As a bibliophile, I have lived many lives, seen many places and loved many men. I think that magical way that books have of transporting the reader to wherever and whomever he or she might want to go is what drew me to them and why I can’t put them down. It might also be why, even though I don’t have room for anymore books in the hall linen closet or in my milk crates or on the shelves in my dresser behind the nifty little door, or even in my office at the University, I still keep buying them. I can’t get enough.
I am a lover. A lover of words, and the stories they make, and the people who live them, the men especially. For nearly as long as I can remember, I’ve been besotted with several men who’ve never even drawn an actual breath and whose faces have never been seen outside the minds of their readers. But their lack of corporeality has never mattered. These men, no matter their stories or creators all have something in common. Something about the way they have been portrayed has given them more life than just black ink on white paper. I should know. I’ve felt their breath on my face, their lips on mine, the tickle of their words whispered into my ears. I’ve gone to bed with them at night and awakened with them in the morning.
But what happens when those men who we love to love get pulled from their pages and plastered on the silver screen (be it big or small)? Is Colin Firth the Mr. Darcy, or is Matthew Macfadyen? Or Lawrence Olivier? Is Jonathan Crombie really who you picture as Gilbert Blythe? These and questions like them have been discussed by fans of literary heroes since the first adaptation was created. Some get really upset when their favorite “tall, dark and handsome” men are miscast by Hollywood. A recent instance could be Leo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby or even Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser in the much anticipated forthcoming TV adaptation of the Outlander series.
For me, it doesn’t matter who plays whom. The character onscreen always pales in comparison to the one I have known so intimately through the wonder of the written word. Yes, I have my preferences: Firth over MacFadyen and Crombie all the way, but if I had to choose between Colin Firth or Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Darcy would win, hands down!
Why? Because for me, the beauty of having a love affair with a fictional hero (or, let’s face it, many heroes simultaneously) is that they will never disappoint you, hurt you or walk out on you. Like Heathcliff, they will wait tirelessly for you and your atttention, ready to leap to the forefront of your imagination at your beck and call. When you give that kind of perfection human limitations, the result is always going to fall short, no matter how pretty the actor’s face is.
Not too long ago, I came across a Barnes & Noble blog post called “The Hottest Men In Required Reading.” And, since I have such strong opinions about my beloved(s), I was bound to have a few qualms. This prompted me to make my own list of literature’s most suave and sexy. I’ve pasted it below for your reading pleasure.
The Hottest Men In Required Reading, According to Kerri L. Bennett
1. Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen). He spends a small fortune to keep the woman he loves from being embarrassed by her careless sister, is unfailingly loyal and honest, and is handsome enough to make a woman fall for him while she merely stands looking at his portrait. Without a doubt.
2. Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen). Great in a pinch. Not clingy. Loyal to a fault, and a pretty glaring one. Brooding. Wears a uniform. Oh, yes.
3. Captain Fredrick Wentworth (Pursuasion, by Jane Austen). Naval officer. Respectful of family and friends’ wishes (meddlesome though they may be). Capable of steadfast love over great distances and periods of time. Double yes.
4. Edward Fairfax Rochester (Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte). Swarthy. Brooding. Surly. Mysterious. Strong enough to survive a murderous mad woman in the attic. The original fictional Edward sex symbol.
5. Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë). Devoted. Purely, madly, deeply devoted to you, Cathy. Never mind that you’re a selfish gold-digger. I’ll take you any day, Heathcliff, and make you so much happier than that self-absorbed crazy woman.
6. Rhett Butler (Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell). Dapper. Southern. Sucker for lost causes. Always has a monogrammed handkerchief on-hand, not to mention strong arms, in case of emergencies. Swoon.
7. Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee). Dapper. Southern. Sucker for lost causes. Strong moral compass. Arguably one of the best fathers of all time. Can we get married now?
8. Laurie Laurance (Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott). Sure, Alcott didn’t see fit to put them together, but as a real life Jo March, I can see how opposites would fit together better than a teacher and a professor. Did I mention boy-next-door?
9. Jake Barnes (The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway). Isn’t it pretty to think of a war-hardened man loving a woman despite all the crap he faced? Especially if you imagine he looked like a young Ernest Hemingway??? I’d take him, wound or no wound!
10. Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald). Driven. Devoted. Genteel. His only fault? Falling for the most foolish of all the beautiful fools in the world. I’ll be the green light at the end of your dock, Jay, darling, and if you fall for me, I promise we won’t get into the swimming pool. Ever.