Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Three Musketeers

What exactly is The Three Musketeers? There are politics and history to it (while Alexandre Dumas wrote the book in 1844, it takes place in the 1620's) and therefore also some of what you could call social commentary--but mainly it's just an entertaining story about a group of vain men who love duels, wine, and women.

It's almost a shame, then, that this book is a "classic," meaning that it gets grouped in with all sorts of other kinds of books, where the 700 page length of this particular novel likely deters many readers. Have no fear, though, reading 700 of Dumas's pages is nothing like reading 700 of Tolstoy's. I almost want to use the word "swashbuckling" to describe the adventures in this book--not because Musketeers are pirates but because there is that carefree attitude toward, well, as I mentioned, fighting, alcohol, and women. The Musketeers do get excited over a good duel, not at all fearing the possibility of death. They love a good meal and even if they only have enough money for dinner and the best bottle of wine, they will spend all of that money on one meal. And they do love their mistresses, not the less because it's usually these women who give them money to spend on their wine and horses and uniforms. It's all very entertaining to read, and Dumas writes at a quick pace; he isn't long-winded but rather just gets to the point.

That is, sometimes the political situation and all of the names can be a little much to take in, but this is where endnotes do help and are worth reading. They don't just provide extra info in this case: they help you along as you read.

This is one of those books that is either the easiest or the most difficult to summarize. It's so simple that for the first 500 pages it almost doesn't even seem to have a plot at all (in a good way, though). But then if you were to actually try and say everything that happens, it almost seems more complicated than it is to read in the book. I mention this because the reason that I finally got around to reading this book (I've been meaning to for a while) is that Southwest Shakespeare is going to be putting on a play based on it this month. So I am curious to see how they will convert this story into the roughly two hour space of a play. Wishbone, I might add, did a wonderful job of condensing the story into, what, a few minutes? Fifteen, maybe? But how do you do more than condense? What scenes do you allow to play out longer, and which characters do you keep and which do you remove? Like I said, it's a simple story to describe very simply but more difficult to describe somewhat simply.

It also doesn't have very much of a theme or message. The story just runs its course and then ends. You enjoy the fun while it lasts and that's it. I wonder if the play will give it more of a core. (Obviously I know that there are film versions of The Three Musketeers, as well, but I haven't watched any of them.) Hmm. You know, Dumas is an excellent example of the many, many reasons why a book will be remembered and still enjoyed years after it is written. Sometimes we like to talk bad about popular books, books that we ourselves enjoy; I guess it makes us feel smart to say that certain books aren't "very good." But a book isn't a pleasure to read just by accident, and sometimes books are remembered for the simple reason that they're entertaining reads--and that's perfectly fine.

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