Thursday, January 31, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Quirky

This week’s question is suggested by (blogless) JMutford:

Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?

Some might call me eccentric. I am, after all, the book lady. I am the queen of non sequiturs, and I like to eat my individual pizza with a fork, starting in the middle of the circle and work my way outward. Eccentric characters are often quirky, sometimes funny, and almost always interesting. Whether a background character or the main character, the eccentric character is often hard to forget.

This past year I came across several eccentric characters who particularly caught my attention. There was the wealthy Margaret Hughes from Stephanie Kallos' Broken For You. In the beginning of the novel, she is living alone in a mansion, surrounded by her collection of valuable antiques. She decides to open her door to a complete stranger, which in turn leads to her taking in a full house of interesting characters.

A book that is full of eccentricities of just about every kind is Joseph Heller's Catch-22 . I do not think one character escapes the label in Heller's novel. The lead character, Yossarian, will do anything to avoid fighting and believes that everyone is out to kill him. My favorite character in the novel, however, is Orr, stuffing apples into his cheeks and always crash landing into the sea.

Then there is Roger Mifflin, reader and bookseller extraordinaire, whose relentless passion for books makes him unforgettable in The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. And what about Grandma Mazur of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum fame? Her penchant for peering into the coffins of the dead, even at closed coffin funeral services, lands her in trouble constantly.

Each of these characters caused me to shake my head in wonder, laugh out loud on occasion, and make room for them in my heart. In some ways, I could relate to them, whether through their eccentricities or their experiences. Rarely do I find an eccentric character annoying, unless that character is ill-fitted for the story being told. Nor do I always especially like every eccentric character I come across. An eccentric villain will most likely not make my best friends in literature list. And yet, I am able to appreciate the eccentricities and the quirks of such characters more often than not. They are an integral part of the story they inhabit, and the book would not be the same without them.

Going along with the theme of eccentricities, Heather of A Creative Journal tagged me for the 7 Oddball Things About Me Meme and I thought this would be the perfect time to play along.

1. I tend to keep my emotions close to my vest. Most people cannot read how I am feeling in any given situation just by looking at me. Just the same, I tear up easily when it comes to movies, books, songs, and TV.
2. I dream frequently and vividly.
3. I am a pessimist just as often as I am an optimist. Most often I like to think I am a realist.
4. I prefer directions be written down word for word rather than be given a map when traveling somewhere to which I am unfamiliar.
5. I am afraid of getting lost, and so I sometimes like to visit an unfamiliar place before I actually have to be there just to be sure I know where I am going.
6. I have been a dog person longer than I have considered myself both a cat and dog person.
7. I am allergic to cats, but I don't care.

Care to share something a little eccentric about yourself? If so, consider yourself tagged!


  1. Hey, that was cool. Thanks for playing. ;-)

  2. I think Jan Karon tries to do eccentric characters, but they're really just annoying.

    The best one for eccentric characters is Anne Tyler. She (excuse the pun) wrote the book.

  3. Catch-22 is one of those books that manages to both interest me and intimidate me. What you wrote about it is intriguing, though. I'm a fan of eccentric characters, so I have to give it a try.

  4. God! How did I forget Catch 22? The weirdest characters are all in there!

    I think I will read this book again adfter 10 years or so.

  5. I forgot about Catch-22. I haven't read that in years. "Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?" For some reason that line has always stuck with me.

  6. Grandma Mazur is one of my favorite off the wall characters. When she shot the roasted chicken at dinner, I about peed myself laughing.

  7. Great answers. I hear so much about Catch-22 but haven't read it yet.

  8. Heather - The timing was perfect. :-) Thanks for tagging me!

    Bybee - I've read a couple of Karon's books, and yes, some of the characters qualify as eccentric. I don't remember being annoyed by any of the characters in particular, but it's been awhile since I read the two books.

    I've yet to read Anne Tyler, but someday I hope to.

    Nymeth - Catch-22 is, at times, just as eccentric as its characters, which turns some people off, but I really enjoyed reading it. :-)

    Gautami - I definitely think it's worth rereading down the road. Like you, I'll probably wait a few years before doing so though. :-)

    Maree - Isn't it interesting what sticks with us? I only read Catch-22 this past year, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it.

    Trisha - Grandma Mazur is such a hoot! She never fails to crack me up.

    Chris - Thanks! When I first read the question, I couldn't think of an answer, but going through my reading journal from last year, it all started coming back to me. :-)

  9. I also forgot Catch-22 - I haven't read it since college, MANY moons ago...

    I agree with Bybee about Anne Tyler's ability to create eccentrics - it's usually pretty well-grounded in the characters, though, not just quirky window dressing, if that makes sense. I read a lot of Southern-set fiction due to my roots there, and characters who are more "quirky" than "character" tend to be prevalent in that sub-genre for some reason.

    Your #3 item on your "7 Oddball Things About Me" list pretty well describes me, too.

  10. Thought I have been the only person who tackles the pizza with knife and fork, British style. I get squeamish to get my hand all oily from touching the pizza!

    I'm allergic cat but cats like me. :)

  11. Perfect punning, Bybee!

    My BFF eats pizza w/a fork too. Written instructions rather than maps? Argh.

    Sadly, I have nothing quirky to share. Nothing is out of the ordinary with me at all. I don't care what They say. ;)

  12. So do you take allergy medicine all the time for your cat allergies? I am so allergic to cats so no pets for us.
    You know Grandma Mazur is about the only reason I kept up with the Stephanie Plum series for so long (I got up to book 9 or 10 I think). Oh and Lula too. What a hoot.

  13. I can't believe I forgot Granma Mazur!

    And only 7 oddball things? I'm not sure I could limit it...


  14. I also prefer written directions to get someplace - and often make a "dry run" if I'm worried about finding someplace I've never been!

  15. Florinda - It does make sense. I definitely need to give Anne Tyler a try.

    Matt - Pizza can be pretty messy when it comes to getting all over the hands, can't it?

    I've always attracted cats. I just assumed it was because they knew it was because I was allergic to them. Now I wonder if they new I was a closet cat lover.

    Carrie - I always figured my preference for reading directions rather than using a map was due to the way I read, visualizing everything in my head. That doesn't hold true for everyone, but I figure it's what makes me tick. :-)

    Iliana - It took a couple of months, but I finally grew used to my cat. I have bad allergies anyway, which may or may not be related to the cat (I had them before too) and do take over the counter medication for those allergies. Nowadays, I mostly notice my allergy to cats if I am around other people's cats and then I end up miserable, depending on how many cats are around. Still, I don't think my allergy to cats is nearly as strong as it might be for someone who has asthma or a more serious allergy.

    Lulu is a fun eccentric character too. :-)

    CJ - Grandma Mazur is such a hoot. I adore her.

    I actually had a difficult time coming up with the first two and then after that, I kept thinking up new oddities to list. :-)

    Janiejane - I'm so glad I'm not the only one! My mom taught me the trick about making dry runs and now I've gotten my husband to assist me on occasion. :-) I really do like to check out a place--the parking situation and such--before going if I can, especially if it's a hard to get to place.

  16. I can't wait to read Broken For You! I think I was stucked with this week's topic as my mind still drew a blank, haha.

  17. I haven't read any of those titles--thanks for posting them, as I love eccentricity myself. I think your list is just fine--in fact, we share many of them--except I'm definitely not a dog person. :)

  18. I love Grandma Mazur. I can't wait for the next book.
    I have been told that I am quirky and I do take it as a compliment. I think I will try your "oddball" meme.

  19. Thanks for the reminder I still need to read Catch 22. I think quirky is a great thing to be, I cherish it when people say I am eccentric or a little unusal :)

  20. Melody - That happened to me last week. :-S

    Dynamic - My husband burst my bubble and told me I'm not nearly as eccentric as I think I am. Haha

    Violetlady - I wasn't going to read Plum Lucky because I haven't been too pleased with the Plum non-numbered books, but Plum Lucky is all about Grandma Mazur. I'll probably cave when it comes out in paperback.

    I look forward to seeing your oddball list!

    Rhinoa - I think it is too. :-)


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