In Praise Of Les Miserables and Dolores Claiborne


Haven’t done a book report for a while.

Fuck’s reading me, by the way?  I haven’t posted anything for 3 weeks, and had 7 “hits” today.  Thanks; very polite of you.

“Les Miserables” was my “reading room” reading for about 4, 5 months this winter.  Excellent book, with at least a hundred pages, out of 1200, of shit that has nothing, or very little, to do with the main characters of the book.  And that’s after the translator shortened it for us by putting a whole bunch of crap into Appendices.  Speaking of having nothing to do with something, don’t bother with the 1930’s “Les Miserables” movie unless you just like Fredric March or Charles Laughton.  Except for the first part, where old Jean Jacket Veljean (zhon zhah-que vell-zhon) is saved by the preacher dude, the main similarity between this version and the book is that they both take place in Europe.

I posted some quotes from the book on here before; can’t remember what.  One that always bears repeating:

‘Woman!’ exclaimed Tholomyes.  ‘Beware of woman! Woe to him who trusts himself to her inconstant heart.  Woman is perfidious and devious.  She hates the servant as a professional rival.  The serpent is in the house across the way.’

Yes, now I remember without looking it up–I’ve already yammered about how old Tho-lo was the asshole who knocked up Fantine and ditched her and ruined her life.  Luckily the book has some happy endings.

This one is undeniable, for bad and hopefully for good, about the much fairer sex:

A woman’s gaze is like a mechanical contrivance of a kind that seems  harmless but in fact is deadly.  We encounter it daily and give no thought to it– to the point, indeed, of ignoring its existence.  We live untroubled lives until suddenly we find that we are caught.  The machinery, the gaze, has laid hold of us, snatching at a loose end of thought, a momentary absence of mind, and we are lost.  The machine swallows us up.  We are in the grip of forces against which we struggle in vain, drawn from cog-wheel to cog-wheel, from agony to agony and torment to torment, our mind and spirit, fortune and fortune, our whole being; and according to whether we have fallen into the clutches of a base creature or a gentle heart we shall be disfigured by shame or transformed by worship. 

I think WordPress or the internet just censored a quote I wrote from another book, or, more likely, I found a way to “disappear” an entire paragraph.  Not the first time.  Hopefully the last.  Very aggravating.  Where was I?  Let’s try to recreate–the great thing about good books is not just that they entertain or give great moral lessons or, or something, it’s also that they give us memorable passages, like this one:

“Sometimes you have to be a high-riding bitch to survive,” she says.  “Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.”

which comes from the Stephen King book and movie, “Dolores Claiborne” (which I’ve always thought of as “Clitoris Dayborne,” because I’m juvenile like that). These are wonderful passages in fine books, books which could use a little trimming.  The description of the types of revolutionaries, the different aspects of convents, every last detail of the sewers of Paris–all utterly unnecessary to the telling of Les Mis, and, though DC-not-CD is a fine King story, it could have done without 20 pages to describe the “shit-storm” battle of wits between Dolores and Vera.  22 pages, out of about 350.  A full six percent of the book was about the “shitty” battle of wits; 2 pages would have sufficed.  Great book, though, splendid movie.

I feel bad about ever dissing Stephen King, because he is a good man, I believe, and a welcome part of American lit.  He has long since surpassed penning enough good stories to be worthy of being called more than “just a horror writer.”  (That last sentence was perhaps the most pretentious twaddle, style-wise, that I’ve ever written.)  I’m glad to see that two of the last books I ever read by him, “Desperation” and “Insomnia,” make a lot of lists of “worst King books.”  So maybe he had a down period there or something.  I will try to read some more of his someday, and give him another chance.

Books are fun.


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4 Responses to In Praise Of Les Miserables and Dolores Claiborne

  1. Gregoryno6 says:

    Allow me to be the first to congratulate you on Clitoris Dayborne. When they start turning King novels into porno movies Clitoris D will be up there in lights.

  2. ksbeth says:

    great juxtaposition of title with delores. say the play, les mis, and was bored, glad to know about the book. i love misery and the shining and old short stories of sk’s but haven’t been as thrilled with later books.

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