I am a devotee of the ludicrous yet brilliant television series Lost. This surprises some readers, not least because it is of course a blatant plagiarism of the Hooting Yard serial story Blodgett And His Pals Hanging Around On A Mysterious Island After Surviving A Plane Crash, episodes of which appeared here back in December 2005 and January 2006. But I forgive the writers and producers of the American series, because I am like as unto a saint and martyr.
One of the features of the show that has always appealed to me is the manner in which certain characters are named after great thinkers of the past. Rousseau, John Locke, Jeremy Bentham and Mikhail Bakunin all appear in the Lost scripts, and there may be others I have forgotten for the moment. Early on, I assumed the significance of these dubbings would become apparent, until at last it dawned on me that they are, though deliberately chosen, purely arbitrary. A programme such as Lost encourages fervent babble in online fora and discussion groups, where airheads expound and exchange their theories about this or that clump of minutiae, and clearly these names are planted, like the books characters are seen reading, as fodder for the nutters. I must add that despite my enthusiasm for the show, I do not waste precious hours reading or contributing to the online drivel.
The point of noting this is that it has only belatedly occurred to me what a tremendous fictional device it is. I am minded to write stories featuring protagonists called Charles Lindbergh or John Ruskin or Tallulah Bankhead or Hazel Blears, where no reference is remotely intended to their famous living, or dead, or brain-dead, counterparts. Expect passages such as the one below to turn up at the Yard soon:
“So, Ringo Starr, you continue to defy me?” hissed evil Nazi Obergruppenfuhrer Blind Jack of Knaresborough to his quailing captive. Suddenly, a rescue party led by daring trio Nova Pilbeam, Ivy Compton-Burnett, and Thomas De Quincey crashed in to the chamber. The Nazi hellhound spun on his heels, but was swiftly grappled to the floor by David Miliband.
Later, as the gung ho heroes sat in the helicopter taking them back to Blighty, they were moved to receive congratulatory radio messages from both Richard Milhous Nixon and Ayn Rand.