I have always felt the small, thin-skinned, male Pomeranian in Anton Chekhov’s story The Lady with the Dog, and the motherly, very competent Newfoundland dog, Nana, from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, would have made a splendid love match. The over-indulged and inexplicably nameless Pomeranian is clearly the victim of numerous neuroses – especially after his much-loved Anna betrays him by taking him with her to Yalta only to transfer her affections to the married misogynist Gurov – and would, therefore, benefit from Nana’s peculiar variety of no-nonsense loyalty.
In the first fine flush of the affair, Nana might sympathize with the tearful Pomeranian’s adolescent whining about the fact that after he growled at Gurov, he was summarily and completely dismissed from Chekhov’s plot. But as time passed and their affection calmed and deepened, I expect that Nana would have knocked the Peter Pan syndrome right out of him with a combination of warmth and “old-fashioned remedies like rhubarb leaf.”
Jane Urquhart’s 20-year-old novel Away is the official selection representing the region of Ontario in CBC’s 2013 Canada Reads, Turf Wars.
I’d like to show Emma Bovary a good time – especially on Valentine’s Day. I know she often seems bored, discontented, aspiring, envious, extravagant and romantically deluded, but she deserves better than the grotesquely painful death by rat poison that Flaubert delivers in such detail. After all, many of her fantasies are derived from reading novels, so who – except Dante – can blame her for that? She’s beautiful, convent-educated, well-dressed and ambitious. The problem is finding the right romantic man. Most 20th-century heroes are anguished anti-heroes, sympathetic but closer to Hamlet than Heathcliffe. And I do think Emma needs a man from a later, less conventional era.
So I’m sending her on a date with The English Patient, Count Almasy, during his dashing, adventurous days as a desert explorer and pilot, before the Second World War. She’d love the royalty, even if it’s Hungarian. He’s charming, poetic and tough – there’s always a slight frisson of violence in Michael Ondaatje’s love scenes – but also determined and passionate. He and Emma together in Cairo in the 1930s, dancing, drinking, partying and living dangerously. You might think, with his Herodotus, that he was too scholarly for her, but he does say: “I am a man who did not enjoy poetry until I heard a woman recite it.” In the desert moonlight, of course. They even have the moral ambiguity of their actions in common.
We know it will end in tears, flame out – literally – but this is before, when Emma has at least a degree of agency and a Valentine.
Eleanor Wachtel is the host of CBC Radio’s Writers & Company and Wachtel on the Arts. Her most recent books are Original Minds and Random Illuminations.
Frankenstein’s Monster and Anne Shirley. The monster in Frankenstein (the articulate one from Mary Shelley’s novel, not the grunting shuffler from the movies) is a frightening creation, a gruesome assembly of stolen parts, but he’s also heartbreakingly lonely. I’ve always wished for him what he wished for himself: female companionship, or at the very least, a naughty weekend of undead whoopie. But who would be a good match for an abomination of science with no name and serious daddy issues? How about our own Anne Shirley? She’s an orphan too, after all, and so might better sympathize with the monster’s plight. And as an unstoppable chatterbox, she could undoubtedly banter about mortality and the torment of existence with a self-loathing murderer for many pleasant hours. “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes,” Anne quotes, with understanding, in Anne of Green Gables. Well, who knows buried hopes – and graveyards – better than Shelley’s creature?
Andrew Pyper’s new novel, The Demonologist, will be published in March.
White Fang and Black Beauty. The world adores a story of star-crossed lovers, so long as the happy couple die in the end. But what if a pair of true survivors – a half-breed bush-fighter and a thoroughbred fallen on hard times – were to fall in love across enemy lines?