Images created using law enforcement composite sketch software and descriptions of literary characters. All interesting suggestions considered. Include descriptive passages if you can. Read more on the project at The Atlantic.
Hal Incandenza, Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
Hal is the only extant Incandenza who looks in any way ethnic. His late father had been as a young man darkly tall, high flat Pima-tribe cheekbones and very black hair Brylcreemed back so tight there’d been a kind of enforced widow’s peak. Himself had looked ethnic, but he isn’t extant. Hal is sleek, sort of radiantly dark, almost otterish, only slightly tall, eyes blue but darkly so, and unburnable even w/o sunscreen, his untanned feet the color of weak tea, his nose ever unpeeling but slightly shiny. His sleekness isn’t oily so much as moist, milky; Hal worries secretly that he looks half-feminine. (Multiple suggestions, and happy 50th birthday)
Tags: Hal Incandenza Infinite Jest David Foster Wallace
February 19, 2012
Kevin, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver
His face had that ferret-like sharpness from his earliest years…The narrow olive face is instantly familiar: recessed eyes, sheer straight nose with a wide bridge and slight hook, thin lips set in an obscure determination…But I wanted him to look like you. His whole geometry was based on the triangle and yours on the square, and there is something cunning and insinuating about acute angles, stable and trustworthy about the perpendicular…. I wanted to glance at my son’s profile and apprehend with a flash of lambent joy that he had your strong tall forehead—rather than one that shelved sharply over eyes that might begin as strikingly deep-set but were destined with age to look sunken. (Suggested by Lameyxx)
Tags: We Need To Talk About Kevin Shriver Composite
February 16, 2012
Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth…a conscientious expression…Slenderly, languidly…an expression of unthoughtful sadness…her cheeks flushed…she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society…a bright ecstatic smile…Aching, grieving beauty…the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair… For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery…Girls were swooning backward playfully into men’s arms, even into groups knowing that some one would arrest their falls—but no one swooned backward on Gatsby and no French bob touched Gatsby’s shoulder. (Multiple suggestions)
Tags: daisy buchanan the great gatsby f. scott fitzgerald
February 14, 2012
The Finn, “Burning Chrome” and Neuromancer, William Gibson
He looks like a recombo DNA project aimed at tailoring people for high-speed burrowing…The man who stood blinking now in the doorway behind them, the blanket draping one shoulder like a cape, seemed to have been designed in a wind tunnel. His ears were very small, plastered flat against his narrow skull, and his large front teeth, revealed in something that wasn’t quite a smile, were canted sharply backward. He wore an ancient tweed jacket and held a handgun of some kind in his left hand. He peered at them, blinked, and dropped the gun into a jacket pocket. (Suggested by enki2)
Tags: the finn neuromancer william gibson composite sketch
February 13, 2012
Tess, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
She was a fine and handsome girl—not handsomer than some others, possibly—but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape… The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word…Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still. As she walked along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkling from her eyes…a thick cable of twisted dark hair hanging straight down her back to her waist. (Multiple suggestions)
Tags: Tess of the d'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy composite sketch
February 11, 2012
Aomame, 1Q84, Haruki Murakami
5’6…Not once ounce of excess fat…The left ear much bigger than the right, and malformed, but her hair always covers her ears…Lips formed a tight straight line…Small narrow nose, somewhat protruding cheekbones, broad forehead, and long, straight eyebrows…[Face is a] Pleasing oval shape…Extreme paucity of expression. (Suggested by goya-galileo-vangogh )
Tags: Aomame 1Q84 Murakami composite sketch
February 11, 2012
Judge Holden, Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
An enormous man dressed in an oilcloth slicker had entered the tent and removed his hat…He was bald as a stone and he had no trace of beard and he had no brows to his eyes nor lashes to them…He was close on to seven feet in height… His face was serene and strangely childlike…His hands were small. (Multiple suggestions.)
Tags: judge holden blood meridian cormac mccarthy middle-aged Billy Corgan
February 10, 2012
Unfortunately, there will be no Holden Caulfield. At a glance, the entirety of his self description amounts to “I have a crew cut.” Ditto for Kilgore Trout, and as a Vonnegut fan I kind of knew that he had a workmanlike approach to description but I did go back and look. Please respect the authors’ stylistic choices but do keep sending in other suggestions.
February 10, 2012
Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The V motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down—from high flat temples—in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan. (Suggested by http://exygoddess.tumblr.com )
Tags: dashiell hammet maltese falcon sam spade composite sketch
February 09, 2012
Gary, Zone One, Colson Whitehead
Gary had a granite complexion, gray and pitted skin. Mark Spitz couldn’t help but think that something bad roosted deep in his bones, uncatalogued and undiagnosable. His eye sockets were permanently sooted, his cheeks scooped out. His preferred gait was a controlled slouch, with which he slunk around corners and across rooms, the world’s last junkie. Like everyone, he’d skipped plenty of meals over the last few years, though on Gary the weight loss registered not as the result of scarcity but as the slow creep of a subcutaneous harrowing…His crazy grin. As if cleaning up after semiautomatic fire were the same as touching up dings in the plaster where the previous tenants had hung their black-and-white landscapes.
Tags: gary zone one colson whitehead
February 08, 2012
Keith Talent, London Fields, Martin Amis
Keith didn’t look like a murderer. He looked like a murderer’s dog. (No disrespect to Keith’s dog Clive, who had signed on well before the fact, and whom Keith didn’t in the least resemble anyway.) Keith looked like a murderer’s dog, eager familiar of ripper or body snatcher or gravestalker. His eyes held a strange radiance -for a moment it reminded you of health, health hidden or sleeping or otherwise mysteriously absent. Though frequently bloodshot, the eyes seemed to pierce. In fact the light sprang off them. And it wasn’t at all pleasant or encouraging, this one-way splendour. His eyes were television. The face itself was leonine, puffy with hungers, and as dry as soft fur. Keith’s crowning glory, his hair, was thick and full-bodied; but it always had the look of being recently washed, imperfectly rinsed, and then, still slick with cheap shampoo, slow-dried in a huddled pub Ч the thermals of the booze, the sallowing fagsmoke. Those eyes, and their urban severity…Like the desolating gaiety of a fundless pediatric hospital (Welcome to the Peter Pan Ward), or like a criminal’s cream Rolls-Royce, parked at dusk between a tube station and a flower stall, the eyes of Keith Talent shone with tremendous accommodations made to money. And murder? The eyes - was there enough blood in them for that? Not now, not yet. He had the talent, somewhere, but he would need the murderee to bring it out.
Tags: keith talent london fields composite sketch
February 08, 2012
Humbert Humbert, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Gloomy good looks…Clean-cut jaw, muscular hand, deep sonorous voice…broad shoulder…I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanor. Exceptional virility often reflects in the subject’s displayable features a sullen and congested something that pertains to what he has to conceal. And this was my case…But instead I am lanky, big-boned, wooly-chested Humbert Humbert, with thick black eyebrows…A cesspoolful of rotting monsters behind his slow boyish smile…aging ape eyes…Humbert’s face might twitch with neuralgia.
Tags: humbert humbert lolita nabokov composite sketch
February 08, 2012
Vaughn, Crash, JG Ballard
His exhausted face, with its scarred mouth…As his pock-marked jaws champed on a piece of gum I had the sudden feeling that he was hawking obscene pictures around the wards…But what marked him out was the scar tissue around his forehead and mouth, residues of some terrifying act of violence…Heavy black hair…Broken and re-set nose bridge…His features looked as if they had been displaced laterally, reassembled after the crash from a collection of faded publicity photographs. The scars on his mouth and forehead, the self-cut hair and two missing upper canine gave him a neglected and hostile appearance…His hard mouth, with its scarred lips, was parted in a droll smile.
Tags: crash jg ballard vaughn composite sketch
February 08, 2012
The Misfit, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” Flannery O’Connor
He was an older man than the other two. His hair was just beginning to gray and he wore silver-rimmed spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He had a long creased face and didn’t have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and a gun…“You don’t look a bit like you have common blood. I know you must come from nice people!”… When he smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth…Hunching his shoulders slightly…The Misfit’s eyes were red-rimmed and pale and defenseless-looking.
Tags: misfit flannery o'connor good man is hard to find composite sketch
February 08, 2012
Emma Bovary, Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
She was pale all over, white as a sheet; the skin of her nose was drawn at the nostrils, her eyes looked at you vaguely. After discovering three grey hairs on her temples, she talked much of her old age…Her eyelids seemed chiseled expressly for her long amorous looks in which the pupil disappeared, while a strong inspiration expanded her delicate nostrils and raised the fleshy corner of her lips, shaded in the light by a little black down.