On books with lots of characters

On the Bookworm podcast, host Michael Silverblatt discusses Ann Beattie’s new book A Wonderful Stroke of Luck:

When I meet a lot of characters in a book and I don’t know them, I write down their names, so that when I see them again, I’m going to recognize them. This holds true for Pynchon as much as it holds true for Ann Beattie. And yet, people are writing about A Wonderful Stroke of Luck: “I can’t remember where I first met these characters.” Well, you have a pencil and a piece of paper. These characters are being very methodically laid out so that you can see how they make the mistakes they make in the world and how those mistakes need to be corrected if these characters are to become adults.

This evening I was listening to the audiobook of Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift, which encompasses generations and reintroduces members of its sprawling cast of characters at unexpected moments. I thought, Wow, I’m having trouble keeping track of all these characters. And then I thought: Well, you have a pencil and a piece of paper!

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