Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beth's Top Five Fictional BFFs

Right now, I'm reading Anne Tyler's new novel, Noah's Compass. It's okay so far, but it's centered around a lonely, somewhat self-centered older man. It makes me miss the camraderie between angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley in last week's read, Good Omens. Missing my love of a good literary friendship, I began to think about my favorite friend characters in some great books. So this list is centered around that friend; that wonderful side character who anchors his or her best friend to the world around them.

I must note that I did not include fictional friendships that don't work out, even though that means I had to get rid of some heavy hitters (including John Singer from The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter). Rather, these are the BFFs that make the world better - not worse - for the protagonists.

1. Razumihin (Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky): Admittedly, it's been about seven years since I read C&P, but the thing that still sticks with me all these years later isn't the tortured protagonist, Raskolnikov. Rather, it's his trusty BFF, Razumihin. While reading the book, I was struck by how down-to-earth Raz. was in such a high-brow book. Reasonable and with a much better sense of humor than his friend, I enjoyed the book a lot more when he was around. Also, I always thought his relationship with Raskolnikov's sister was kind of adorable. So there you go. I just called a plot point in Crime and Punishment "adorable."

2. Rachel, Stephanie, and Alison (Just as Long as We're Together and Here's to You, Rachel Robinson, by Judy Blume): I had to include all three friends since they take up a couple books where they switch the protagonist role. Judy Blume was the most formative author of my childhood reading experience, and her depiction of the friendship between these three junior high girls really shows how friendships work at that age. It helps that the friendship between the three reminded me of the BFF threesome I was part of when I read these books more than a decade ago. Also, one of those real-life friends was totally the living, breathing version of the Rachel character.

3. Hand (You Shall Know Our Velocity, by Dave Eggers): Eggers has always written friendships really well, but the relationship between Velocity's protagonist Will and his co-traveler/BFF Hand is probably the best example. Hand can be annoying at times, to both Will and the reader, but he's loyal to a fault and provides some nice comic relief. And in certain editions of the book (there are several, actually), he gets his own 50-page section in the middle where he completely reverses everything we know in the book so far. There's a few lines in this section where Hand goes to clean out Will's storage unit that completely break my heart every time I read them.

4. Bruno (The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss): Nicole Krauss is a deplorably under-valued contemporary writer (and, in my opinion, a much better novelist than her more famous husband, Jonathan Safran Foer, who I strongly dislike). In The History of Love, protagonist Leo Gursky has only one real connection left in the world: his friend from childhood, Bruno. As the book goes on, we learn some shocking things about this friendship that don't at all take away from the poignancy of the friendship between two boys who grow up and become lost, figuratively and literally.

5. "Dill" Harris (To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee): There's really nothing you can say about Dill that hasn't already been said. The epitome of a childhood friend, Dill is loyal and funny and brave. Knowing he was based on Harper Lee's actual BFF as a kid, Truman Capote, only adds to his charm.

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