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A Year of Books
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Which Fictional Character - Who Has Much in Common With the US President - Would Tor Udall Happily Leave Stranded on the Beach?

2nd August 2017

There are so many characters in literature that set our hearts aflutter. But what about the ones that really rile us, that make our skin crawl or have us wanting to throw the book at the wall out of frustration or exasperation? This year, rather than tell us which fictional character they'd like to accompany them to the beach, we asked some of our favourite authors about the ones they'd happily cast out to sea, leave on the beach or drown in a rock pool… you get the idea! Who would you like to leave behind? Today it's the turn of Tor Udall.

See more of our Castaways here

 

Tor UdallCover of The Great GatsbyI can imagine Tom Buchanan at the beach. This character from The Great Gatsby would play cricket, show off his aggressive bodyline bowling and holler as loudly as possible to get everyone’s attention. He wouldn’t care about kicking sand in a child’s face or knocking over a sandcastle. He’d make a big deal about his front crawl, his shoulder muscles, his designer trunks. If he looked at anyone, they would be a mere mirror for him to see his own reflection. Unless, of course, they were people of colour. That type shouldn’t even be allowed on the beach.

Yes, our dear Tom is a white supremacist. Born into money, he has absolute conviction in his superiority. Fearing the "lesser races" may knock him off his privileged pedestal, he casts himself as the last bastion of civilization. He will defend his God-given rights as a white, straight male at any cost.

An arrogant, self-righteous hypocrite, Tom is a wonderful role model for wholesome family values. He beats women, cheats on his wife and frames an innocent man for murder. He fights to keep Daisy not because he loves her. He simply cares about retaining what is his. Most importantly, he needs to win. As Trump would say, the worst insult you can throw is "LOSER!"

It is the sense of entitlement that infuriates me the most: the lack of empathy for any other human being, and the myopic stupidity that renders it impossible for him to understand anything beyond his own bubble of greed and competition. He cares little for the consequences of his actions. It doesn’t matter who is hurt, or even killed, as long as he triumphs. We see Tom Buchanan today in men like Trump, Trump Jr and Kushner – and the damage caused by these spoilt little boys is abhorrent.

I’d happily drive Buchanan’s head into a wall but men like Tom crave attention. The best thing would be to ignore him. I’d leave him stranded on the beach, turn my back as if he were an annoying bluebottle. But when the Tom Buchanans of this world form the US government, we ignore them at our peril. So yes, please, I would drown dear Tom in a rock pool.

Tor Udall's debut novel is A Thousand Paper Birds. an intimate portrait of five inextricably linked lives, spanning one calendar year at Kew Gardens. You can read an exclusive interview with her here.

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