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  • Susan Russo Anderson

Sometimes my brain feels like the Chelsea Hotel

Updated: Aug 21

The characters I love the most are slightly off-kilter. Many have a dark side.

Here are some that haunt me today:

Marcel’s grandmother In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. I see her sitting at the far end of the Piazza San Marco, clad in black, shaded from the sun by her heavily-veiled hat. Still and still moving, she glides in her garden in Cambray, her pace stately, her dress flowing. Her head is slightly upturned. She is mute, large, and sad, like lost time itself.

Gemma James in the Kinkaid/James mystery series by Deborah Crombie. Not short, not tall, the slightly anxious mom, woman, and detective, Gemma James, walks with a deliberate gait or drives in traffic or flares up at her partner, or puts criminals at ease or is busy being mesmerized by another character. Wisps of her copper hair fly.

Ivan in Death in a Wine Dark Sea by Lisa Davis. Ivan pirouettes in my head, this great, unwashed character: “He pulled his shirt up over his barrel chest, showing weathered, hairy skin as he turned in a circle. Generous love handles spilled over his belt.” But he also drives his boat, knocks on the door, twirls, scares, smiles so that the skin crinkles around his eyes and he forgets the gun in his hand.

These characters rub elbows with Anna Karenina, Dilsey, Augie March, Judge Deborah, Jack Reacher, Sarah Berg, the white rabbit, Dalziel, to name just a very few. And of course, whatever main character whose novel I happen to be reading. Because—probably like you—if I’m not fascinated with the character, I’m not reading the novel.

Photos: Interior, Chelsea Hotel. Exterior, Chelsea Hotel, Manhattan.

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