I grew up on game shows. Jeopardy. Wheel of Fortune. Family Feud. The Dating Game. My favorites were the celebrity editions where we, Jane and John Does, sitting on our couches across America got to see famous people unscripted. To laugh alongside them like we were all a bunch of friends having pizza and soda round the game table. My husband and I still tune into Jeopardy, shouting out the answers before any of the players have buzzed. Game shows of every variety equalize the millionaire actor and the street vendor under the banner of “contestants.” A person’s past or even how they arrived on the show is inconsequential. All that matters is the present.
That accessibility to the masses and acceptance of the character game rules are attributes shared by literature. It’s why, as readers and writers, we get excited seeing a particular book we’ve read in the hands of a Hollywood star, political leader, or other esteemed person. We feel, “Me, too!” even if we don’t consciously think or say it.
So I went on a social media hunt for the current popular sport and found this all-inclusive gem: Shag, Marry, Kill. It seems everyone from superstar chefs to decorous journalists are being put on the spot to play. Well, I said to myself, why not authors in a literary edition—this is Writer Unboxed! I snagged three kind friends who were ready to get their game on.
(Ahem, stepping onto the game show hostess podium now.)
It is my pleasure to introduce brilliant writers and our distinguished contestants of the first Writer Unboxed Shag, Marry, Kill column:
Megan Abbott , Edgar-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, The End of Everything, Dare Me, and her latest chosen as best book of 2014 by Amazon, The Fever.
Melanie Benjamin , New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife, Alice I Have Been and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.
Matthew Dicks , author of the critically-acclaimed novels Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Something Missing, Unexpectedly, Milo and the forthcoming The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs (September 2015).
The rules are simple: For each question, the contestant must designate which of the three persons he or she would rather shag, marry, and kill. It’s generally hard to say, I’ll shag X, marry Y, and kill Z without some kind of explanation and therein lies our entertainment. The story of why each “shag, marry and kill” were chosen.
Writer Unboxed: Shag, Marry, Kill
1) Which of these Canonized Chaps would you rather shag, marry, kill?
MEGAN ABBOTT: Shag, Kurt Vonnegut. Marry William Shakespeare. Kill Lewis Carroll. Let me be clear: I don’t want to kill Lewis Carroll! But I do think I’m far too old for him.[pullquote]Marry Lewis Carroll. He always struck me as very polite and quiet in real life. He’d leave me alone to pursue my interests. Plus he was a mathematics professor, so he could balance the checkbook. – Melanie Benjamin[/pullquote]
MELANIE BENJAMIN: Shag William Shakespeare. Very lusty, I imagine ol’ Will was. And a true romantic. I’ve always wanted a sonnet written for me. Marry Lewis Carroll. He always struck me as very polite and quiet in real life. He’d leave me alone to pursue my interests. Plus he was a mathematics professor, so he could balance the checkbook. Kill Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve never read his books (Admitting this for the first time in public, actually), and so I imagine he’d tried to murder me, so I’d have to kill him first.
MATTHEW DICKS: Tricky since I’m really not attracted to men in any way. We’re horrible creatures. But if I had to choose, I’d kill Vonnegut. He’s my favorite modern day author, and I cried on the day that he died, but he was kind of a jerk. I’ll marry Shakespeare, in hopes of spending lots of time in the theater, and I’ll shag Lewis Carroll. Poets are sexy.
2) Which if these Canonized Chicks would you rather shag, marry, kill?
MA: Shag Kate Chopin. Marry Jane Austen. Marry Toni Morrison. Okay, I really-really-really don’t want to kill any of these awesome women. So I’m going to have to cheat.
MB: Shag Toni Morrison. Marry Jane Austen. I mean, how hard would it be to live with Jane? She’d write happy endings for us all day long. Kill Kate Chopin. She’s kind of a downer.
MD: Shag Jane Austen. She was hot. Marry Toni Morrison for the connections. She knows everyone. Kill Kate Chopin for sure. Her short story A Story of an Hour makes it clear that she has no use for husbands and would be happy to see them dead.
3) Which of these Historic Heroes would you rather shag, marry, kill?
MA: Shag Hamlet. Marry Rhett Butler. Kill Tom Sawyer. I don’t want to kill Tom Sawyer, either. Or any child. But you see my problem?
MB: Shag, shag, shag Rhett Butler. Marry Tom Sawyer. Wasn’t he really the gentleman around Becky Thatcher? I think he grew up to be a fine man. Kill Hamlet. Definitely. The most depressing man ever.
MD: Shag Rhett Butler to make women jealous. Marry Tom Sawyer. Honeymoon on the Mississippi. Kill Hamlet. Decisively in order to drive home the point.
4) Which of these Historic Heroines would your rather shag, marry, kill?
Joan of Arc
MA: Shag Anna Karenina. Marry Anne Shirley. Kill Joan of Arc. This one’s easier because of the whole Joan-noble-martyr thing. Don’t we need her to make that sacrifice? (Though I wouldn’t burn her at the stake!)
MB: Shag Anna Karenina. Passion wins, every time. Marry, of course, Anne Shirley. Having read all the Green Gables books, I know she grew up to be quite the domestic goddess, in a fun way. Kill Joan of Arc. Definitely. Religious fervor to the point of mania is a big turn off for me.[pullquote]Shag Joan of Arc. Always shag the badass warrior. Marry Anne Shirley. Her life’s path is clearly spelled out. No surprises. Kill Anna Karenina to avoid having to read that novel again. – Matthew Dicks[/pullquote]
MD: Shag Joan of Arc. Always shag the badass warrior. Marry Anne Shirley. Her life’s path is clearly spelled out. No surprises. Kill Anna Karenina to avoid having to read that novel again.
5) Which of these Sci-fi Villains would you rather shag, marry, kill?
The White Witch of Narnia
MA: Shag, marry, kill Dracula. Gulp! I’ve got to punt this and give it all up to Drac. I’ve never read Lewis or Tolkien. My secret shame.
MB: Shag Dracula. Marry The White Witch of Narnia. But reluctantly. Kill Gollum.
MD: Shag the White Witch. She’s awful, but she has lady parts. Marry Dracula. Eternal life rules. Kill Gollum. But let Samwise do it for me. He deserves the satisfaction.
6) Which of these Fairytale Forefathers would you rather shag, marry, kill?
Hans Christian Andersen
Louisa May Alcott
MA: Shag Hans Christian Andersen. Marry Louisa May Alcott. Kill Charles Perrault. Another hard one. Despite loving his tales, I’ll kill Perrault solely because women have it so rough in those tales.
MB: Shag Charles Perrault. Marry Hans Christian Andersen. I always feel so sorry for him; he seems to have been such a strange, tortured, loveless man who just needed an understanding kindred spirit. Kill Louisa May Alcott. I think I’d have to kill her before she killed me.
MD: Shag Louisa May Alcott. Lady parts again. Marry Hans Christian Andersen. The original versions of his fairy tales are dark and crazy. Would make for an interesting life. Kill Charles Perrault. His fairy tales are completely sexist.
7) Which of these Eye-Spy Gumshoes would you rather shag, marry, kill?
Shaggy Rogers (Scooby-Doo)
MA: Shag James Bond. Marry Sherlock Holmes. Kill Shaggy Rogers. Easiest one by far!
MB: Shag, of course! James Bond. Marry Shaggy Rogers. He’s so easy going. And I’m OK with dogs. Kill Sherlock Holmes. I couldn’t live with that kind of scrutiny; there is such a thing as being too observant.
MD: Shag James Bond. All those Bond girls can’t be wrong. Marry Sherlock Holmes. Kill Shaggy. One thousand times over.
8) Which of these Dreamy Damsels would you rather shag, marry, kill?
MA: Shag Scarlett O’Hara. Marry Holly Golightly. Kill Claire Randall. Another easy one!
MB: Well, shag Scarlett O’Hara, I guess. Love her taste in clothing, anyway. Marry Holly Golightly. But only the Holly from the movie. The Holly from Capote’s novella is very different, and wouldn’t stick around for anything so normal as marriage. Kill Claire Randall. Um, I don’t know who this is! Sorry. Kill, then?
MD: Shag Scarlett O’Hara. Marry Holly Golightly. My wife says she’s my type. Kill Claire Randall. Wasting time travel for personal gain is unforgivable.
9) Which of these Romantic Rogues would you rather shag, marry, kill?
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy[pullquote]Shag Léon Dupuis. Marry Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Kill Noah Calhoun. The only thing hard about this one is that killing Noah might be like killing Ryan Gosling, and that seems wrong. – Megan Abbott [/pullquote]
MA: Shag Léon Dupuis. Marry Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Kill Noah Calhoun. The only thing hard about this one is that killing Noah might be like killing Ryan Gosling, and that seems wrong.
MB: Kill Noah Calhoun – Again, no idea who this is! Léon Dupuis – Ditto. Well, duh. Shag AND marry Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Lather, rinse and repeat. (The above section only proves how unromantic I am in real life.)
MD: Shag Leon Dupuis. Marry Mr. Darcy, of course. Kill Noah Calhoun. End the curse of that film.
10) Literary Potpourri (submitted by contestants)—who would you rather shag, marry, kill?
Newland Archer (Melanie Benjamin)
Philip Roth (Megan Abbott)
Winnie the Pooh (Matthew Dicks)
MA: Shag Newland Archer. Marry Philip Roth. Kill Winnie the Pooh. These choices, while honest, fill me with my shame. But less shame than saying I’d shag or marry a teddy bar. Though if that’s your thing, more power to you.
MB: Shag Philip Roth. To quote Jacqueline Susann, “Philip Roth is a good writer, but I wouldn’t want to shake hands with him.” Still – shag. Marry Winnie the Pooh. My first instinct is to kill him, since he can’t spell. (Seriously – “hunny?”) But then, he only wears a shirt so laundry would be easy, and he has Piglet around to tell all his troubles to so I wouldn’t have to listen to him all day, and Tigger would be fun at parties. So, marry. Kill Newland Archer. He’s so indecisive! He’s so noble! He’s so dull.
MD: Shag Newland Archer. When in doubt, shag the fictional human. Marry Philip Roth. He’s getting up there in years. Inheritance possibilities. Kill Winnie the Pooh. Enough with the damn honey already.
Thanks for playing, Megan, Matt, and Melanie! That was wicked fun… I may just have to do this game show host gig again sometime. Hope you all played along and enjoyed it too!
For you, Writer Unboxed friends: which of these misunderstood characters would you rather shag, marry, kill?
Arthur “Boo” Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Katherine “Kate” Minola (The Taming of the Shrew)
Quasimodo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)