Love them or loathe them: why main characters matter

My November 29, 2022 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

There has long been the question of how much a character’s likability matters in regard to how we feel about a novel. ¶ The best-known literary dust-up on the topic was a Publishers Weekly conversation in which Claire Messud, author of 2013’s “The Woman Upstairs,” responded with horror to her interviewer’s statement that she “wouldn’t want to be friends” with the novel’s main character, Nora.

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