Gaston Leroux

A Word from Further off the Path

So this project, which was to be about reading books I own and blogging about them, has so far consisted mostly of reading books I don’t own and not blogging about them.

I was going – I really was – to write a little after-report of The Phantom of the Opera. I was going to say intelligent things about the mystery genre and the tendency of its storylines to be plausible physically but psychologically utterly bizarre, taking Ellery Queen as a comparison-case.

I was going to say a thing or so, too, about the first film version (which I saw many years ago, and then again after I was done with the book), and about the peculiar interaction between the descriptions of the book and the half-memories of other images, so that although the Persian was described as black-skinned I saw him like this:


And although Christine was described as blonde I saw her like this:


And although Erik was described as having eyes so sunken as to be invisible, I saw him like… well, this:


(Lon Chaney’s makeup is remarkable, but it’s also kind of sui generis; I find his appearance hard to connect directly to that described in the book.)

I was going to watch a recording of the Lloyd Webber musical (of which I have no previous knowledge except for the 2004 film and enraged fan reactions thereto), and try to say something intelligent about that.

I was, in other words, going to make something come of all this.

Instead, I’m cluttering my AO3 account with unfortunate fanfic (no, you may not read it; I’m doing my best to keep that identity separate). And reading Trilby, about which more later if it doesn’t drive me nutzoid. (Srsly, I can’t read French anyway, so asking me to read French in a spelled-out Teutonic accent is just unkind.)

(Also, that opening page. Gah, that opening page. I thought I’d opened up The Picture of Dorian Gray by mistake.)

(Or do all late-Victorian novels open with a scene like that? Dorian Gray may be the only other one I’ve ever read.)

(The pictures sure are pretty, though.)

Why So Silent?

This project is going nodamnwhere.

According to Goodreads, in my plan to read 52 books this year, I’m ten books behind. This is because I have read zero books.

I’m still theoretically in the middle of City of God and Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. But I dropped out of #CivDei weeks ago, and as for the Mackay book, I’d just forgotten how badly you can hurt a fun thing by treating it as a duty. (I shouldn’t even complain: I knew, even intended, that the emotional atmosphere of this project would be one of crimped, arbitrary legalism and chafing self-resentment. Please don’t judge me for that; judging me is my job.)

All this was more or less to be expected; as I’ve said before, I’m not a reader. But at some point I’ve got to break out of this slump. Being behind, even well behind, is one thing – but if I never read anything, then why do I even have a blog?

Enter Svengoolie

No, really. I may be aliterate, but that doesn’t mean I’m cut off from all culture; every Saturday night I spend somewhere between four and nine consecutive hours watching genre shows on MeTV. This past Saturday, that included a presentation of the 1943 Phantom of the Opera.

It turned out to be a veritable compendium of things I know, love, or admire: Claude Rains! Opera! Technicolor! A guy sacrificing and sacrificing for somebody who doesn’t know he exists and being incredibly resigned about it! Fritz Leiber’s dad, also named Fritz Leiber (which confuses people)! Hummable music! And, of course, a small but appreciable quantity of Phantomy goodness!

This leads to the following sequence of events:

  • I experience a serious relapse of Phantom Phever.
  • I attempt a cure by redevouring the work of Anne Myers (plus a bit of Phantom Reviews, for yang).
  • Predictably enough, this only makes it worse.
  • I get it in my head that I want to read the Leroux novel, because I never have (not in its entirety).
  • I bitch and moan to myself because I can’t very well read a book I want to read until I’m done with the books I told everybody I was reading.
  • I realize how silly that sounds; I’m a fscking free agent and I can read whatever book I like.
  • So there.

(Reading outside books is not technically against The Rules, anyway; it just messes with pyatiletnii plan.)

Prolly won’t do an intro post or anything “official” like that, since it’s not actually part of the project, but I may write about it if I think of something to say.