Ep. 24. Two Of A Kind: Twins in literature
It seems that twins are more abundant inside than outside the pages of books. Twins have fascinated writers for a long time, maybe it is because of the possibilities for them to switch places, or to pull the doppelgänger effects, or the creative possibilities given when two different stories have a common inception. Starting in our childhood with Tweedledee and Tweedledum, we have met more twins as literary characters than otherwise, and we plan to tell you about some awesome pairs in this episode.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
📗 The Shining by Stephen King
👱👱 Alexie and Alexa Grady
The Grady daughters in The Shining are probably the spookiest set of twins you would ever encounter. Leave it to Stephen King to make a pair of identical twin girls in pigtails scare the living daylights out of a reader. The Grady twins are part of the ensemble at an old hotel where Jack Torrance takes a job as an off-season caretaker. He moves to the hotel with his wife and his son Danny, and once winter arrives, the weather and Jack's mental state take a turn for the worst. The twins are not major characters, in fact they only are mentioned in a handful of scenes; the more emblematic one being the one where they ask Danny to play with them...forever. Alexie and Alexa Grady are not major characters in The Shining, but the horror they communicate has center stage.
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado inspired Stephen King to create The Overlook Hotel in The Shinning. The Hotel had fallen to disrepair by the 1970, but it was put back on the map after Stephen King stay for a night and got the ideas for his best-selling novel. Today, The Stanley Hotel offer accommodations among a beautiful natural setting and close to Rocky Mountains National Park. If you decide to spend the night, we cannot guarantee whether you will or will not se the Grady twins.
The book also inspired one of the most influential horror films of all times; it was directed by Stanley Kubrick and it starred Jack Nicholson in the unforgettable role of Jack Torrance.
📗 I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
👱👱 Dominik and Thomas
This is the story of identical twin brothers Dominik and Thomas, the latter of whom suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. One day, Thomas goes to a public library and commits what can only be described as a horrific act of self-inflicted violence. This event takes Dominik, who is Thomas' caretaker, into a path to find his own identity as well as, ultimately, forgiveness.
Wally Lamb titles his novels using lines from songs, and this book is not an excpetion. The title of the novel is taken from the lyrics of the song True by Spandau Ballet.
📗 One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
👱👱 Jose Arcadio and Aureliano Segundo
One Hundred Years of Solitude chronicles one hundred years in the saga of the Buendia family, where each member you meet is more eccentric than the last one. If you want to feel dumbfounded, this book might be the bibliotherapy you need. Just figuring out the family tree might give you several headaches. As an example, twin brothers Jose Arcadio and Aureliano Segundo might or might not be switched when they were children; but when they both died on the same day at the exact same time, there is a mix up with their coffins and it is never clear if the twins were buried in the correct grave or not. The novel is outlandish and yes, it might be confusing to keep straight the names of all the characters and the relationships of the Buendia family, but One Hundred Years of Solitude is a hit with lovers of magical realism.
The story takes place in the fictional town of Macondo, and a restaurant with the same name in Berlin was opened in 2006 by Jorge Rodriguez, a Colombian like Garcia Marquez. The restaurant serves Colombian wines and traditional dishes and it is set up like a living room decorated as if time had stood still.
One of the dishes served in Macondo, both the restaurant and the fictional town, are patacones (fried plantains). For months, the Buendias ate only rice and fried plantains after an eventful death. You can recreate the dish by following the recipe available at The King's Lettuce blog.
📗 Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss
👱👱 Chang and Eng
This is a fictional account based on the real lives of Chang and Eng Bunker, the conjoined twins born in Siam in 1811 and after whom the term Siamese twins was coined. The twins became celebrities while young and toured the world performing as a circus act until eventually they settled in North Carolina and married two sisters.
The twins signed at one point with P. T. Barnum and worked together as part of the circus acts of the famous showman. In fact, the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida has among its exhibits Chang and Eng memorabilia from that period.
For admirers of the book as well as the famous twins, we have found a poster celebrating Chang and Eng from Monster Planet.
Chang and Eng poster from Monster Planet
📗 Wise Children by Angela Carter
👱👱 Dora and Nora
This novel is the rollicking saga of Dora and Nora Chance, a twin duo with artistic abilities that they exhibit around Britain. They are the illegitimate progeny of a great Shakespearean actor with whom they happen to share their birthday on April 23rd, which is also supposed to be Shakespeare's birthday. This novel glitters with love for the letters, the stage, human connections, and humor as Dora tells us the story of the twins as we meet them on their 75th birthday.
We have chosen Wise Children to be our Six-Word Review this week: Shakespearean dissertation by witty septuagenarian twin.
📗 Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
👱👱 Marion and Shiva Stone
Marion and Shiva are identical twins who were born conjoined in Ethiopia out of the secret union of an Indian nun and a British officer. Since early in life they will suffer the absence of both mother and father, but they always have each other. It is almost as if the twin are only one person, running at the same pace, communicating without words, and sharing a love for medicine. Their closeness is threatened, for reasons we will not spoil for you, and one of them leaves Ethiopia. But as you might have guessed, life brings Marion and Shiva together again allowing the readers to witness the strength of their unique bond.
Cutting for Stone is set in Ethiopia for the most part, and Doro Wat, a traditional dish is mentioned several times. You can venture to make your own Doro Wat following the detailed recipe available at Bookcooker.com. The recipe takes some preparation, we should warn you; and, as Marion mentioned in the book, there is a possibility that your hands will not be clean after eating Doro Wat if you are not a native of Ethiopia. As for ourself, we will risk dirty hands for trying this dish, any day.
📗 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
👱👱 Sam and Eric
In this apocalyptic novel Golding shows us, explicitly, the darkest side of humanity. The book is an allegory for the end of innocence and the collapse of civilization by telling the story of a group of adolescents who survive a plane crash and find themselves as the unsupervised inhabitants of an island. Their new-found freedom soon spins out of control with dreadful and brutal consequences. Among the group of adolescents are twins Sam and Eric, who morph into a single entity known as Samneric as the novel progresses. The twins are a symbol of the lack of individuality among initially well-intentioned members of society when they yield to those in charge.
If you need a drink after certain scenes in the book, Lauren Kessinger has created a spin on Pina Colada, aptly named Lord of the Flies, that might help you in that front. Or maybe you prefer a thematic box from Coffee and a Classic which includes the book as well as items that would go well with the reading of Lord of the Flies.
Lord of the Flies book box from Coffee and a Classic
📗 The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
👱👱 Rahel and Esthappen
In this visceral novel, Roy tells the story of two fraternal twins, Rahel and Esthappen Yako, in a fractured timeline. The special connection between the twins is explained amidst their complicated family dynamics in a postcolonial India where the caste system decides a person's rights and freedoms.
The novel is set in Kerala, India, where Roy grew up, and where there is a possibility to take a thatched-roof houseboat tour of the fishing villages in the area. In Cochin, Kerala also stands The Hotel Sealord, which served as inspiration for The Hotel Sea Queen in the novel. After a renovation in the 1980s, rooms 313 and 327, where the twin and their family spent their fictional stay, no longer exist.
📗 Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
👱👱 Sebastian and Viola
In Twelfth Night, the play tangles and untangles around the mistaken identities of two twins, Sebastian and Viola, after a shipwreck where each presume the other dead. These twins create all kinds of confusions as Viola disguises herself as a man and complicated love triangles ensue.
The cover for the 2016 paperback edition for the Pelican series of Penguin Group was too good to pass for our Cover Gallery. The whole set of covers for was designed by, then unknown, artist Manuja Waldia. She used vector work, which involved her reducing the illustrations to the major plot elements of the title, creating a very modern style to present the classical works of Shakespeare. In the cover of Twelfth Night a female face, similar to those seen in the queens in a set of playing cards, is disguising with a male-looking mask on the same style while above them a shipwreck looms.
Shakespeare also use the twin trope in The Comedy of Errors, having two pairs of twins as characters who are also separated by a ship wreck. Like Shakespeare, Christopher Priest has incorporated twin characters to the plots of two of his books and we have chosen them for Book vs. Book this week.
📗 The Separation by Christopher Priest
👱👱 Joe and Jack Sawyer
The story revolves around two twins, similar in looks, but with completely different ideologies, who take different life paths in the year leading to and during WWII. One of the brothers becomes a pilot and the other a pacifist, ensuing confusion among people who are unaware of them being twins, and who can not reconcile how the same person can be in different places or have such different behavior. The story of these twin brothers is ideal for those who like books about alternative paths in history, which is unreliable at times, anyway.
📗 The Prestige by Christopher Priest
👱👱 Albert and Frederick
The novel relates the rivalry between two magicians who compete to outwit and outstage each other during the course of their careers. The competition gets so fierce that they resource to the extreme when it come to any deceit that will ruin the other. Someone in this novel has a twin, but I will not spoil the illusion for those who haven't read it.
There is a movie adaptation of The Prestige from 2006 nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography. The film was directed by Christopher Nolan and the cast included Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, and even David Bowie.
Remember you can vote for your favorite between The Separation and The Prestige in our Book vs. Book page or our instagram stories. As an added bonus this week, we will include another book battle between Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors by Shakespeare.
There is a novel about the unique life journey of two conjoined twins, Rose and Ruby. Would you venture to guess the title of this novel from its first line by visiting GuessWork?
Twins are a fascinating topic for any author, not exclusively to the ones mentioned in this episode. That's why we would love to know about any other twins you might have met inside the pages of a book.
To buy books covered in this episode, visit our TBR Bundles.