Re: Re- RARA-AVIS: Top 100 Hard-Boiled Characters

From: M Blumenthal (
Date: 23 Mar 2002

Jim, My inspiration was Book Magazine's listing of the top 100 Characters from 1900.

Here is what it says about their selection methods:

"The assignment seemed simple enough: rank the top one hundred characters in literature since 1900. But what appeared easy soon proved maddening, vexing, frustrating. Experts were consulted; lists were drawn up; hundreds upon hundreds of books were pored over. We scoured our bookshelves, called up old teachers. Still the arguments persisted. How could anyone say that Humbert Humbert was a better character than Lolita, that Holly Golightly was more compelling than Atticus Finch? Did James Joyce write better characters than John Steinbeck? And who were these oddball characters that people kept suggesting? Was Big Brother really a character? A panel of experts was brought in to settle it once and for all. Prizewinning authors, artists, book experts of all shapes and sizes were given ballots and asked to rank their favorite characters in order. The ballots are in. The votes have been counted".

I'll try not to be too OT and just mention that their list contains more than one character from Ulysses, Catcher in the Rye, Winnie the Pooh, To Kill a Mockingbird and Lolita. I haven't read all these, but I think it could be argued that each book really has only one main character. If a character who is not the principal character made the list, that character deserves to be on it. There won't be very many.

As we are a literary list I think the only characters that first made their impact in a printed fictional source should be considered even though they later influenced other printed materials. Though it won't matter to us, I would not have considered a character like Sherlock Holmes to be eligible either because he first became popular before 1900.

One of their experts was Dennis Lehane. Our experts are the members of Rara Avis. Mark

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