Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
Her face is smooth, calculated, and precision-made, like an expensive baby doll, skin like flesh-colored enamel, blend of white and cream and baby-blue eyes, small nose, pink little nostrils—everything working together…Her face is still calm, as though she had a cast made and painted to just the look she wants…Confident, patient, and unruffled.
No more little jerk, just that terrible cold face, a calm smile stamped out of red plastic; a clean, smooth forehead, not a line in it to show weakness or worry; flat, wide, painted-on green eyes, painted on with an expression that says I can wait, I might lose a yard now and then but I can wait, and be patient and calm and confident, because I know there’s no real losing for me.
Buy the book at Amazon or your local independent bookstore.
Colonel Cathcart, Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Colonel Cathcart was a slick, successful, slipshod, unhappy man of thirty-six who lumbered when he walked and wanted to be a general. He was dashing and dejected, poised and chagrined. He was complacent and insecure, daring in the administrative stratagems he employed to bring himself to the attention of his superiors and craven in his concern that his schemes might all backfire. He was handsome and unattractive, a swashbuckling, beefy, conceited man who was putting on fat and was tormented chronically by prolonged seizures of apprehension…Colonel Cathcart was a very large, pouting, broadshouldered man with close-cropped curly dark hair that was graying at the tips…The colonel wore his khaki shirt collar wide open, exposing a shadow of tough black bristles of beard on his egg-white neck, and had a spongy hanging underlip…The colonel’s ponderous, farinaceous cheeks…His beefy face.
Buy the book at Amazon or your local independent bookstore.
Julia, Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
He did not know her name, but he knew that she worked in the Fiction Department…She was a bold-looking girl, of about twenty-seven, with thick hair, a freckled face, and swift, athletic movements…It was the girl from the Fiction Department, the girl with dark hair. The light was failing, but there was no difficulty in recognizing her… ‘Would you believe,’ he said, ‘that till this moment I didn’t know what colour your eyes were?’ They were brown, he noted, a rather light shade of brown, with dark lashes… The youthful body was strained against his own, the mass of dark hair was against his face, and yes! Actually she had turned her face up and he was kissing the wide red mouth… With just a few dabs of colour in the right places she had become not only very much prettier, but, above all, far more feminine. Her short hair and boyish overalls merely added to the effect… ‘They can’t get inside you,’ she had said. But they could get inside you…Her face was sallower, and there was a long scar, partly hidden by the hair, across her forehead and temple.
The writer who was mistaken for Stephen King -
Emily Schultz, The Composites’ in-house researcher, released her first novel back in 2006. It shares a title with a new Stephen King novel, which has led to some hilarious—and ontologically challenging—reviews of Emily’s book from Amazon readers. This weekend, The LA Times looks into the deeper reasons why this case of mistaken literary identity has happened.
Emily’s new novel, The Blondes, will be published by St. Martin’s-Thomas Dunne books in Fall 14. We’ll be hosting excerpts here in the new year.
The Monster, Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed this determination and having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began…How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing… but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
Read at Project Gutenberg. Purchase at Amazon or your local independent bookstore.
Suggested by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
Jack Torrance, The Shining, Stephen King
Ullman folded his neat little hands on the desk blotter and looked directly at Jack, a small, balding man in a banker’s suit and a quiet gray tie… Danny’s face, so much like his own had been, his eyes had been light blue while Danny’s were cloudy gray, but the lips still made a bow and the complexion was fair…His eyes were far away and cloudy. His hair hanging in his eyes, like some heavy animal. A large dog… or a lion.
The documentary Room 237 opens this Friday in New York at the IFC Center and elsewhere.
Dolores “Lolita” Hayes/ Mrs. Richard F. Schiller, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Pale-gray vacant eyes…asymmetrical freckles on her bobbed nose…Only in the tritest of terms (diary resumed) can I describe Lo’s features: I might say her hair is auburn, and her lips as red as licked red candy, the lower one prettily plump, bobbed nose…Lolita of the strident voice and rich brown hair—of the bangs and the swirls and the sides and the curls at the back upturned russet face.
Couple of inches taller. Pink-rimmed glasses. New, heaped-up hairdo. She was frankly and hugely pregnant. Her head looked smaller and her pale-freckled cheeks were hollowed…with round pommettes…And softly, confidentially, arching her thin eyebrows…This Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond.
Purchase at Amazon or your local independent bookstore.
This weekend a few of my favorite New Yorkers are taking part in a marathon reading of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. You can find more on times, venues and readers here. For inspiration here is a repost of the Ahab composite.
Captain Ahab, Moby Dick, Herman Melville
He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them…His whole high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an unalterable mould, like Cellini’s cast Perseus…Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark… branded… What business have I with this pipe? This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapors among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I’ll smoke no more…His eyes like powder-pans… It almost seemed that while he himself was marking out lines and courses on the wrinkled charts, some invisible pencil was also tracing lines and courses upon the deeply marked chart of his forehead…His firm lips met like the lips of a vice; the delta of his forehead’s veins swelled like overladen brooks…Supper he never touched; nor reaped his beard; which darkly grew all gnarled, as unearthed roots of trees blown over, which still grow idly on at naked base. (Suggested by Jennifer Mills at The L Magazine)