Friday, June 30, 2006

Book Clubs

The book I am reading at the moment, has a lot in common with The Jane Austen Book Club which I read not that long ago.

  • Obviously there is the title: both involve clubs centred on an author. In the case of The Club Dumas the "club" is a mysterious and ultimately sinister force in the book.
  • Both books refer frequently to the author's works and it helps to have read them although it is not absolutely necessary to enjoy the book. I have to say I know a lot less about Dumas ( either pere or fils) than I do Austen! The author though is extremely knowledgeable and tells me more than I really want to know about Dumas his life and all his writings as well as about The Anjou Wine and The Nine Doors and other works.
  • Both books talk about books and writing although The Club Dumas has a lot more detail as the plot involves a hunt for incunabula.
  • And in both we are led to closely associate characters in the novel with characters in the authors' works. This is very marked in the Club Dumas where characters who are chasing the protaganist look and act like characters from The Three Musketeers.
The writing I think is better in The Club Dumas, at least I think it might be if the translation were better. It has an awkward feel in English which I think is probably not in the Spanish version. The author plays with his character, teasing him. Is he real or not? Here's a quote or two.

The flesh and blood Corso...was increasingly tempted to see himself as a real character in an imaginary world. But that wasn't good. From there it was only a small step to believing he was an imaginary character who thinks he's real in an imaginary world. Only a small step to going nuts. And he wondered whether someone, some twisted novelist or drunken writer of cheap screenplays, at that very moment saw him as an imaginary character in an imaginary world who thought he wasn't real. That would really be too much.

In a chapter titled The Plot Thickens the protaganist, the bookseller Corso, thinks...
One way or another things were getting out of control. This was more than a matter of quaint coincidences. It was a premeditated plan...Here was a plot with all the classic ingredients of the genre [the genre of Dumas] and somebody - aptly an Eminence Grise- must be pulling the strings....And yet the key to the mystery had to lie in its very strangeness and novelistic nature."

A little later he says: " I'm not suggesting anything. I'm just trying to work out the serieal that somebody's writing at my expense." These little double entendres are little jokes shared with the reader who like the author knows Corso is indeed not real, but only a character with the plot written in around him.

As for the is quite involved and I haven't quite finished. With three chapters left, the unravelling of all the tangled strands is yet to come. But it story follow's Corso's adventurous and dangerous search for three copies of The Book of the Nine Doors which is a book supposedly used to summon the devil. Each book is slightly different and all three must be collected to solve the puzzle of the proper incantation. The Club Dumas is a secret society whose members are chasing Corso either for the Nine Doors book or for a hand written chapter of one of Dumas's books or both.

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Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)