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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Never fear quarrels, but seek adventures.

The Three Musketeers (or Les Trois Mousquetaires) by Alexander Dumas (père)

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
The Three Musketeers is the story of four friends (a misnomer, I know!) and their travels, travails, and triumphs in seventeenth century France. We follow the protagonist, D'Artagnan, a young Gascon whose sole aspiration in life is to become a Musketeer, as he proves his merit, falls in and out of love, and prevents catastrophic political pitfalls along the way. He befriends the now famous Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, three brave (and often foolhardy) Musketeers and together they navigate the complex web of alliances, deserved (and undeserved) loyalties to Cardinals, Queens, and Kings, and the labyrinthine enigma that we call love.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

For the sake of honesty and transparency (and since I keep NOTHING from my Dear Readers) I will admit that my first memory of this story is inextricably tied to the 1993 film version featuring Kiefer Sutherland (aka Jack Bauer), Oliver Platt, Charlie Sheen (aka went totally crazypants after this), and Chris O'Donnell (aka 'G' from NCIS:LA aka the veterinarian Meredith Grey falls for on Grey's Anatomy during her short-lived respite from McDreamy). The film also features such greats as Julie Delpy (as Constance, D'Artagnan's ladylove), Tim Curry (as the villainous Cardinal Richelieu), Rebecca DeMornay (as the scheming Milady DeWinter), and Gabrielle Anwar (as the lovely Queen of FRAHNCE).

I could have SWORN there was a music video that cued up with this at the end of the credits, but I can't find it for the life of me, so here's the best I could find -- Fantastically Sappy Bryan Adams Song with Sting AND Rod Stewart

I greatly enjoyed reading this book, even if it did shatter some of my teenage illusions about what The Three Musketeers was all about. Let us begin with a quick tableau of our cast of characters.

A Portrait of Our Merry Band...
D'Artagnan - the protagonist, a youngish boy looking for adventure and challenges to overcome.
- "A Don Quixote clothed in a wooden doublet, the blue color of which had faded into a nameless shade between lees of wine and a heavenly azure; face long and brown; high cheek bones, a sign of sagacity(ah yes, of course! how high are Your cheekbones, reader?); the maxillary muscles enormously developed, an infallible sign by which a Gascon may always be detected, even without his cap - and our young man wore a cap set off with a sort of feather; the eye open and intelligent; the nose hooked, but finely chiseled." The story is very into what SORT of a French person you are - this clearly tells people a lot about what sort of a man you are and how likely you are to be successful in your exploits. #moderatelyxenophobicfrenchpatriotism
- D'Artagnan's father's last words to him: "Be brave for two reasons: the first is that you are a Gascon, and the second is that you are my son."
- "Don Quixote took windmills for giants, and sheep for armies; D'Artagnan took every smile for an insult, and every look as a provocation." This taps into a much larger theme in the novel - namely, that pretty much EVERYTHING is worth dueling over. ;) Oh, excuse me. Did you sneeze on me? A DUEL IT IS, then!

Athos - the sadder, but wiser Musketeer. 
- "During the five or six years that he had lived in the strictest intimacy with his companions, Porthos and Aramis, they could remember having often seen him smile, but had never heard him laugh. His words were brief and expressive, conveying all that was meant, and no more; no embellishments, no embroidery, no arabesques. His conversation a matter of fact, without a single romance... His reserve, his roughness, and his silence made almost an old man of him."
- "In exchange for his silence Athos drank enough for four, and without appearing to be otherwise affected by wine than by a more marked constriction of the brow and by a deeper sadness."

Porthos - the diva of the bunch.
- "Porthos had a character exactly opposite to that of Athos. He not only talked much, but he talked loudly, little caring, we must render him that justice, whether anybody listened to him or not. He talked for the pleasure of talking and for the pleasure of hearing himself talk...He had not so noble an air as Athos, and the commencement of their intimacy often rendered him unjust toward that gentleman, whom he endeavored to eclipse by his splendid dress." (This scarf was a gift to me from the Czarina of Tokyo.)
- "There happened to be a sermon, which made the church very full of people. Porthos took advantage of this circumstance to ogle the women." Haghaghaghaghaghaghag rotfl.

Aramis - the clergyman of the batch.
- "Aramis was a stout man, of about two- or three-and-twenty, with an open, ingenuous countenance, a black, mild eye, and cheeks rosy and down as an autumn peach. His delicate mustache marked a perfectly straight line upon his upper lip; he appeared to dread to lower his hands lest their veins should swell, and he pinched the tips of his ears from time to time to preserve their delicate pink transparency."
- "Aramis never played at games. He was the worst Musketeer and the most unconvivial companion imaginable. He had always something or other to do. Sometimes in the midst of dinner, when everyone, under the attraction of wine and in the warmth of conversation, believed they had two or three hours longer to enjoy themselves at table, Aramis looked at his watch, arose with a bland smile, and took leave of the company, to go, as he said, to consult a casuist with whom he had an appointment. At other times he would return home to write a treatise, and requested his friends not to disturb him." ahgahghagha #partypooper

Cardinal Richelieu
- "Nothing is concealed from the Cardinal; the Cardinal knows everything."
- "His vigilant eye watches over and penetrates to the bottom of the heart." Translation - The Cardinal is Sauron.

The Foursome, aka "The Inseparables" - See! Boys can be bosom buddies, TOO!
"On their side, the three Musketeers were much attached to their young comrade. The friendship which united these four men, and the want they felt of seeing another three or four times a day, whether for dueling, business, or pleasure, caused them to be continually running after one another like shadows; and the Inseparables were constantly to be met with seeking one another, from the Luxembourg to the Place St. Sulpice, or from the Rue du Vieux-Colombier to the Luxembourg."
- The Cardinal, on the bunch - "You are brave young men, proud in daylight, faithful in darkness." Even the stinky Cardinal can't resist respecting our beloved quartet!

You really can't leave them alone for a minute - gives new meaning to all for one, one for all.
During an early adventure, D'Artagnan gets separated from the other Musketeers, and has to come back to find them after the task has been completed. In the short span of time he's been gone, Aramis has tried to cease being a Musketeer in favor of returning to the church, Athos has been wounded and taken hold of a liquor and food cellar in an inn with his manservant and is challenging anyone who tries to enter to a duel, and Porthos has gambled away all his money and is having his manservant poach animals and sneak them into their hotel room for food. ahghaghaghaghaghaghaghag

The lackeys
I find lackey to be a hilarious term, especially because the computer always tries to spellcheck "Zackey" and replace it with lackey. Each Musketeer has his own lackey, and each lackey has a personality that complements (or mirrors) the Musketeer he serves. Bazin is my favorite - he's Aramis's lackey, and when Aramis decides NOT to leave the Musketeers to become a man of the cloth, Bazin is Crushed.
 "Bazin, who looked at his master, without comprehending the cause of this change, in a melancholy manner, allowed the omelet to slip into the spinach, and the spinach onto the floor."
'Monsieur was already such a good theologian', said Bazin, almost weeping, 'he might have become a bishop, and perhaps a Cardinal.' ahghaghaghaghaghag
Here's the lackeys' response to their masters needing money to fund their fighting outfits:
"Bazin, who had always been inclined to devotion, never quit the churches; Planchet watched the flight of flies; and Grimaud, whom the general distress could not induce to break the silence imposed by his master, heaved sighs enough to soften the stones."

Chapter titles - we really should keep using them.
The book has hilarious chapter titles, including one that is simply called, 
"In Which the Plot Thickens"...

All for one, and Mistresses for All! 
So among the many shattered dreams I discovered reading this book was the fact that not one, but ALL of the Musketeers (except Athos - #foolmetwiceshameonme) keeps not a girlfriend, but a mistress. How delightfully French. This extends so far that Porthos's mistress's husband actually funds Porthos's fighting outfit with the Musketeers. Hiiiiiilarious. 
- "D'Artagnan and Athos put themselves into saddle with their companions, and all four set forward; Athos upon a horse he owed to a woman, Aramis on a horse he owed to his mistress, Porthos on a horse he owed to his procurator's wife, and D'Artagnan on a horse he owed to his good fortune - the best mistress possible." Ah yes, the Mistress Fortune. How could we forget her!? ;)

The beauty of youth...
"Anne of Austria was then twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age; that is to say, she was in the full splendor of her beauty." I suppose I am just PAST the full splendor, then, eh? Le sigh. 

In which the Duke of Buckingham is a cheesy middle school lover who enjoys hyperbole.
So, the Duke of Buckingham's ginormous crush on Queen Anne is also something I don't remember featuring heavily in the 1993 film. Here's one of my favorite love trinkets from the Duke: "Every time I see you is a fresh diamond which I enclose in the casket of my heart." For some reason, this quote makes me think of David Sedaris's book "Me Talk Pretty One Day" when he's living in France and learning French. He has this awful French teacher who loves practicing her English back on her students, and she opens one class with, "Every day of class with you all is like a Caesarian section." ahghaghaghaghag

on Battling the Lord DeWinter
"Athos was delighted to find he was going to fight an Englishman. We might say that was his dream.
Porthos drew his sword from the scabbard, and made passes at the wall, springing back from time to time, and making contortions like a dancer.
  Aramis, who was constantly at work at his poem, shut himself up in Athos's closet, and begged not to be disturbed before the moment of drawing swords." haghaghagh #classic. At one point, Aramis is working on a very long poem composed only of words with one syllable. 

Athos, on Milady de Winter
"You certainly are a demon sent upon the earth! You have once before thrown yourself in my path. I thought I had crushed you, madame; but either I was deceived or hell has resuscitated you!" Can we say it's over any clearer? ;)
'You are not a woman,' said Athos, coldly and sternly. 'You do not belong to the human species; you are a demon escaped from hell, whither we send you back again.'" Oh Okay. Someone wants to make his point CRYSTAL clear.

on the storm matching your mood...
"The storm broke about ten o'clock. Milady felt a consolation in seeing nature partake of the disorder of her heart." I love it when the weather matches my mood - particularly when I feel all unstrung and vexed and the sky blackens and lets loose, as if on my command.

A few passages I particularly liked:
  • Setting the scene: "There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the King, who made war against the Cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the King. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody."
  • "We must never look for discretion in first love. First love is accompanied by such excessive joy that unless the joy be allowed to overflow, it will stifle you."
  • "As long as it was dark they remained silent; in spite of themselves they submitted to the influence of the obscurity, and apprehended ambushes on every side."
  • "At the end of a few minutes the belfry of St. Cloud let fall slowly then strokes from its sonorous jaws."
  • "It was one of those rare and beautiful days in winter when England remembers that there is a sun."
  • On the night of Milady's untimely end: "On the right and on the left of the road, which the dismal procession pursued, appeared a few low, stunted trees, which looked like deformed dwarfs crouching down to watch men traveling at this sinister hour. From time to time a broad sheet of lightning opened the horizon in its whole width, darted like a serpent over the black mass of trees, and like a terrible scimitar divided the heavens and the waters into two parts. Not a breath of wind now disturbed the heavy atmosphere. A deathlike sentence oppressed all nature. The soil was humid and glittering with the rain which had recently fallen, and the refreshed herbs sent forth their perfume with additional energy."
If you haven't read this one, I highly recommend it. It was hilarious, full of adventure, and well crafted. I will definitely seek out more by Dumas in the future! I will leave you with this:
"After this, satisfied with the way in which he had conducted himself, without remorse for the past, confident in the present, and full of hope for the future, D'Artagnan retired to bed and slept the sleep of the brave."

Sleep the sleep of the brave dear readers, be confident in the present, and stock yourself full of hope for the future. 

Onwards to The Title of the Tulip. Join me if you will!