While I’m a huge fan of Alexandre Dumas’ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO I’d never read the unabridged version before this past week. Having done so, I must confess I prefer the unabridged one I’d read previously (though that abridged one major element, the final downfall of the scheming banker Danglars). The book tells the story of Edmond Dantes, unjustly imprisoned for fifteen years, escaping and acquiring almost unlimited wealth, then using it to bring slow, relentless doom on the three men who framed him. It’s a great yarn and I love some of the subtle webs Dantes spins. I also like how deftly he uses his wealth: to enlist the aid of a bandit chief he drops one bribe so that the chief’s imprisoned man gets a long stay of execution, then another to get the guy out of the slammer.
However even allowing that the nineteenth century had the time to read really big books (this paperback is 1100 pages) this feels very much like Dumas, writing this as a serial, padded it out to add a few extra installments. The bandit chief Vampa doesn’t need much of a backstory, but we get the history of how he became the chieftain anyway, and there are endlessly long displays of Dantes’ spectacular wealth. I may try reading this again, or I may go back to the abridged. I must add that the happy ending works better than I remembered, though the relationship has an unpleasant power imbalance to it. Still, it’s a great story and I have hopes of doing a fantasy variation on it some day.
HOW TO GO STEADY: Timeless Dating Advice, Wisdom and Lessons From Vintage Romance Comics by Jacque Nodell (granddaughter of Golden Age artist Martin Nodell and romance-comics blogger at Sequential Crush) gives a good overview of the advice columnists who populated the romance comics of the 1950s through the 1970s, sharing tips on dating, finding a guy, going steady, S-E-X and fashion in response to reader questions (including some from boys — the comics were less the province of female fans than I assumed). Nodell gives a list of the various columnists (some real people, others staff writers hiding behind pseudonyms) and looks at their advice which she argues was more liberated than a lot of what was out there back in the day. No, they weren’t encouraging kids to use birth control or anything, but they did put a lot of emphasis on girls having their own interests rather than building their life around Him, and not putting up a false front to land a guy (I have seen books and articles even from later eras that suggested the opposite). Though that said, I can’t imagine any columnist today not freaking out about a teenager having a boyfriend a decade older. Obviously not for everyone, but even as a non-romance comics reader I found it interesting.
#SFWApro. Cover art by Jay Scott Pike, all rights remain with current holder.