Les Miserables: “Hunger comes with love.”

I finished reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo for the second time some years back.  The first time I read it was in high school.  I liked it then, I love it now, even after all this time.

I guess everyone knows about Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread and being pursued by Javert.  But, my God, does this book ever deserve its title. Everyone is wretched, in one way or another. How can we ever forget the grinding poverty and dehumanization of Fantine?  And how Cosette, her little girl, must live as a slave under the monstrous Thenardier family?

There are enduring images which have survived over the centuries.  Fantine selling her front teeth so Cosette has enough to eat,  the fight on the barricade, the flight through the sewers.  This is a huge book in more ways than one.  The writing is fantastic and there are little “Hugoisms” sprinkled throughout that make you put the book down and marvel either at the turn of phrase or the beauty of the writing itself.  Like these:

“Gravediggers die.  By dint of digging graves for others, they open their own.”

“There is a moment when girls bloom out in a twinkling and become roses all at once.  Yesterday we left them children, to-day we find them dangerous.”

“Hunger comes with love.”

“Humanity is identity.  All men are the same clay.”

“Women play with their beauty as children do with their knives.  They wound themselves with it.”

“When we are at the end of life, to die means to go away; when we are at the beginning, to go away means to die.”

“Then he heard his soul, again ba truly stunning and magnificent workecome terrible, give a sullen roar in the darkness.”

“Certain flames can only come from certain souls; the eye, that window of the thought, blazes with it; spectacles hide nothing; you might as well put a glass over hell.”

“Robber, assassin….these words fell upon him like  a shower of ice.”

One of the main ingredients of this novel is the depth of human emotion.  It’s never overdone, which is an easy thing for a writer to do.  We are often moved, such as the scene when Cosette marries and Jean Valjean must disappear from her life to protect her from his past.  He goes home, takes out the little dress she used to wear as a child, and pressing it against his face sobs uncontrollably.  And I challenge anyone to read Valjean’s monologue at the end of the novel and not get a little weepy.  Strong stuff.  Memorable.

This is a great book.  I’m glad I reread it and as I think about it more maybe I will read it a third time.  It might be one of those books I read again every twenty years or so.  But even if I do not I’m a better person for reading it in the first place, that’s for sure.

If you haven’t read this novel, you should.  If you have, do so again.  It’s great.

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My New Haxan Story Slated to Appear in February Issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine!

I got the contributor copies of Ellery Queen Magazine in the mail a day or so ago. They have my story “Phaedra” and it will appear in the upcoming February issue.

This was a big sale for me and I’m glad it is coming out now. I have made many other professional sales to many other magazines, and smaller non-professional magazines. They are all important to me. But let’s face facts. Some markets are harder to crack and harder to get into than others. Ellery Queen Magazine is one of those markets. It’s been around since, I think, 1941. In this day and age of publishing sturm und drang, that’s real staying power.

One of the best things about the story is that expanded elements of it will appear later in my novel Haxan which was accepted by ChiZine Publications. I like the synergy of this. I like exploring one aspect of a story from different directions and perspectives. I don’t think it can always work.

Sometimes a story pretty much does all the work on its own and as a writer we have no more to say about it. But my Haxan series is just that, a series. Different characters see and experience incidents in Haxan peculiar to their own viewpoint. All of us see things different through our own eyes and related to our own past experiences. That’s human nature. I like to explore that theme sometimes, if I think it deserves exploring.

And that’s the rub. As a writer I have to make the decision whether or not something like that deserves added exposure and time on my part. An incident like this, which sort of bifurcates Marwood’s life in Haxan and how he is viewed, has enough gravitas for that.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the release of the magazine. I hope you pick up an issue when it become available, and I hope you like the story. Thanks for listening!

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