The Smart One

Very often, in any given group of characters, one person is dubbed "the smart one."

This still happens, though I suspect this sort of character-building was much more in vogue a few decades back. One girl or guy was the go-to person for problem-solving or team-building or forward-thinking or what have you. Two smart people in any one story was a luxury. (The story was probably set in some sort of beaker-laden laboratory, too.)

My viewpoint? Everyone in Wilfair gets to be the smart one.

A Wilfair character may be more sassy or more jokey or more vain or more mysterious or more kind or more apologetic or more scared or more mouthy or more annoying or more loving than all the other people in the books, but I never wanted their main traits to supersede their savvy. Every Wilfair person has to display some wit or intelligence or can-do at some point in their personal stories.

And, of course, smart comes in a lot of flavors in the world, and in the books, too.

The person I worry about the most, when it comes to matters of the brain, is Prior Yates. Movie stars are ripe for satire, and Prior does come up for his share in the books, though I hope the satire is slightly sweetened. It can be easy to be mean to a movie star, too easy, and I take care to never let any gentle prodding of Prior spill over into wounding barbs. I rather like movie stars, and not because they're wealthy or famous but because they're very often normal people who've ended up in rather extraordinary circumstances.


To me he is quite smart. Prior's type of intelligence is of the very pronounced emotional variety. He's easy with eager strangers and knows what they need of him. He anticipates what they want him to be to them and he gives of himself. He may not be entirely informed on some basic matters of the world, because his employees and assistants take care of things for him and have for a long time. But he's rather charming and guileless about his lack of knowledge in certain areas, too.

Gomery's intelligence is probably the most, hmm. Diverse or manifold, in my mind. At first glance, the glasses-wearing future architectural physicist might be seen as that calculator-using, neuron-loaded nerd who knows how mastodons' feet spread weight and the water-heat density of a 24,500-gallon pool. But Gomery's deeper intelligence to me is not unlike Prior's more obvious intelligence, in a way.

I think Gomery Overbove is highly emotionally intelligent, and knows what people need but can't say they need. But unlike Prior he's never been called upon to deliver on that before, aside from running a load of towels to a guest's room or a tray of club sandwiches before either thing is asked for.

This changes when Fair enters his life in a major way at the beginning of "Wilfair." Rather than sensing something prosaic like a guest needing towels, his invisible Gomery dish picks up a whole spectrum of signals regarding his longtime neighbor: She's at a turning point of frustration in her life. She feels powerless in her power. She's lonelier than he's ever seen her. She's caught between childhood and adulthood in a maddening way. All things Gomery had probably suspected about Fair for some time, but those particular thorns are especially pronounced for her when "Wilfair" begins.

Gomery's dish also picks up an intriguing signal near the end of "Wilfair," along about the time Fair clowns at her window when he catches her spying on the motel: His rather remarkable, strange neighbor might actually be interested in him, finally.

(Fair is certainly as emotionally intelligent as Gomery, and we'll get to her brand of smart skills in a post just devoted to her. Sutton and Monty, too, should have their own, though Thurs Mathers and his distinctive brain power might deserve a separate blog altogether.)

That's part of the excitement of Gomery's story, for me. I'm not just fond of him because he's handsome (he is) or kind (ditto) or textbook-quick (definitely). Rather, he possesses this whole other sphere of intelligence that hadn't ever been called into action in his life in a real or interesting way. That is, before Fair Finley walked over to the motel to complain one chilly afternoon, and Monty got the ball rolling, and then, zing, a door unlocked inside the heart inside Gomery's brain.

What he'd privately suspected he could do -- anticipate the needs and wants of a person he cares for in an authentic and wonderful way -- he's quite suddenly doing. It isn't just about fixing someone's television or bathroom faucet before they ask. It's about understanding Fair.

I know for a fact Gomery's headier about this than his easygoing, long-dimpled demeanor lets on. His own yelling "yell" moment may be nigh, because he's got about a billion atoms popcorning inside his chest.

It's like a dormant superpower awakening, to be grand. Or to be much less grand, it's like Gomery had been using his left hand to write his entire life, even though he knew somewhere inside he'd been ambidextrous all along.

Brain Embroidery via Hey Paul Studios


Chiara said...

I don't really have a lot to say to this except for that it was really interesting to read and makes me think. I love the idea of all the different smarts in the books.

Wilfair Book said...

This comment made me smile, Chiara! Thanks for the quick jump-in.

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