Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Rose by any other name is sometimes not the same

Oh, poor misguided Juliet, she thinks if Romeo had not been a Montague, he would have been the love of her life regardless of his name.

I beg to differ. Romeo Montague is a much different person than say, Romeo Jones. Granted, she was trying to reconcile the fact that if he had been a Jones, their love life would have been a much easier, but really, wasn’t he more attractive because he was a Montague? Because you and I both know that when she was practicing her signature, Juliet Montague, was much sexier than Juliet Jones.

Same with Jane Austen: Would Elizabeth Bennett or Mr. Darcy been as engaging had they been called Valerie or Mr. Dalrymple? Hardly! Elizabeth Bennett would never have settled for a Mr. Dalrymple – because he sounds like the local dairy farmer, not the landed gentry with Pemberley Estate in his back pocket.

Authors single handily set the tone and success of their books by the naming of their characters. I would liken it to naming your children.

I think authors also follow trends (some successful and some not) when naming their characters. Shelah Minor, writer/blogger at Shelah Books It made this recent comment, “First of all, a plea: If you are an LDS (Latter-day Saint, aka Mormon) author and have a book in the works, do not name one of your characters Tristan. In 2009, ‘Tristan’ must have held the same power over LDS authors that ‘Jennifer’ did in 1978 for pregnant mothers across America.”

I can’t think of a book off hand that I’ve read that I instinctively thought, “That character’s name stinks.” Or, “That name SO doesn’t go with that character – or I would have called him/her something totally different.” But with the recent release of Brady Udall’s book, The Lonely Polygamist, I must say, I’m stunned by the main character’s name.

The Lonely Polygamist is the IT book of the summer – with reviews in The New York Times Book Review and Entertainment Weekly. As a Mormon, I’m always intrigued by members or former members works, either fiction or non-fiction (most recently, Elna Baker’s The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance). And any book with POLYGAMIST in the title is a must read for me.

When I was reading both reviews I did a double take when the main character – husband with 4 wives and 28 children – was mentioned. His name is none other than: Golden Richards. Now to nearly everyone reading his book, that probably means nothing, other than, “Hmmm…I wonder where the author came up with Golden?” But for me, I immediately, thought – “Isn’t Golden Richards the former wide receiver from the Dallas Cowboys?” Seriously people! I am a football geek – and I can tell you that not only did Golden Richards play wide receiver for the Cowboys in the ‘70s but he played football for my Dad at Brigham Young University. And for what it’s worth, Golden had a brother named Sterling (guess his parents had a thing for precious metals).

I haven’t read The Lonely Polygamist yet, but when I do, I’m going to have the image of Golden Richards the football player in my head, and not the Golden Richards, polygamist that my imagination would create. I would also add, that the author could have used names like Jack Pierson or Thomas Larson or even Tristan Clark, equally admirable names, with Utahish flare, without any football attachment.

I wonder – is Brady Udall a closet football/Cowboys fan that he is paying homage to this long lost professional football player?

And something tells me, if Juliet had met a guy named Golden, things might have turned out much differently.