17 August 2009

Introduction to a Literary Sidekick

Hello! This is Lee, writer, traveler, and person who wishes he did more of both.

As you may know, Doug has invited me along on his European tour as official literary sidekick and has even allowed me to blog here occasionally about our adventures. I am honored to join him and to join the ranks of the great literary sidekicks along with...

Well uh..., there was that whole Gertrude Stein/Alex B Toklas thing, which I never did get the full scoop on. They're both women, apparently... and Ernie and F. Scott were definitely buds (though Ernie apparently thought F. Scott drank a bit too much and got distracted from his real work? Pot! Kettle!). More to the genre in which we find ourselves on this blog, Bill Bryson had the reluctant Stephen Katz in A Walk in the Woods. (Some people claim Bryson made Katz up, but they're probably just pissed because Bryson made the Appalachian Trail sound funny and they got there and found it was really just long). Tom Bissel, whose Chasing the Sea is about a disaster even bigger than the trip I am about to join, had his quixotic translator/sidekick Rustam, which reminds me of Jonathan Safran Froer's translator/sidekick in Everything Is Illuminated.

Of course now we're getting into fiction, where I'll happily follow along with Sancho Panza, Qeequay, and Sam Gamgee. Ender had his Bean and of course Solo his Chewbacca. Also, let's not forget Robin the boy wonder, and Watson (it's elementary!). Lest we downplay the sidekick, it might help to remember that Watson was a pistol-totting ex-army officer who'd survived India.

So far I've gotten most of the top 5, though even that list neglects to mention the sidekick so awesome he got his own book. That's right, let us not forget that Huck Finn started as Tom Sawyer's goofy pal.

Back in real life we have Jack Kerouac's, Neal Cassady, whose insanity as Dean Moriarty in On the Road the rest of us sidekicks can only hope to live up to. Honestly, though, now that I've begun this survey, stories of real-life literary sidekicks seem few. Clearly, as one of the founders of the role, I will have to work particularly hard to set the bar high.


  1. Good luck living up! And have fun, guys. :)

  2. EW. My spam-check word was "butfur"...

  3. My two glaring typos have now been corrected. Obviously I'm light on the 'literary' part of the job.


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