Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Imaginary buddies

I just read an article called The Buddy List: The Fifteen Most Dynamic Duos in Pop Culture History.

I have to admit to being pleased to see Vladimir and Estragon there (albeit at #6). There were some glaring omissions, Batman and Robin was the first that jumped to my mind but, on checking the criteria the compilers imposed upon themselves, I could see why they weren't there. I was less convinced that Mulder and Scully should be excluded because they wound up as a couple but what the heck.

I was also sorry to see George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men were not on the list. You couldn't call Lenny a sidekick but they’re definitely not on an equal footing. Of course I became aware of the notion of George and Lenny long before I read the book. The pairing of the big dumb bloke with the little street-wise guy was a regular feature in the American cartoons I watched as a child and perhaps it is there that the origins of my own literary creations dates back.

What puzzles me more is that basically I'm a solitudinous individual. I can do the whole team-player thing when needs must but I work better on my own which is important if you have aspirations to be a writer. And yet all my novels revolve around pairs: Truth and Jonathan in the first two, Jim and Joe Hoover and, of course, Milligan and Murphy in the fourth. Even the kids' book involved the uneven partnership of a reclusive mole and an adventurous mouse. Looking more closely however only Milligan and Murphy are on an equal standing, half-brothers who pretend to be brothers and wish they were twins.

Buddies don’t need to go through shite alone. And maybe that’s one of the reasons I write so I don’t need to feel so alone; there’s someone, no matter how abstract, who will read and think about what I’ve had to say. That that someone might not come along for years isn’t important. I wrote in a short story once: “A comedian told a joke in a forest but there was no one there to hear it. So was it funny?” I don’t know the answer to that one but I could just as easily have asked: a writer wrote a story in a forest but there was no one there to read it, so did it mean anything?

I’ll guess I’ll have to leave that one for you to answer, Bud.

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