Friday, November 30, 2012

twenty-five days more

The countdown begins today. Sure, there's gift-securing to do, and cards to send, a tree to decorate and a house to make festive. But really, all I can think about is getting into the theater for this.

I hope I never forget how my love for this story-- both the book and the play-- originated, for it's a memory that I adore sharing and reliving in my mind. In fact, just now as I thought about how to tell it here in this forum, I figured that in all these years of blogging, I must have already told it. A quick search confirmed it for me. When 5 Minutes for Books was hosting a Classics Bookclub a few years back, Les Misérables was a selection, and of course, I blogged about my experiences with the story. Looking back at that old post made me get all nostalgic again for the time I first read this incredible book.
Oh, that first time. I was still in college, and lovely hubby (lovely fiance back then) had lent me his CD set of the complete recording- performed by 50 artists from productions all over the world. This was my introduction to the story, because we were going to see the play in DC when I came down here for a visit. I remember listening to the CD's before knowing a single thing about the story-- just putting it on in the background while I cleaned my dorm room and did homework, and suddenly finding myself crying and crying. I honestly didn't know why, but I felt so moved by the music, as cheesy as that sounds. Well, I knew then and there that I needed to know this story.

So, I went to my little college's library and checked out their holding-- it was actually 5 separately bound books, and they were little and just beautiful. They were numbered copies (oh how I wish I remember-- but something under a total of 125 or so) printed in the 1920's. The distinctive old book smell was there, and I spent many consecutive nights holed up in my dorm room reading until the wee hours of the morning. I believe there was even a night that I didn't go to sleep at all... just read all night, then went in the shower and hauled a very tired butt to class. The best part? This was absolutely unbelievable to me at the time, but there were several points in these little books when I got to pages that had never been cut. Honestly. I so carefully tore down the edges of those pages, reveling in the knowledge that my eyes were the first ones to ever take in those exact printed words. It was probably more out of my lack of conniving than my sense of right and wrong that I didn't try to keep those books. It broke my heart to return them to the library. The desire to own those books is still so freaking palpable these 13 years later. Oh.

I've thought a lot over the years about the character of Javert. The first time that I saw the show here in DC, I was filled with seething anger at him-- how could he so blindly pursue justice without any deeper thought about what is actually
right? Oh my. When I read the book after watching the production for the first time, I still held onto that rage against Javert, that extreme disgust toward his treatment of Valjean. It was overwhelming.

And then. Then I saw it in NY on Broadway from the literal second-to-last row in the house. And then again in Baltimore. And then came the second reading. Followed by our last viewing of a travel production in DC in 2006. During that time, my perspective has morphed. Where I formerly held something bordering on hatred for his character, I can now only feel sympathy and sadness. His struggle is arguably as difficult as Valjean's, only he doesn't get to experience a full reflective awareness of his internal despair until it is too late. When Valjean was at his point of no return-- make a decision, one way or another-- he could equally envision himself going either way. So he made a choice. So much could be discussed here about why he made the choice that he did, but that's not where I'm going. Take this scenario in Javert's situation, and the saddest thing is that even though there is a part of him that realizes the beauty and justice-in-the-greatest-sense of Valjean's actions, he simply cannot change his course. He cannot undo his sense of lawfulness and black-and-white, right-and-wrong view of the world. He wouldn't know how to live, what to pursue. For that, I cry for Javert as I read this book, as I listen to the music from the stage production. For that, Javert holds as significant a place in my heart as Valjean.

I've been toying with the idea of reading it again, seeing as the third reading of it that I was undertaking at the time of that post in early 2009 never went past the first segment of the book. Alas, as much as I love the book, life at that point didn't allow for a completion at the time. I doubt that life will treat me much better if I try to tackle it now, but I think I'm up for trying to read as much as possible in the next 24 days to get into the spirit.

And honestly, I cannot get enough of this "Extended First Look" clip. I've watched it numerous times in the last two months or so. I'm not exaggerating to say that I have goose bumps every single time. Other than the (questionable, imho) casting of Russell Crowe as Javert, everything here looks outstanding. To hear the actors talk about their roles in almost reverent tones makes me so freaking hopeful that this will be a production that honors the story. As long as it's better than the disgraceful 1998 film that would have made Hugo shake his head in disappointed wonder had he had the terrible misfortune of seeing it, I'll be a tiny bit pleased. Seriously, after watching this, I'm predicting that I'll have the rare experience of being more than just a tiny bit pleased with a movie adaptation of a treasured book:

I wish I could say that I plan to be in the theater on opening night, but it's very likely that I'll have to wait until the following weekend when I'll possibly be able to take advantage of a wonderful grandparent babysitting service. Whenever I finally get into my seat and the oh-so-familiar opening notes begin to play, I know that the tears will immediately begin to flow. I will have no shame at all bringing a box of tissues in with me. Nope, none at all.

Now, off to crack open the book and dream a little dream of those volumes that first introduced me to the story that has touched my heart. Someday, if I ever get to visit my old college campus, after I sit by the fountain for a bit and look up at my old dorm rooms, I'm heading over to the library and searching for those books...

Ready to be awed,