The diary scheduled for today is, ah, unfortunately not available, so once more we’ll have an open forum.  Never mind, we’re going to have a good time anyway.

Bored with fasting, I’ve decided to offer strong hot coffee with thick cream and both white and brown sugar, and homemade cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven, glazed with icing and chopped pecans. Those are responsible for the delicious aromas that are making their way from your nose to your brain at this very moment. Help yourselves, there’s plenty!

And now for the burning question of the day:  which fictional characters are so real you just can’t believe you’re not going to bump into them at the airport one of these days?

To me, the “realest” of the real is red-haired Maeve Rhuad, who, alas, was born in the year 0, which would make her more than two thousand years old at this writing. However, she exists in a parallel universe that’s able to transcend time, so her voice is both contemporary and fresh. I fell in love with this character when I first read Daughter of the Shining Isles (the title was subsequently changed to Magdalen Rising).  Engaging as she was in the first book, Maeve swept me away even more in the sequel, The Passion of Mary Magdalen (the working title of which was Holy Whore). I swear, when I read that one, for a nanosecond I thought, “I’d better get over to Palestine so I can start partying with this crew…”  Reality intervened immediately, of course, but I did--and do--want to party-hearty with Maeve and the weird collection of people she gathered around her.

Cluny Brown is the next character who seems so real I keep expecting to bump into her at the airline ticket counter. Like actual people, Cluny is not “all of a piece”—she’s capable of appreciating poetry, but is not an intellectual, either by upbringing or education. She does completely unexpected things, such as putting on her best clothes to fix a gentleman’s sink on a Sunday afternoon. She likes dogs but resists the suggestion that she make a career of looking after them. Finally she does the only thing a girl who “doesn’t know her place” can do in the year 1938:  she emigrates to America, where “one’s place” doesn’t matter so much.

Frances Wingate, the protagonist of Margaret Drabble’s The Realms of Gold, is the third character I desperately wish were a real person. When the book opens she’s sitting on a platform, listening to the chair of the society “introducing” her to the audience. As she listens, her tongue explores her back teeth a little too energetically and dislodges a filling—what a bore, now she’ll have to seek out a dentist in this foreign town. Then she thinks about how many drinks she’s had in her hotel room that evening and how many more she’ll have when she returns to her hotel room after the lecture—too awful to become a real alcoholic, always having to make these little self-deceiving calculations—have I had one too many, is it time to stop?  As the chair winds up his speech with a rhetorical flourish about her distinguished career, she thinks, “I am a vain and self-satisfied woman. I stole all this from nature and got it for myself.”

Frances is in fact an archaeologist whose specialty is Phoenician culture. She leads a fascinating life with four children who manage quite capably when she is away (“boiling themselves eggs, making themselves cups of tea, doing their homework”), a lover who longs to get back together with her, and a young cousin who discovers, after meeting Frances, that there’s more to life than being a bored housewife under the thumb of an oppressive husband.

Well, now you know mine—which characters do YOU wish were real?  Are there fictional characters you wish would move next door, you like them so much? Please tell us about it!  Here’s some more coffee…take the floor!

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