Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Finding the Perfect Protagonist

I made an elaborate reading plan last month and, wait for it, I managed to follow it also. Not completely because there are days when I'm just in the mood for 'a' particular book. Making a reading plan is good in some ways but it's okay to derail from it a bit otherwise reading just becomes a task....and not an escape from life and its many, many tasks. 

My choices last month were very varied. I read Greene's Brighton Rock even though I had every intention of starting reading all of his work in chronological order. But on a visit to Frere Hall I happened to find the book, Greene by Cedric Watts (published by Pearson Education), which was a sort of biography on him and it had a section on Brighton Rock so I dumped the chronology idea. Brighton Rock was unlike any Greene I've read so far. It was dark, and had very strong religious themes. Even though it was quite a thriller and read like a detective novel, it made me think and not just speculate (read: what's going to happen next). I think Pinkie is one of the most complex protagonist Greene has created. He is young, rash, arrogant and above all, a murderer. And even though you know he is the bad guy, right from the start, you feel differently towards him as you progress through the story. At least I did although I never really liked him at any point and it is very seldom that one hates Greenes' protagonist. 

The other planned choice besides Brighton Rock was Tales from a Vending Machine by Anees Salim. So this particular vending machine dispensed, like many other such gadgets, tasteless tea and coffee. But it is important in the narrative because it is manned by our young, beautiful, naive, ambitious and somewhat selfish protagonist, Hasina Mansoor. The reasons why she's stuck at a vending machine at the airport are the usual ones - father's shop is in loss and someone has to provide for the house and the education of her siblings. There is a love affair thrown in, a family feud and a horrible boss. The humor in the book helps...and there is a fabulous twist in the end. As the central character and the narrator, Hasina tries to make the reader like her or atleast sympathize with her. I have to admit that there were a few moments when I did feel sorry for her like when her boss invited her to his granddaughter's wedding, much to Hasina's delight & surprise, only to make her stand at the beverages stall. Overall she wasn't very likeable.

At this point, I was feeling rather sad with my choices. There was no one to root for in my last two reads. Not one character. It was distressing. 

And then, even though I had promised myself I won't read any of his books this year, I turned to Gaiman.

In my defense, it was a last minute decision. As I rushed out of my room to make it to a very important interview I picked The Graveyard Book from the shelf....... 

.......and I found not one, but two characters who made me wish I had them as friends. 

Maybe I do. 

Images: Google