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Faulks, fiction and faux-pas

February 12, 2011

Fancy a quick flick through the history of the British novel? Tune in to Faulks on Fiction (BBC2, Saturday 9pm).

Writer Sebastian Faulks’s four-part TV essay focusses on characters rather than authors. Last week, he explored the evolution of ‘the hero’ from Robinson Crusoe to Lucky Jim and beyond.

Only one female ‘hero’ made the list: social climber Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair. Next up was Sherlock Holmes: ‘the novel’s first super-hero’. Then Winston Smith from Orwell’s 1984: a loser hero, crushed by a tyrannical state.

Last came John Self, the anti-hero from Martin Amis’s novel Money. After this, Faulks declared ‘the hero’ officially dead in the ‘literary novel.’ Alive and kicking in children’s novels and crime fiction, he conceded, as though these didn’t count.

Martin Amis didn’t seem to think they counted either. According to the Guardian, children’s authors were incensed by Amis’s comment that it would take a serious brain injury to make him write a children’s book.

Neither of these literary giants considered the child as ‘the hero’. I’d have picked Mina from David Almond’s recent book My Name is Mina. She’s a fragile and forceful nine-year-old in a subtle story that shimmers with poetry. Now if that ain’t literary fiction, what is?

Tonight Mr Faulks turns his attention to ‘the lover’. I’ll be watching. I’m curious and I believe Mr Darcy will be making an appearance…

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