Thursday, August 06, 2009

Scarlet, not Scarlett

I knew him, of course; as played by Richard E. Grant, who is such a wonderful, fun actor; and then as played by Anthony Edwards, who was a little less the fool and a little more the handsome hero. I knew the story, that lovely bit of anti-revolutionary propaganda which first interested me in Robespierre*. The book I picked up for a dollar at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store somewhere on a whim, because I had too many serious things to read. Of course I should have know – Tolkien warns us that the path at our door may lead us anywhere, and so it is with books; you never know where they will take you. So I am reading The Scarlet Pimpernel, a foolish book, yet as usual giving me a little more than any movie or tv, and find myself unwittingly swept up in yet another frivolous-yet-riveting book. Seriously, my friends, there is a limit to the number of books I can read obsessively during every available minute, though I guess that given the Spouse’s travels and the temporary lull in professional insanity, I may be more available for such things than usual. Swashbuckling. That’s what this book is, and yet it is a little more sophisticated than I would have given it credit for. I am very fond of the triple-decker intrigue – not just the romantic hero posing as ze euld hag to the “Frenchies”, but posing as an indolent fool to the English. A tightly-wound (and don’t we all love a tightly-wound man**), brilliant man pretending to care for nothing but cards and fashion. Yes. On the other hand, the plot contains so much signposting it becomes painful.

Yet again, I find myself on the narrow ledge just above the Harlequin novels***, but I already like the Pimpernel better than the sparkly undead, and frankly it would be hard to beat Robespierre and the French Revolution for a nemesis.

*Robespierre is interesting; a powerful man with no attachment to power, a dictator but not a demagogue, a civil rights advocate turned tyrant on principle.

**See previous entries on such topics as Mr. Darcy, Snape, Mr. Rochester and yes, the blasted vampire

***Sometimes the snob in me gets upset about this. Then the smart, rationalising TDEC reminds her inner snob that stainglass windows are the church’s comic books and that Shakespeare wrote his plays for a picnicking, chatting audience, that clapping between movements in classical music used to be the norm and that the only difference between Jane Austen and that Harlequin romance is the fact that Austen is good. And has a sense of humour.

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