Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reading the Count of Monte Cristo, Day One

Those who know me, or have encountered my online antics before, will know I like to impose order upon the disorderly world of writing. Last year it was trying to write 2,732 words a day, while undertaking several side projects such as writing a 100 word story every day in November. (Aside: I think I'll do that again this November. Far more fun than NaNiWriMo.)

Well today I got Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo from the library.

[Bigger aside: I placed it on reserve as it's rather popular. The cost to reserve a book at the Wellington Library: $2. This seems steep considering Edinburgh wiped the fee for reserving books last year and everyone (especially the librarians) found it was brilliant. Especially in a city where books can pop up in several branches, reserving just makes life easier. Wellington is also the only libary system I've come across where if I return a book
to a different branch than the one that issued it, I'll also be charged ($1). I know the figures are small, and there are discounts for Community Service Card holders, but I'd hate to think there's anything standing in the way of impoverished, bookish Wellingtonians (read: minors and writers) getting their hands on books. Not to mention audiobooks being $3!! ... Okay, rant over. I'll be fine once that first pay day comes around.]

The novel (2003 Penguin Classics Version) is 1,243 pages long, not counting the Introduction, Translator's Note and Endnotes.

I have until the 29th of September to return the book. [1-week renewals cost $1!]

Why I'm Reading The Count Of Monte Cristo

One of the first non-picture books I remember reading was The Three Musketeers. I remember being passed the phone receiver and being told to tell my gran what book I was reading. Perhaps this was the beginning of my love of books (thanks to my love of praise), or perhaps it began with my parent's reading to me... Until Rufus provides me with a time-travelling phone booth, I won't know for sure.

But then that was it for me and Alexandre Dumas. I didn't even know that The Man In The Iron Mask featured the three musketeers (and D'Artagnan) until I watched the 1998 film version two months ago (I avoided the film, as continue to avoid Titanic, due to a severe aversion to Leonardo DiCaprio).

And somewhere in my backstory I saw the 2002 film version of The Count of Monte Cristo starring Christ, I mean Jim Caviezel.

Somewhere near the Cape of Good Hope earlier this year an idea for a revenge saga began to form in my mind (and notebooks). In one of my notebook entries I describe the story as "a cross between The Count of Monte Cristo and A Good Keen Man".

Not having actually read Dumas' book would be an obstacle in pulling such a story off, so here I am.

Why I'm Blogging About It

I'm always interested in how writers write. Actually, the mechanics of writing (nowadays: typing) aren't what interest me, it's the thought processes, the obsessions, the research and the notetaking. I don't propose to open my notebooks completely for this or any other project (it's probably even too early to call 'The Count of Monte Cristo meets Barry Crump' a project), but I don't see anything wrong with being open about the act of reading and reflecting on a given book.

Blogging about the experience also forces me to stick to a deadline (let this be my performance contract for the Month of September), and to think critically about the book.

Hopefully, the experience will shine a small light on how this one writer reads, and who knows, if the idea becomes a project which becomes a book, this month might be helluva interesting.

So, without further ado...


Progress: Page 89 (9 chapters). I've also read the introduction and all that lead in stuff.

Interesting (crazy) stat from the introduction (p.xii): in his most productive decade (1841-1850), Dumas "wrote 41 novels, 23 plays, 7 historical works and half a dozen travel books."

Chapter 1: It's interesting how the male characters are introduced with an age band: Dantès"between 18 and 20"; Danglars "25 to 26 years old" (and later Cadrousse "25 or 26" and Fernand "between 20 and 22).

Dantès' discussion with the ship's owner, Morrel, covers all the necessary backstory with dialogue. Sounds more like a play than real life (or a novel).

Chapter 2: "We shall leave Danglars... and follow Dantès..." Example of the dexterous narrative voice. Narrator as stage director. Interesting use of the plural pronoun "we" (narrator + reader).

Dantès as good all-round guy quickly gets sickly.

Chapter 3: "The reader must follow us along the only street of the village and enter one of those houses..." Another example of the dexterous narrative voice, but not "we", just "the reader" + an imperative.

Long discussion between Fernand & Mercedes is again more play-like than life-like. Perhaps it's due to Dumas' theatrical background, perhaps it's an early years of the novel thing, perhaps it's because Dumas was paid by the line and dialogue equals more lines for less writing (!).

"One always hurries towards happiness..." Nice line from Dantès, p.32.

Chapter 5: "... the terrace of which we are already aquainted..." p.39
"as we said, Caderousse..." p.41
The "we" is back. Perhaps "we" also equals Dumas + Maquet (the guy who did a lot of the plotting and surely some of the ghostwriting).

But then the last line of the chapter: "...where the ship owner, as you will recall, had arranged to meet him."

Chapter 6: On trials: "...for nervous people who wish to experience strong sensations, no spectacle can equal it."

"'I have this at least in common with Aesculapius' - they still spoke like this in 1815 - 'that...'" Huge interjection by the narrator. Perhaps a jibe at the conflict between Classicists and Romantics that was still going on in France (Dumas was a Romantic).

Chapters 7 & 8: Chap 7 from Crown Prosecutors point of view, then chap 8 from Dantès' p.o.v. - - handy way to increase the sense of injustice/wrong doing and build the suspense (why is Dantès being imprisoned).


Okay, that's all for today. Lot's of reading to do tomorrow. And the next day...


Dunyazade said...


I'm also always curious about other writers writing processes (sp?) too.

I'm guessing this: you have no tv, right? I wish I could get rid of my addiction to it. I would read and write more, I think.

How long did it take to read all those 89 pages? 2, 3, 4 hours?

I'm curious about your astrological map, also, lol. If you are not shy could you tell me thefollowing, please? Your date of birth, place and Exact hour (it's on the birth certificate). I'd like to see astrological elements about your writing and ability to discipline yourself.

Good reading!

Craig Cliff said...

I actually have a tv. That's why I need to make up rules and challenges to keep me productive.

As for giving out my info, maybe you could give me your email address... I'm not sure the world needs to know when and where I was born.

Dunyazade said...

Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't think of that. Here it is: