Monday, February 23, 2009

Le Fin de Scaramouche

Sometimes life just rolls merrily along, and other times it's frickin' hard. Right now, for me, it's hard. I'm still struggling with this damn immunology class; four weeks to go, and I have so much to do. And on top of that, there's going to be layoffs at work, as there will be in a lot of workplaces this year, I suppose. So everyone at work is freaking out, and consequently not getting much work done. Hmmm, seems like there's a business lesson there somewhere. Of course, if I did get laid off there would be lots more time for blogging the canon...but then again, there would be less money for fine whiskey to wash down the canon chunks with. I'd have to switch to Old Grand Dad, which actually isn't a bad whiskey at all. But I digress...

So here I am whining and bitching about how hard life is while I sit here in my comfortable abode, typing on my awesome mac laptop, and sipping on some fine Guatemalan rum; meanwhile other people have way more troubles than I do. Like, for instance, Andre-Louis Moreau, the hero of "Scaramouche", who had to go on the lam from the law for murder and inciting riots. He flees to Paris, where he takes a job at a fencing school. Naturally, he becomes quite good at fencing, and eventually takes over the school when the headmaster is killed in the opening salvos of the French Revolution. So now we have all the ingredients here for a rollicking good story...sword fighting! Revolution! Vengeance! WOOHOO! And yes, the story basically comes down to all that. I could go on and describe all the plot details, but I'm going to refrain, for the simple reason that this book is mostly plot. If I walked you through the plot and said what happens, there'd be no reason for you ever to read this book. There aren't any big themes, or intellectual ideas, or really deep thoughts of any kind at work here. This book is really just an action novel...a damn good one, but it's just not really any deeper than that. Not that there's anything wrong with that...the swords come out, and the revolutionary mobs draw close, and there are opportunities for vengeance, and you just wanna read the next chapter to see what happens next. But it's a plot-driven vehicle, much like a Hollywood action blockbuster.

However, there was one downside to the plot, and I can't figure out if this is due to my having seen too many movies which has made me able to predict this kind of thing, or if it would have also been obvious in the 1920s when this was published. The downside is that there are two big plot twists in the novel, having to do with the identity of Andre-Louis' parents (he's a bastard child, raised by his Godfather, who he always assumed was his real father), and I could totally see both of these twists coming for a long time ahead, which naturally made them a lot less fun than they otherwise would have been. Plot twists are best when they really do twist, but these were fairly predictable. It was fun to see how they would turn out, but they weren't really surprises. No, a real surprise would have been if Andre-Louis was suddenly teleported ahead in time and forced to take an immunology class. Would he have used his wit and cunning to pass the course with flying colors, or would he have become rapidly exasperated by the pressures of time and work, forcing him to resort to pulling out his sword and threatening to run the instructor through before leaping out the nearest window and fighting his way through oncoming traffic, resulting in a grade of "incomplete"? Hmmm, now THAT would be a plot twist.


Justus said...

I've been reading "classics" on and off in my spare time over the past few years. I've also noticed that sometimes the status of classic is heavily bound to era when the book came out. Like you mention, sometimes things that were new or revolutionary at the time are now passe. (Think of Hitchcock's Psycho, for instance.)

I read Germinal not too long ago and while its depiction of the struggles of labor was probably revolutionary in 1885, nowadays that "topicality" has been stripped from the book.

I still liked it for its strong character arc of the main protagonist and its "realistic" ending but the portrayal of labor conditions felt historical rather than gripping and immediate.

When I read classics like this I am constantly reminded of Newton's quote:

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

All future writing stands on the shoulders of those who have come before. As the bar is continually raised even the non-genius writers of today can turn out work that surpasses the geniuses of yesteryear.

Anyway, I look forward to your future entries :-)

Tina said...

Have been missing your posts lately, but can totally understand that there's too much going on in your life right now to be able to spend a lot of time on reading! Good luck with your immunology class!