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aggh (but mostly books)

It's been a brutal week (highlights: I auditioned people for the first time! All the volunteering and such started up again! etc) and I began developing a cold and then I think I gave myself food poisoning yesterday, which was miserable. I feel much better today though and I'm very grateful, because the coming week is going to be even busier. I am sorry about the meme post, I swear I'm composing my comments...slowly.

In other news, I did finish two major novels: Les Miserables and The Dispossessed1, both of which I feel unable to review properly. Immediate impressions in this entry for now.

OK first, LM: It has taken me an entire year to read this. By my phone app's statistics, I've put in 30+ hours--I'd read the book when I arrived early and had a few minutes, and as you can tell from my sporadic book reviews I've read many many books in the meantime.

I wish Hugo ended the novel slightly earlier: make Marius understand, reconcile them all, and then end the novel with Valjean having a happily ever after with their household. (Secondary wish: Marius realizing that Thénardier was trying to loot his father's corpse; alternatively Thénardier getting a proper comeuppance, possibly an extended one after all the extortion and child abuse and I'm working myself up just thinking about it.) And while I'm wishing for rainbows I'd also liked to have given every awful person around Fantine a horrible case of guilt and doomed them to awful lives so they could understand, and at least given her some peace before she died. She had to suffer that much and died with that kind of news?

Ranked in terms of how much I liked the digressions, least to most: WATERLOO, Les Amis (all the many diversions around them), whether or not revolutions are justified etc, convent, sewers. I really quite liked the convent and sewer parts; nearly quit during the Waterloo bits though.

I don't like les Amis. Their popularity in the wider fandom after the movie has kind of not helped. (Maybe the 2012 movie had good writing or charismatic actors for those? I found the story around Valjean, Javert, Fantine and Cosette much more compelling, either way.) I'm divided on the enormous amounts of philosophy and justification that Hugo talked about, regarding violence in revolutions, whether it was okay to progress in the name of the future utopia but trample on people in the meantime. Both the stuff delivered via narrator and the ones delivered by interminably long speeches--I realize that the novel is not meant to be taken realistically and therefore speeches can stretch out like that, but man if I were in a pub listening to iirc Grantaire speak like that I would have stopped paying attention within the first minute. But the part with them telling the barricade's men to leave if they have children was unexpectedly moving.

MABEUF ;____;

Gillenormand thank everything oh my god he's all right, I practically exploded at the part when Marius 'returned' and I was all set to celebrate their reconciliation and Gillenormand went off entirely on the wrong track and it just made everything worse. I was so afraid that Gillenormand would die of combined shock and grief when Marius shows up half dead and like, thank you Hugo for your restraint, I'm glad you saw fit to let him have a happy.

Hey, what happened to the two little boys whom Madame Thénardier kicked out?

Marius, you utter prat.

I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading LeGuin again. I read the Earthsea cycle early enough that it's one of my Childhood Formative Novels and have heard about The Left Hand of Darkness, The Gift, The Dispossessed, and so on for literal years and never moved to pick them up. I should have.

So much work was put into thinking out Anarres, how the Odonian's past would have affected how they set up the colony, how Anarres itself changes how people can behave (eg how Urras is better adapted for humans and has much better soil and sunlight and climate). I really don't know if it's possible to throw off that kind of accumulated history, but entirely removing oneself and community to the moon and then never talking to parent earth for a hundred years seems like a possible way. But as the novel gradually reveals, it doesn't quite help; institutions and government that the first settlers tried so hard to eliminate systematically (and via deeply-rooted institutions, not just in thought and belief) are creeping back in the necessary institutions like the PDC.

I still am not sure if an anarchy can really exist with a) such a large community (both community and large being operative terms) and b) in a place where most people are subsisting on the land even when all resources are pooled. I will say right now that I probably land politically right of socialist, but mostly it's the practical, "how can I undertake large projects or a public good without some sort of organizing system" that bugs me. I think LeGuin addresses that with the PDC and the way that work is posted. I wonder if the instances of people skipping work are a percentage low enough that it doesn't affect their ability to carry out large projects?

I didn't even pick up on the politics on Urras, even though until page 300 exactly in my copy I had been wondering on and off whether Urras = Earth and Anarres = our moon. Well, apparently not. I'm a bit sad that in this universe that Earth is a shattered wreck after what we did to it, only saved at the end by the Hainish.

Speaking of Hainish, I looked up the book after I read it to see if it's part of a series and it looks like the answer is yes, but it's not set on Anarres or about Shevek, boo :(

Shevek himself was delightful.


Another thought that occurs to me is that I might put up a character-hating post. I love most characters, and attempt to excuse too many of them of everything, but there are some excellently hateable characters that I really cannot stand. And when I say hateable I mean the sort of characters along the lines of Angel Clare, John Thorpe, George Wickham from the Lizzie Bennett Diaries, madame and monsieur Thénardier, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr and Mrs John Dashwood, etc. Sometimes I read novels and feel positively deranged.

OK, it's now way past my bedtime and I can't talk about The Dispossessed enough but I have to post this, I've got four entries in progress and I refuse to add to that number.



1Wikipedia informs me that one of the translated titles of Les Misérables into English that never stuck was actually "The Dispossessed" which is a cute coincidence.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/160934.html.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
sonneta
Sep. 14th, 2014 01:55 pm (UTC)
I definitely started skimming the Waterloo parts of Les Miz. Iiiiiii don't care about Napoleon, Hugo, get me back to Valjean and Cosette! Also, I like your ideas about the ending.
silverflight8
Sep. 15th, 2014 04:33 am (UTC)
That was my exact thought as I was reading them. I DON'T CARE, I want to know what happened to Cosette and Valjean stop it I don't caaaaaaaaaare. He has this awful way of leaving you on cliffhangers and then starting on a topic you really cannot care about given said cliffhanger, which is aggravating.

So much tragedy, not enough happiness D:
apgeeksout
Sep. 14th, 2014 02:53 pm (UTC)
I've also been working on Les Miserables for over a year, and I'm unlikely to finish before the two-year mark, as I've been mired in the convent digression - which I'm loving a bit less than you did - for months.

I haven't met Les Amis of the book; after the movie, I couldn't have told you any of their names apart from Marius. They are largely young and have flashier costuming and styling than either of the leads, and IIRC, do a lot of touching and singing passionate choruses into each others' faces.
silverflight8
Sep. 15th, 2014 04:37 am (UTC)
Hahahaha, well, you're fairly well along though, for the convent digression! I quite like medieval stuff and convents are interesting to me (comparing how different they are from the medieval period, how the revolution affected them, etc). But it's such a painful digression, pacing-wise, because he drops into it just as he drops you the reader off a cliffhanger.

Hahahaha well I know it's mostly slash so if they get to sing passionately into each other's faces and get touchy feely I can see where the shipping comes in. Shipping is a big driver of fandom :)
wordsofastory
Sep. 15th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
It also took me aaaaages to read Les Mis. And it was Waterloo I kept getting stuck on – I'd read up to there, get so bored that I'd put the book aside, and then not remember it until a year, when I'd have to start over.

I've thought about rereading it recently, what with it having a fandom now, but eh. It's so long! I don't think I can do it.

I think the Amis fandom mostly comes from the book, actually. Other than Enjolras, they barely have names, much less personalities, in the movie and stage versions.
sherrilina
Sep. 16th, 2014 12:44 am (UTC)
Yeah you are right re: the fandom, although the movie provided pretty graphics for Tumblr.
silverflight8
Sep. 18th, 2014 03:19 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'd put down the book at boring points and not have it draw me in again--I stopped at the barricades for so long.

That does make sense. The movie can't be more than a few hours long, and the task of adapting it first to stage and then screen just in terms of length must have been a major challenge.
sherrilina
Sep. 16th, 2014 12:43 am (UTC)
Heh, see this is why I think the abridged version is better for once--it's still 500+ pages (the length of Hunchback unabridged actually), so you get most of the important stuff, but cut out most of Waterloo, etc. (But there is still social commentary about poverty and the explanation of the ABC, etc). I do want to read the unabridged version someday though, since I love love love Les Mis as a story; I only read the abridged by accident, not realizing until I was well into it because I didn't realize the true book was 1400 pages, lmao.

IA the Amis aren't so compelling--they are my least favorite part of the musical as well, generally. The exception is the final death scene with Grantaire and Enjolras--I was glad that made it into the film (I ship it a bit). But overall I did really enjoy the story (when there was story, lol, as opposed to historical and philosophical tangents)--certain parts were so exciting, and made me think about them in a way usually reserved for more recent books. And I love the themes, like about religion. Are you familiar with the musical?

I have to disagree about Thernardier--yes, we all wish he was punished for his misdeeds, but so often the real world doesn't work that way, and I think it's good to show that here. It's a broader statement about injustice.
silverflight8
Sep. 18th, 2014 03:23 am (UTC)
I always feel like I should read the 'official' (ie the full thing, original language) though obviously it's impossible sometimes, especially the language thing! I also first read the abridged version by accident--it was plenty thick that it looked like an ordinary novel's full version--but I'd forgotten all but the beginning parts with Fantine and Valjean and Cosette and Javert by the time I picked up the full version.

I am not, actually. I know I Dreamed a Dream the song, and that's it.

I agree with what you're saying with Thernardier. I'm split: as a reader who wants to have emotional justice meted out, Thernardier should probably be drawn and quartered, but his actual fate is consistent with the book's themes and message. It's just frustrating!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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