Friday, March 6, 2009

Hic Jacet Arturus Rex Quondam Rex Que Futurus...

This topic is easy.
Favorite literary character?

King Arthur.
No contest whatsoever. When I was 12 or 13, I picked up a paperback in a convenience store on the way down to Montana on a family holiday. It was called FIRELORD and it was written by Parke Godwin and it was about King Arthur.

And I. Was. Hooked.

Read it in one go. Made myself carsick.
Then went back to the first page and did it all over again immediately thereafter.

Narrated in piercingly vivid, funny, tragic, achingly human first-person by the king himself as he lies dying in Avalon ("listening to the monks chant in the chapel... no complaints, but one does wish the love of God guaranteed an ear for music - they do not speed the hours...") it is my favorite book of all time. Arthur is my favorite character. Followed very closely by his best friend in that same book, Bedivere. That novel, that character, shaped my very life. It is not too far a stretch for me to say that it is the reason I write.

Of course, the cool thing about falling in love with that character is that I discovered I was not confined to simply that one book. Goodness knows, there have been one or two Arthurian stories written. One or two thousand that is. Every couple of years. I oughta know. I wrote one myself!

And while all of those Arthurs had one heck of a tough act to follow after Godwin's rendition (in my mind, at least), there is some truly wonderful stuff out there, containing such a wide and wonderful assortment of Arthurs that I never get bored! Everything from Gildas to Geoffrey to Malory to the Mabinogion to TH Whyte to Tennyson's poetry (where Arthur is the shining soul of virtue, still capable of being wounded and wounding - the scene where he leaves Guinevere in the convent for the last time it heartbreaking!) to more modern fare like Mary Stewart's Crystal Cave series to Jack Whyte's Eagle's Brood series (most of which takes place before Arthur is even born - but is fascinating nonetheless!) to Tim Powers DRAWING OF DARK featuring a reincarnated Arthur who is a medieval Irish mercenary to ARTHUR, KING where he is a World War I fighter pilot, to (my most recent Arthur read) Philip Reeve's HERE LIES ARTHUR (where Arthur is a brute and a tyrant and still interesting!).

My shelves are stuffed with Arthur books - fiction and non - and I never tire of reading and researching this utterly compelling character. But once every year or two, I always find myself pulling one of my copies of FIRELORD off the shelf (yes - I have several) and rereading it for my favorite Arthur.

But... let's get one thing straight, though. The King Arthur movie? That kinda sucked.


Rina said...

There is something about King Arthur.
If you ever get to the United Kingdom you have to visit some of the "King Arthur" sites. Wonderful!!!!!

Jillian Cantor said...

You make me want to go read more about King Arthur! Maybe for your next trilogy, you should involve him?!

Tracy Madison said...

Oooh, great post! And like Jillian, I'm suddenly wanting to know more NOW. :)

Bonnie Grove said...

I remember reciting passages of Firelord with you when we were supposed to be in math class.

I still love that book too.

And I love your book. Bought a copy and read it. It was just like sitting beside you by my locker (you never used your locker) and listening to you tell me a tale so wonderous strange.

Great voice, bang on writing, glorious story. Well done.

Maureen Lipinski said...

Yeah, speaking of your King Arthur story, Book #2? Must. Read. Can't. Wait.

Lesley Livingston said...

I love you guys.

Gadzooks, Bon. Thanks for the stumble down memory lane! I never did use my locker, did I?


(And thanks for the lovely praise for WS. I thought you might like it...)

Maureen - Draft revisions done... on to copy editing...

And Rina - I KNOW! I've been and aren't some of the related sites breathtaking??