m glad I did — thoroughly enjoying Alias Grace, The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Cat’s Eye, Oryx and Crake, and more.

Moving back in time, there’s John Steinbeck. I first read his magnificent The Grapes of Wrath in high school, but didn’t dive deeply into his canon until decades later. Worth the wait: East of Eden, The Winter of Our Discontent, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, The Moon Is Down, etc.

Herman Melville? I tackled Moby-Dick in college, and then waited years before trying several of his other novels. None quite at the level of M-D, but still excellent: Billy Budd, Pierre, Redburn, White-Jacket, Typee, etc.

Melville contemporary Nathaniel Hawthorne is of course best known for The Scarlet Letter, which I read in high school. Decades later I got to the rest of his relatively small novel canon: The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, and The Marble Faun. All good, but more A- or B+ compared to The Scarlet Letter‘s A. (Couldn’t resist that.)

My experiences with George Eliot’s work have been a bit more complicated. I tried Middlemarch in college, and gave up on it relatively early. Then it was many a year before I returned to Eliot — reading Silas Marner, which I loved; followed by The Mill on the Floss and Adam Bede, both of which I also thought were terrific. At that point, I figured it was time to try Middlemarch again — and was bowled over by its psychological depth and expert dissection of two marriages, among other things. Finally, I capped things off with Eliot’s riveting Daniel Deronda.

Then there are novelists best known for TWO novels who also wrote plenty of others. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov are clearly his masterpieces, but works of his such as The Insulted and Injured that I read much later are well worth the time. And we have War and Peace and Anna Karenina from Leo Tolstoy, who also penned some exceptional novellas I finally got to within the past couple of years: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata, Hadji Murat

Which authors have you read who fit this “one and done (for a while)” topic?

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In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest weekly piece — which includes more on my school district’s “SalaryGate” — is here.

Favorite Novels From the Previous Decade

Empire FallsLast week, I listed my favorite novels published between 2010 and 2019. This week, I’ll go back a decade to rank my favorite novels with 2000-to-2009 releases. Don’t worry, there’ll be no list of 1990s fiction in next week’s post… 🙂

As was the case with my previous post, I’ll mention my favorite novels rather than necessarily the best ones. We all differ on what’s best, just as some people think Trump’s The Art of the Deal is the worst book of all time while others think it’s ABSOLUTELY the worst book of all time.

Here are my favorites (and I’ll ask for yours at the end of this post):

25. American Gods (2001), Neil Gaiman: Very original fantasy work about (surprise!) deities in the United States. Interesting, quite varied deities.

24. March (2007), Geraldine Brooks: Intense novel about the harrowing Civil War experiences of the father in Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women.

23. Still Alice (2007), Lisa Genova: Heartbreaking story of a Harvard professor’s descent into early-onset Alzheimer’s. Skillfully told from Alice’s point of view.

22. The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003), Audrey Niffenegger: Quirky, moving novel about time travel (duh!) and how that effects a Chicago-based couple when only the guy is doing the (involuntary) traveling.

21. A Redbird Christmas (2004), Fannie Flagg: Touching tale of a dying (?) man who moves from wintry Chicago (that city again!) to a small town in Alabama.

20. Ellington Boulevard (2008), Adam Langer: A New York City-set comedic novel that says a lot about gentrification and more.

19. The Namesake (2003), Jhumpa Lahiri: The author gravitated from a Pulitzer Prize-winning story collection to novel-writing with this absorbing work about a Bengali immigrant couple and their Americanized son.

18. The Lovely Bones (2002), Alice Sebold: Haunting novel about a murdered girl (who remains “alive” in a kind of limbo), her grief-stricken family, and the frustrating search for the killer.

17. The Road (2006), Cormac McCarthy: Gripping post-apocalyptic novel from a prose master. A departure for McCarthy, who set a number of his previous novels in the past.

16. From a Buick 8 (2002), Stephen King: It “stars” a spooky automobile that’s a portal to another world, but the book is more subtle and moving than many of King’s novels.

15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), Junot Diaz: A novel — set in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic — that’s a potent mix of politics and pop culture. Amazing footnotes, too. (Yes, footnotes in a fiction book.)

14. Middlesex (2002), Jeffrey Eugenides: Ambitious novel that’s primarily about its gender-confused protagonist but is also an immigrant story.

13. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Michael Chabon: It’s about two cartoonists sort of based on Superman’s co-creators, but there’s a lot more sweep to the novel than that storyline implies.

12. The Kite Runner (2003), Khaled Hosseini: Very dramatic tale that takes readers from Afghanistan to the U.S. and back to Afghanistan — where a grisly Taliban encounter occurs.

11. Winter Solstice (2000), Rosamunde Pilcher: The final novel of any author’s long career rarely gets this good. Heartwarming story of a former London stage actress who moves to a small English village and what happens after that.

10. The Lacuna (2009), Barbara Kingsolver: A gay part-Mexican/part-American man works for iconic artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, is later victimized during the McCarthy era, and more.

9. Oryx and Crake (2003), Margaret Atwood: As clever as dystopian fiction can get. Funny and apocalyptically harrowing.

8. The Blind Assassin (2000), Margaret Atwood: Emotionally wrenching story of two sisters that includes a big surprise and a novel within a novel.

7. The 2000s decade’s many Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, with my favorite being Bad Luck and Trouble (2007): In that can’t-stop-reading-it book, loner Jack reunites with his old team of elite military investigators.

6. The Corrections (2001), Jonathan Franzen: Compelling depiction of a dysfunctional family coupled with scathing social satire and excellent (if occasionally over-the-top) writing.

5. Prodigal Summer (2000), Barbara Kingsolver: Several seemingly separate storylines eventually converge in an extremely satisfying way.

4. The Millennium Trilogy — The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2005), The Girl Who Played With Fire (2006), and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2007), Stieg Larsson: An as-page-turning-as-it-gets chronicle of abuse, murder, corporate corruption, and more that co-stars a journalist and the brilliant/angry/highly original character of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander.

3. White Teeth (2000), Zadie Smith: A potent combination of laugh-out-loud hilarity, serious social commentary, and a memorable multicultural cast of characters in London.

2. Empire Falls (2001), Richard Russo: A pitch-perfect novel set in a small Maine town. The characters are unforgettable, and the action is low-key (but never boring) until things get VERY dramatic.

1. The fourth-through-seventh books of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series — Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007): The wildly popular series that deserved every iota of its popularity. As its readers know, the wizard-world books got longer and more complex in the 2000s but never became less than exciting, funny, and poignant.

Your favorite novels published between 2000 and 2009?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: 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 The latest weekly piece — which discusses a heated Board of Education meeting (during which delayed teacher raises were criticized) and climate-strike protests in my town — is here.

My Favorite Novels of the 2010s

The GoldfinchAs visitors to this blog know, I often write about novels that date back decades or centuries. But I also read some recent fiction, and thought I’d list my favorite novels published since 2010 — some literary, others mass-audience-oriented. Not necessarily the best novels of the past nine years (that’s so subjective anyway) but my personal favorites. Then I’ll ask for yours!

Here they are, in reverse order from my 12th to 1st picks:

12. Three Stations (2010), Martin Cruz Smith: The seventh of the mostly Russia-set Arkady Renko novels that started with 1981’s Gorky Park isn’t the best of the series, but it might be the most poignant. The book begins with the horrifying scenario of a baby stolen, after which investigator Renko investigates — with some important help.

11. Everybody’s Fool (2016), Richard Russo: This sequel isn’t as good as the 1993-published Nobody’s Fool, but is still pretty darn good. The funny, unambitious, not-so-healthy, basically good-hearted Sully is a great character creation.

10. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion (2013), Fannie Flagg: The author once again finds the perfect balance between sentimentality and tough-minded storytelling in this tale that flashes back to women pilots of World War II.

9. Flight Behavior (2012), Barbara Kingsolver: A vivid combination of a cry against climate change and a chronicle of a brainy rural woman’s efforts to improve her life.

8. The Lowland (2013), Jhumpa Lahiri: The author skillfully mixes politics with dysfunctional but at times inspiring family dynamics. A revolutionary dies, his brother marries the deceased’s pregnant wife, that marriage takes an unusual turn, etc.

7. The Luminaries (2013), Eleanor Catton: A novel set during the 1860s New Zealand gold rush that’s a bit too long but impressive and innovative. Catton was only in her 20s when she wrote it!

6. Freedom (2010), Jonathan Franzen: An overhyped novel, but still a compelling and sweeping view of the U.S. via its well-drawn characters and its takes on marriage, war, the environment, and more.

5. 61 Hours (2010), Lee Child: I could name several of Child’s page-turning Jack Reacher novels from our current decade, but this one is my favorite. Roaming, justice-supporting loner Reacher travels to snowy South Dakota, and mayhem ensues.

4. Cormoran Strike series — The Cuckoo’s Calling and three subsequent novels (2013, 2014, 2015, 2018), J.K. Rowling writing as “Robert Galbraith”: Private sleuth Strike and his assistant-promoted-to-investigative-partner Robin Ellacott are VERY charismatic characters who bravely and smartly solve murders while dealing with complicated private lives and feelings for each other.

3. So Much for That (2010), Lionel Shriver: Her book is both a brilliant screed against the problematic U.S. health-care system and a story of several memorable characters — topped off with one of the best endings I’ve read in recent years.

2. The Goldfinch (2013), Donna Tartt: The current movie version didn’t get great reviews, but the long novel is riveting. After a museum explosion kills his mother and others, 13-year-old Theo Decker dazedly leaves with the famous painting “The Goldfinch” — and a fascinating life unfolds into his adult years. (The above photo shows Theo and his mom just before the explosion.)

1. Big Little Lies (2014), Liane Moriarty: This superbly written novel, which spawned the popular TV series, focuses on three unforgettable suburban women whose children attend the same Australian school — and the abusive bank executive married to one of the women. Dead serious, yet with plenty of humor.

Hmm…2010 and 2013 were especially nice years for novels I liked! 🙂 And while some people feel modern literature isn’t as appealing as various long-ago classics, there were some pretty darn good novels published during the past nine years. Your favorites from this decade?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: 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 The latest weekly piece — which includes discussion of climate-strike protests in my town — is here.

Important Novels With 2019 Anniversaries

Margaret Atwoods in the 1960sWhile there are still a few months left in 2019, I thought I’d write a post about this year’s round-number anniversaries of some major novels I’ve read.

A number of significant works of fiction came out 50 years ago, in 1969, with one of the most prominent Kurt Vonnegut’s searing/darkly humorous anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

That half-century-ago year also saw the appearance of Margaret Atwood’s debut novel — The Edible Woman, a good-not-great book that kicked off Atwood’s amazing prose-fiction run that would include The Handmaid’s Tale; and the release of Daphne du Maurier’s gripping time-travel work The House on the Strand, the next-to-last novel of a long/distinguished career perhaps best known for Rebecca.

Atwood (pictured above during the 1960s) is of course still in the thick of the literary discussion in 2019 with the September 10 release of The Testaments, her blockbuster sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Other memorable ’69 works included Philip Roth’s hilarious/scathing Portnoy’s Complaint, Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic sci-fi novel The Left Hand of Darkness, and Mario Puzo’s mass-audience smash The Godfather. There was also Maya Angelou’s iconic memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which almost reads like a novel.

Going back a century, to 1919, readers were introduced to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio — a pioneer in the mini-genre of novels consisting of interrelated short stories. Also released that year was one of W. Somerset Maugham’s best works — The Moon and Sixpence, about an intense stockbroker-turned-painter who was somewhat modeled on Paul Gauguin. And then there was Free Air, the last NOT-well-known novel Sinclair Lewis would write before going on an impressive run starting with Main Street in 1920.

The century-and-a-half-ago year of 1869 saw the publication of Leo Tolstoy’s immortal War and Peace as well as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s perhaps-third-best novel The Idiot. Honorable mention goes to Mark Twain’s hysterically funny nonfiction travel saga The Innocents Abroad — more entertaining than most novels.

Two centuries ago, in 1819? Not an extraordinary 12 months for novels when they were just starting to gain wider popularity as a genre, but that year did see the release of books such as Sir Walter Scott’s feverish The Bride of Lammermoor.

I’ll end by mentioning several 25th- and 75th-anniversary books.

Among 1994’s most notable releases were Julia Alvarez’s heartbreaking historical novel In the Time of the Butterflies, which tells the story of four sisters (three martyred) living under the brutal Dominican Republic dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo; and Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, an emotionally riveting work set on a Greek Island during World War II.

And 1944 saw the publication of another memorable WWII novel, John Hersey’s A Bell for Adano; the aforementioned Maugham’s last great creation, The Razor’s Edge, set soon after World War I; and Colette’s Gigi, that author’s most famous work but hardly her best.

Your thoughts on the books I discussed? Any other novels you’d like to mention from 1994, 1969, 1944, 1919, 1869, or 1819?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: 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 The latest weekly piece — which comments on a county meeting that featured heated audience discussion about a controversial immigrant jail — is here.

A Child’s Perspective Can Be Effective

ScoutAs an adult who reads fiction, it’s interesting to occasionally encounter a novel in which the goings-on are viewed from a child character’s perspective.

That approach can bring readers’ memories back to their own younger years, and inspire analysis of whether the author successfully captured the kid perspective or instead created a character who sounds like a mini-adult.

Child narrators in fiction convey the process of learning about life, sound innocent or not so innocent, and don’t understand certain things or are precocious enough to understand more than might be expected. Also, some fictional kids THINK they don’t understand certain things but understand more than they realize — or might not grasp certain things yet telegraph that lack of grasp in a way that helps the readers to understand those things.

It’s not easy for adult novelists to narrate from a child’s perspective. The writers can’t be TOO knowing, and might have to navigate the difficult process of yanking themselves back to the mindset of their own childhood as fodder for taking a younger approach in a book. In fact, some novels told from a child’s perspective feature adult characters looking back and telling the stories from the vantage points of their kid selves.

When successfully created, child narrators can be memorable/poignant protagonists, can grab the sympathy of readers, and more.

Among the examples of this kind of novel is Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, which I read last week. It’s a coming-of-age story, set on Antigua in the Caribbean, starring a brainy girl who’s at first rather innocent and then becomes more calculating and angry. From Annie’s perspective, we learn a lot about her, her friends and classmates, her love-hate relationship with her parents, and Antiguan life in general.

One of the most famous novels featuring a kid’s-eye view is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout Finch takes the reader through a journey that includes how she views her upstanding lawyer father Atticus and learning about the harsh realities of the world — most notably the virulent racism in 1930s Alabama. (Photo is of Scout and Atticus in the To Kill a Mockingbird movie.)

Some novels told from a child’s perspective take the young protagonists up to the start of adulthood or even well into adulthood, but have many early chapters chronicling the kid years. That’s certainly the case with Ms. Kincaid’s book (which ends with Annie leaving Antigua for a job in England at age 17) and with the stars of the English novels David Copperfield and Jane Eyre.

Charles Dickens’ semi-autobiographical classic chronicles David Copperfield’s mixed bag of a childhood, his school experiences, and eventually his two marriages — with many vivid supporting players (including Mr. Micawber) along the way.

Jane Eyre’s child perspective in the early chapters of Charlotte Brontë’s novel is fascinating as she recounts her difficulties living in the household of her cruel aunt and then her time in a harsh school for orphans. The young Jane is often unhappy, yet displays plenty of mental strength and a kind of fierce confidence that helps her as she grows from girl to woman.

There are also novels that unfold via a third-person/omniscient/adult narrator yet feature child or teen protagonists so memorable that it almost seems like the books are told from their perspectives. L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain are among the notable examples.

Your favorite novels told from a child’s point of view?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: 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 The latest weekly piece — about back to school and more — is here.

Characters Who Hate Each Other

Celeste and PerryLast week’s post focused on characters who miss each other. This week, the focus will be on those who HATE each other.

The hate might be full-blown or have some nuance, be mutual or mostly one-sided, be never-ending or come and go. It can feature jealousy, fury over harm done, or other elements. But it’s almost always visceral, and visceral can make for riveting reading.

There’s of course plenty of hate in the good vs. evil world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series — with the prime example being Harry vs. Voldemort. This is a case where Voldemort is guilty of starting all the hate, forcing Harry to respond.

In the non-wizard realm, there’s much venom from the manipulative Zenia — who makes life hellish for three women (Tony, Charis, and Roz) who thought Zenia was their friend in Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride. The trio eventually react to her hate with their own disdain.

Among the cast of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty are two professors — Howard Belsey and Monty Kipps. Howard dislikes the more successful Monty from a place of professional jealousy, and things get thoroughly unpleasant.

Hate can obviously lead to some justified revenge. In the 19th-century back story of Louis Sachar’s young-adult novel Holes, for instance, white teacher Kate and African-American onion seller Sam fall in love, and local racists subsequently murder Sam. The furious Kate kills one of those involved in the murder (a white sheriff), and becomes a justice-dispensing outlaw.

Speaking of rotten law-enforcement people, the title character in Stephen King’s Rose Madder understandably hates and fears her abusive police-officer husband Norman. After Rose escapes the marriage, a magical painting she discovers helps her after Norman finds and tries to kill Rose.

And speaking of domestic abuse, Celeste loathes and fears her violent rich banker husband Perry — who puts on a good front to the rest of the world — in Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. (The two characters are pictured above this post in the HBO version of the novel.)

And speaking of stone-cold racist characters hated by those whose lives he has made miserable, there’s Bob Ewell in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle features the beleaguered working-class couple Jurgis and Ona Rutkus, who have many reasons to hate Ona’s factory boss Phil Connor. Connor, like other employers in the novel, treats his laborers horribly — and is also sexually abusing Ona.

Sibling dislike can be intense, and there’s plenty of that between half-brothers Hank and the more intellectual/physically weaker Leland in Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. Things come to a head when Leland returns to Oregon after years on the East Coast.

There’s also a more intellectual/physically weaker motif in Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf, in which muscled brute Captain Wolf Larsen picks up the brainy/”soft” Humphrey van Weyden from a sinking ferry and forces him to stay on his ship. Things do become more equal as Humphrey gains strength and courage, and the strong dislike between him and Wolf is a key driver of the book’s climax.

Your favorite novels with characters who hate each other?

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: 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 The latest weekly piece — about a ghoulish Republican plan for a pro-gun mural to counter an anti-gun-violence mural in my town 😦 — is here.