Thinking about bringing characters back. I’ve never done that before, but reading Updike makes me think it’s… kind of okay? If Rabbit and Bech and the Maples can exist in multiple books and stories, and Updike could be called prolific, by me, just now, and if I want to be prolific, maybe I ought to try it.
The impulse came from the name, I’ve got a character I’m working on and I wanted to call him Marcus and I thought well I’ve already used that name. My mental process tried another path, what are some other names of men in their early eighties, that sound like real names and not caricatures, no Earl or Ed or Frank, thanks, I thought maybe Jerome but that’s when the mental path rejected me, picked me up as an Inception kick and tossed me out and said no, his name is Marcus, that’s his name.
Marcus is about to leave his wife. My former Marcus had a wife character, too, named Cynthia. The story was called Sweetness and centered around Marcus and Cynthia’s daughter’s boyfriend, who was thinking about proposing to the daughter but was having trouble sorting out his true feelings for her from his sense of duty due to her pregnancy. In any case, Marcus was the guiding voice for that narrator’s decision at the end, or rather Marcus tried to guide him in getting the hell away before it was too late, pregnancy or not, because Marcus… well he loved Cynthia and he loved his daughter but these two women were the household alphas and he knew it. He was neutered, emasculated, talked a good game but felt like a bitch, most of the time. And now my new Marcus, some twenty years older, wants to leave his wife.
I guess the biggest problem is that it fits too well. Ofcoursehe wants to leave his wife, he'salwayswanted to leave his wife, and the impulse of this new story was to find outwhythis old man suddenly wants to end his fifty-plus-year marriage.
The thing that’s bothered me most through the first three Rabbit books is that the recurring characters aside from Rabbit don’t seem that essential, and maybe the fourth book will make me feel better about this, maybe it will have a sort of nature-over-nurture moral, where we turn out to be who we are and the majors traumas and joys that we suspect shape us… don’t, really. In the third book Rabbit is pushing fifty and thinking about death a lot, the dead, the people he’s known who have died, his parents, his infant daughter, the two people who lived with him and his son through most of Redux, and I guess it just hasn’t proved especially satisfying to me to see the lack of emphasis on who these people were, as opposed tothat they were. Their existence is most essential to Rabbit, not so much to content of their characters. He’s got a selective memory, perhaps, this Rabbit, and you can definitely see the effect dead Jill had on Rabbit’s son, which would be satisfying if Nelson wasn’t by nature a sniveling little turd, if he were at all likeable, but fuck Nelson, he’s a d-bag and I hate him. And, too, Rabbit’s wife is still there, for some reason. But she drinks a lot, so if she doesn’t remember all the thirty-five reasons she’s accrued to leave this guy, again, and stay left, perhaps she just can’t remember them with a hangover.
On their own, all three books are gorgeous, and it’s only when I try to treat them as a single story that I see problems. I feel like, on their own, these two stories in my charge might stand strong, but if I try to think about them together I’m going to see forced fallacies all over the place. Maybe. I don’t know. I haven’t tried yet.
Time to try.