Reading an article in the SMH by novelist John Marsden, whose Tomorrow series is apparently epic among teenagers (?) and is on its way to the big screen, I was curious when he said: 'I'm not a visual person. I see words not pictures. I don't notice faces, clothing, hairstyles. There are few descriptions of such things in my books. I can have an hour's conversation with someone I've just met, run into them an hour later and not recognise them.'
Maybe that's why I haven't read any of his books? The idea that a person can look at something and not perceive some dual impression of form as well as function is incomprehensible to me.
Especially when it comes to characters and their clothes! Today's list comes courtesy of Flavorwire, whose writer Judy Berman had the brilliant idea to nominate Literature's 10 Best Dressed Characters. Bravo! I do admire most of the inclusions and am particularly pleased that Madame Bovary got a guernsey - however it must be said - there are a couple of glaring omissions.
Where is Anna Karenina?
And Marguerite Duras' nameless girl in The Lover, the girl with an imagination that surpasses her grim reality and who goes to school wearing evening shoes?:
"I'm wearing a dress of real silk, but it's threadbare, almost transparent. It used to belong to my mother...It's a sleeveless dress with a very low neck. It's the sepia color real silk takes on with wear. It's a dress I remember. I think it suits me. I'm wearing a leather belt with it, perhaps a belt belonging to one of my brothers...This particular day I must be wearing the famous pair of gold lamé high heels. I can't see any others I could have been wearing, so I'm wearing them...Going to school in evening shoes decorated with diamanté flowers... These high heels are the first in my life, they're beautiful, they've eclipsed all the shoes that went before...
Here's a couple from Flavorwire's list:
In Breakfast at Tiffany's Truman Capote writes of Holly Golightly: “She was still on the stairs, now she reached the landing, and the ragbag colors of her boy’s hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino blond and yellow caught the hall light. It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim, cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes. It was a face beyond childhood, yet this side of belonging to a woman. I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty; as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday.”
Gustave Flaubert describes Emma in Madame Bovary: “She would come directly, charming, agitated, looking back at the glances that followed her, wearing her flounced gown with gold eyeglass, her dainty shoes, all sorts of elegant trifles that he had never enjoyed, and exhaling the ineffable seduction of yielding virtue.”
Who do you think should have made the cut?