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on April 12, 2011
I read this marvelous book of essays rather slowly--reading it between major reading projects, reading it when I only had a short time (each essay is only 3-5 pages long), and reading it when I really had to know what Pollard-Gott thought about a character in a book I had just read.

I love the premise of the book--essays about who the author thinks are the literary characters who have had the most influence on society and culture--and I love the writing. So many times I found myself mentally nodding along with Pollard-Gott or feeling that rush of adreneline when the penny drops and I finally see why a character has resonated with me even when superficially we are light years apart.

I liked the essays best that were about characters I already knew about but perhaps didn't fully appreciate. One such one was Dorothy Gale, from The Wizard of Oz. I read the books as a kid, watched the movie on TV with my family umpteen times, introduced my kids to both the books and the movie, and even stopped to experience the Wizard of Oz museum in a little bitty town in Kansas when I saw the billboards announcing the place. I loved how Pollard-Gott showed how "Dorothy's adventures describe the arc of the archtypal 'hero's journey,' the kind of mythic quest documented in all its fascinating variety in Joseph Campbell's classic study, Hero with a Thousand Faces."

I also truly enjoyed her essays on Electra, Huckleberry Finn, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hester Prynne, Bigger Thomas, Sir John Falstaff, Tarzan, and Long John Silver.

I know this book will be a well-thumbed reference that I go back to as I reread classics and old popular favorites and it has really inspired me to branch out beyond my Anglo-American comfort zone and read literature from other cultures. I now have a reading list!
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on February 25, 2012
This book is a scholarly treatise and at the same time a fun read. It caused me to remember much of what I had forgotten about some of the books, particularly the Roman and Greek novels, while introducing me to new books and characters I might never encounter. Dr. Pollard does an excellent job of explaining why she believes her characters to be so influential; I cannot take issue with any of her choices or arguments. I read a character a night to keep the enjoyment going and was disappointed that I had to finish the book . I am very impressed with her scholarship and her wide-ranging interests. I know for a fact that Dr. Pollard's parents would be so proud of her prowess and accomplishments.

Jim Higgins
Harvard, MA
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on October 3, 2010
Let me first say that it would be a mistake to sit down with this book and try to read it in order. If you're anything like me, you're going to want to make your own list and then see how many of your choices made Pollard-Gott's list. And since her definition of fictional characters runs the gamut from religious to classic literature to comic books, you'll likely find most of your favorites. I was very pleased to find Valjean, Superman, and Arjuna, for example. Her choices are entirely defensible -- and she does a great job in doing so -- but everyone will have their own list of "should have been includeds, but weren't." For me, this included Harry Potter (which, granted, might be too recent to be considered influential), and The Count of Monte Cristo. In fact, I think none of Dumas's classic characters made the list. Pollard-Gott defends each of her choices with a brisk, but comprehensive description of who the characters are, and the role that they've played in culture. It is both a scholarly work, and a great deal of fun. I strongly recommend it.
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on February 6, 2010
I was really impressed with how this book went beyond the usual Western tradition of books to talk about important characters from all over the world, which really gives the reader a context for understanding their importance (and what books from other cultures they might want to get their hands on!)

The reviews I've read so far concisely go over the plot, then go on to talk about how the character, book, and author influenced people in that time and in times since then. Short and to the point, yet well-written.

I was also particularly impressed, in the selections I've read, with how the author encourages the reader to think with her last sentence. Her last words about Scrooge said a little about how Scrooge's experience encourage us to consider the alternate realities we might inhabit --- something to that effect --- in just one sentence bringing something profound and fun to consider to the (short) chapter.
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on February 7, 2010
I first heard about this project several years ago as a distant acquaintance of the author. Nothing however prepared me for being as impressed as I am with this book. To my mind, The Fictional 100 is a remarkable scholarly achievement: how many others would dare to take on this challenge at all -- and do so with the grace, quiet assurance, and engaging style found in these pages. Any one of Dr. Pollard-Gott's literary subjects could be a lifetime's study but she has managed to treat one hundred of them without sacrificing intellectual depth and vigor. It's like a survey course in world literature offered at a leading university only more affordable -- an inspiration to give previously neglected classics a second look. Reading The Fictional 100 before sleep, I'm convinced that I have the most wonderful people as overnight guests in my home.
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on May 9, 2010
Legend has almost as much power as history. "The Fictional 100: Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend" discusses one hundred of the most important fictional people throughout history and how they have reflected and impacted the societies that created them. From biblical figures like Adam and Eve, to cultural legends like Genji, to the comic book icon of Superman, many are discussed with much insight. "The Fictional 100" is a strongly recommended read and fine addition to any literary studies collection.
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on April 26, 2010
What a tour de force! It's not possible to list everything I find impressive about The Fictional 100. The breadth and scope of this collection of fictitious characters, in addition to the challenge of intelligently condensing so many works of depth without descending into superficiality, is nearly staggering. The overriding tone of this highly educational work is a gentle reasonableness, fair-mindedness -- affection for many of the characters, compassion where affection is impossible, clear-eyed judgment without judgmentalism. A strong but not overpowering psychological analysis infuses each chapter. This is a rare kind of book; few works in our culture show so much awareness of the literary traditions of so many other cultures. Highly recommended.
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on January 21, 2013
There is a big problem with this work --- no illustrations came across on the ebook. Perhaps that's why they made it so cheap. But it's annoying to see all the titles for illustrations, but no pictures.
I don't like the author's strong emphasis on foreign literary characters that no one in the West has ever heard of. Okay, I may reread Genji because of this book, but I don't know the others and don't mean to find out more. Maybe some character was influential in Chinese literature, but, you know, who cares? Most of us don't fool with ancient Chinese literature; we're into Western literature, printed in Roman characters. She's wasted quite a lot of her hundred places on characters her readers won't know or bother with.
I am finding this book irritating because of the flat statement that her selections are "the most influential" characters, and then she puts in very unlikely characters and leaves out far more well-known ones, like Captain Nemo of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It's arrogant.
She separates twosomes too often: Eve and Adam are treated separately, and Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are separated. We're lucky she didn't separate Holmes and Watson or Romeo and Juliet.
Where is Tom Sawyer? Where are Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy? Where is Robinson Crusoe? I suspect either the author is just not very well read, or her encyclopedia exercises to include works in Filipino, Sanscrit, Brazilian or whatever caused her to exclude the really important characters of Western literature in favor of an unappreciated PC -- since the people reading those languages are not likely to read her book, and the people who read her book are not likely to read works in strange minor and expired languages.
I'll struggle along awhile longer on this book, but it has a lot of problems.
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