#1 – The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Alexandre Dumas BOOK REVIEW

January 13, 2018
krauserpua

My New Year’s resolution for 2018 was to keep a record of every book I read for the year. It’s something my brother has been doing for well over a decade and, seeing as I average at least one book a week, it seemed like a good challenge. I figured readers may be interested in my musings upon them, and perhaps Game lessons I can tease out. I don’t know yet if I’ll succeed in my ambition but I’ll give it a try and see how things go. So, starting with my first book of the year….

le-vicomte-de-bragelonne-927090

Better than the Oxford’s cover

Dumas was a rather prolific writer and a fascinating personality. He was wildly generous with money and dissolute in his ways, constantly earning and then losing fortunes. He would carouse with women, throw lavish parties, and invest in all manner of capers. He even built himself a castle-themed chateau to represent the abode of Edmund Dantes from his The Count of Monte Cristo. Dumas was larger than life and I love him for it. [1]

But it’s not his incredible profligacy that most impresses me. The guy never stopped writing, because he was always running out of money. He is supposed to have written a combined total of 650 plays, short stories, essays, and novels. Another source tells me he wrote eighty-one novels. If you check out ForgottenBooks.com you’ll see the “entire works of Dumas” are presented in thirty large volumes [3]. Just fifteen years ago some French journalist discovered an entire lost novel of his, The Last Cavalier, which is 900 pages long! He wrote so much people simply lost track of his work.

The Last Cavalier

“Sorry, I’m sure I had it just yesterday”

It took me a while before I finally tumbled down the Dumas rabbit hole. Like many people, I suspect, I’d seen those big black Wordsworth Collection paperbacks on book store shelves: Dickens, Tolstoy, Swift, Bronte and so on. I often felt guilty to do so because I’d not read many classics. The English education system failed me on that score and I’d never gotten around to making up the shortfall. I was somewhat lacking in a classical education [4]

Back when I decided to embark upon my own Dantes-like Count Cervantes project to become a high value male I’d scoped out some of these classics and even got so far as to stack them on a book shelf in the Hemingway Suite [5]. One book I read then was The Count Of Monte Cristo, finishing it in Thailand in early 2012. I loved it. I absolutely adore Dumas’ style. It’s fast, it’s sharp, it’s rich with historical detail, it’s sweeping in scope and yet every chapter ends on a cliffhanger.

I looked into that and discovered Dumas wrote primarily for the burgeoning Paris weekly newspaper market who carried serialised novels at a chapter a piece. It’s good to think of them like the HBO dramas The Sopranos or Game Of Thrones. There’s an overarching story told across a long timescale but each piece of it must contain its own opening and closing loops, ending on a cliffhanger that encourages the reader to buy next week’s chapter. This means that in Dumas stories there’s always something happening and even the slower chapters, thrown in for pacing changes, still have their own arc. And yet they don’t tread water because the grander sweep of narrative action is developing. It feels epic.

I just didn’t realise how epic.

Dogtanian

This epic

Having enjoyed The Count Of Monte Cristo I tried the next of the Wordsworth Classics, The Three Musketeers. I was already dimly aware of the story from my childhood and was pleased to find out Monte Cristo wasn’t a lucky shot. The Three Musketeers was just as good and at 592 pages / 184k words [6] it was an epic all by itself. But it’s just the first of a trilogy. I knew that because the other two, Twenty Years After (880pages/273k) and The Man In The Iron Mask (656pages/203k) were right next to it on the shelf.

Holy shit, that’s some reading to be done. But, determined to be a high value male I picked up Twenty Years After about a year ago and read it. Fantastic book. Even better than the first in the series. Three volumes, 2128k pages, and 660k words. All high quality writing too, so that’s epic. I love finding out there’s something so substantial to sink my teeth into.

However, I still didn’t realise just how epic it was.

Those three volumes are the commonly reprinted series, but the entire D’Artagnan Romances, as they are called, is even longer still. When all of the newspaper-serialised chapters are published end-to-end it comes down to FIVE volumes. For historical reasons I’ll never understand, two volumes just don’t get reprinted much. Wordsworth Classics don’t do them but Oxford World’s Classics does. And yet it’s all one long story with the same characters throughout. There’s no good reason to excise the two volumes.

Volume three in the series is The Vicomte De Brageloone (658 pages / 238k words) and volume four is Louise De La Valliere (same length again). The Man In The Iron Mask is actually the concluding fifth volume, and two are skipped entirely! [7] Seeing I discovered this while in Serbia in November and that the bookshops didn’t stock Oxford’s editions I skipped to volume five and read that. Then, after sorting out the Daygame Infinite launch I got cracking on volume three, The Vicomte De Bragelonne.

It was good.

If you like epic yarns featuring a team of rascals adventuring across Europe you may enjoy The K’rauser Romances volumes one, two and four.

[1] Everything I write about Dumas here is from (fresh) memory. If you want to research it further there’s plenty of information. Just the introduction to this book’s edition furnishes a great deal of biographical analysis. I haven’t gone back to it because my priority is to write fast and loose to get the content done [2]
[2] An attitude I think Dumas would approve of as apparently he sometimes sent completed chapters to his newspaper publishers, completed by a collaborator that is, without checking them. Fast and loose.
[3] Although he didn’t write everything in that collection. I was extremely excited to see two sequels to my all-time 2nd favourite book The Count Of Monte Cristo but further investigation showed they were written by hacks and published under his name without permission.
[4] Though not the complete philistine that most of my peers are.
[5] I read a few too, but balked at War & Peace after a hundred pages when I was thoroughly bored and thoroughly confused.
[6] And takes 12 hours and 14 minutes to read according to readinglength.com which seems rather optimistic to me. I don’t like to skim books.
[7] I don’t approve of long epic stories being published across multiple volumes out of sequence. I’d never do such a thing myself.

13 Comments

  1. I really like the idea of book reviews by yourself.

    I’ve already bought some of the books you’ve mentioned in the past e.g. Dennis Wheatley – The Devil Rides Out, Come Into My Parlour, The Eunuch of Stamboul. [Did you like them? K.]

    …as well as Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour The Science of Mind and Behaviour

    Do you read Kindle eBooks or paperwork/hardbacks? I sometimes buy eBooks (but usually only if the physical copy is not available). I much prefer paperbacks, over eBooks – especially if it’s a long book. [I binned Kindle. It encouraged me to hop between books and finish nothing. I only read paper now. K.]

    I bought the Count of Monte Cristo a few years ago – I read a couple of chapters last year, but ended up getting side tracked it’s just sat on my shelf ever since. You’ve inspired me to start reading it again.

    I used to read a lot, and have bought hundreds of books, many still unread unfortunately. Too little time and too much procrastination. It doesn’t help that I’ve always been a slow reader. [I never rush my reading. I want to soak up everything. Trying to learn “speed reading” seems utterly retarded to me. K.]

    A while ago I read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport, which criticises social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc – It pretty much says they make people stupid and unproductive. While they’re fun, over the last few years I’ve wasted far too much time on them. I’ve recently decided to stop using Twitter and Facebook completely. [Agreed. I uninstalled both from my phone late 2105. My attention span has completely recovered now. Daygame has the same effect as Twitter. K.]

    I think they made my brain lazy, craving constant stimulation, looking for something new every few minutes, which meant reading a book almost started to become a challenge – it starts off interesting but after a few chapters I kept getting bored and would give up… needing alternative stimulation… like wanting to scroll down to the next FB post…

    I used to read a lot, so hopefully getting rid of Twitter and Facebook will help me get back to my old reading habits.

    A few years ago I signed up to the Ryan Holiday newsletter, which summarises books he’s read each month – his recommendations are pretty good (even though he is a bit of a leftist).

    https://ryanholiday.net/reading-newsletter/

    I look forward to your upcoming book recommendations.

    • Peter – Have you heard of Nassim Talib’s thoughts on the anti-library? I used to read “too slowly” as well. They’ve pretty much debunked speed reading and retention, it’s better to be strategic. You can get a little quicker but not by multiples like some suggest. These suggestions are for non-fiction, you almost have to read every word for fiction…it’s just part of the deal.

      Ask yourself these questions before you read the book. Write it down:
      – Why am I reading this book?
      – What information/lesson am I trying to find/learn?

      If you do this first and then skim the book, finding the areas you think will answer your above questions and try to find something surprising to dive into. Don’t expect too much from a book.

      As you’re reading:

      – Do I believe the author?
      – How can I use it?

      Revisit the same 4 questions post reading. You shouldn’t have more than 1 – 3 pages of notes per 100 – 150 pages of a book

      If the content is worth remembering use the SuperMemo Model to remember the information. If you subscribe to 80/20 you should probably be doing this additional effort with less than 20% of the books you read.

      https://www.supermemo.com/en/frontpage

      If you really want to take a deep dive:

      * Why do I think the writer wrote this?
      * What question is the writer trying to answer?
      * Are there any clues to the writer’s intentions?
      * What kind of information is being brought forward here?
      * Why am I expected to believe that this information is true?
      * What assumptions are being made explicitly and also implicitly?
      * What principle or conclusion does the writer want me to accept?
      * Are the inferences reasonable and supported by valid reasons?
      * If I accept these conclusions, what actions are implied?
      * What would be the consequences for others if these actions were taken

      This is probably the best approach when starting a new subject and then we’re subject to marginal utility. If it’s a core subject that you already have a strong fundamental basis of knowledge just do the 4 questions above and then ‘next’ it. Probably should only spend about an hour “reading” a 250 page book, and at least the equivalent on thinking/writing about the information.

      Good luck with catching up on your reading. [I find I do these things intuitively. Good advice, nonetheless. K.]

  2. What’s your favourite book?

    Talking about the English education system – it’s been going downhill for decades. I’ve recently been researching classical education, the Trivium, etc. How the likes of Montaigne was educated, Ancient Greek memory training, etc. [Atlas Shrugged. K.]

  3. It was said that Alexandre Dumas Sr. ran into Alexandre Dumas Jr.

    – Hey son, did your read my last book?
    – No father, did you?

    Reason for that banter is it was rumoured Dumas didn’t write himself the books at his last years. Nevertheless, I like him because I’m not a man of deep books, it’s like they fuck up my brains or something but trying to read James Joyce’s Ulisses was such an impossible task.

    Way better a story to be told and a storyteller to tell it. That’s the sport Dumas plays and guys like Emilio Salgari, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Jack London, Cervantes, Quevedo and many others

    Fuck modern literature…all (bad) style and no juicy content at all. [I’ll read The Last Cavalier some time this year. It’s his final book and he died two chapters before completion. I’ll be paying attention to the style. Dumas’ narrative voice is unmistakeable so I’ll know whether he wrote it or someone else. I have zero time for modern literature. It’s on a par with modern art – no talent hacks full of shit. The good modern writing doesn’t call itself literature. In my opinion, if you can’t tell a story then no amount of literary skill can make you a good writer. K.]

  4. The Count Of Monte Cristo been sitting in my kindle unread for a couple of years now. I guessed Atlas Shrugged might have been your favourite – that was my favourite too, and I enjoyed The Fountainhead almost as much, but since I finished these I have struggled to find something to get my teeth into. Now I’m looking forward to a Sunday afternoon with The Count, cheers [Count Of Monte Cristo has probably the best pay-off ending in the history of literature. K.]

  5. I’m really glad you’re (kind of) starting up your Count Cervantes content again. I much prefer you as an intellectual to someone chasing girls. As high value men we must not be distracted by the degeneracy of modern society. I’d love to read more of your writing on political commentary, economics, world affairs etc. I’m glad you’ve through the lowbrow pickup period. [Thanks. One thing, though. I don’t consider chasing girls to be lowbrow. K.]

    • People like you annoy the shit out of me. How comes all you people who consider themselves to be high brow talk about politics, economics and world affairs? It is not the art form, it is how it makes you think that makes it high brow or not. Expand your mind man. There are more things this world has to offer. [If you two want to argue, have at it and I’ll get my popcorn. I shall not choose sides, though. K.]

    • “I’d love to read more of your writing on political commentary.”

      yes, me too.

  6. “[Sorry boss but I want nothing to do with BitCoin. I don’t mean anything personal against you by that. It’s a long story. K.]”

    Very interesting! [I didn’t get involved. It’s a textbook speculative mania. K.]

  7. Congrats on your objective. Notes of one’s reading is the trait of many a successful man…which I don’t do (Bill Gates has a blog with his). However I do track the books I’ve read with Goodreads, their OCR camera enabled book image recognition technology is phenomenal.

    Somebody else has read The Vicomte de Bragelonne! I can finally share this: in the series I loved how Aramis became more and more a dark triad character. And conversely how Athos detached himself from the world.
    And in the Count of Montecristo, the second part ie the one about the vengeance is so so fucking cool. Sadly most people stop at the first volume. [I agree. I love how Dumas handles character development. As the books progress the characters get older, jaded, and grow apart. What is light-hearted derring-do amongst tight friends in The Three Musketeers becomes tension in Twenty Years After as the team is split on to different sides and must navigate their friendship while in the duty of opposing sides. The Vicomte Of Bragelonne has Aramis actively scheming against his friends and The Man In The Iron Mask feels like four battered boxers coaxed out of retirement and weary of the world. It’s amazing how epic that feels, as thirty years of story wears down an initially solid friendship. Also, I agree on Aramis. He’s an absolute cunt from volume 3 onwards and if I’d read Vicomte before MitIM I’d had realised why D’Artagnan makes the decisions regarding Louis that he does – the publishers really fucked up cutting those two volumes out as it ruins the context of volume 5 after Dumas’ patient set up – as early as volume 3 he is foreshadowing how Aramis schemes against the King. Porthos is also a total cunt. He becomes a vain buffoon who bullies everyone he can. At one point he explains how he picks fights with strangers purely to trick them into a duel to the death, where he then murders them. That Dumas can keep us siding with Aramis and Porthos despite this shows how well he draws character. In contrast, Athos and D’Artagnan are the real heroes. It’s good how Dumas crushes the dreams of Athos and shows him deal with it. D’Artagnan is the moral centre of the book, though. K.]

  8. Great you are doing this Nick, on the subject of the Count of Monte Cristo, I recommend the 1974 film version (The 2002 version is really crap by comparison).

    This is one of my favourite films of all time.

  9. Better quality, Full HD, entire length, version here. [Thanks. I thought the Guy Pearce movie totally missed the point. TCoMC is all about character development and reinvention through adversity. The movie keeps him as just the same guy, but now he’s found a load of cash. K.]

  10. Nick, I’ve recently read The Fountainhead, while also learning about gamma and sigma males and how they relate to the standard alpha/beta male hierarchy. I couldn’t help but notice some, for me, clear parallels between the book and these male-hierarchy concepts. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this and, more specifically, how you’d classify the main characters of the book. Who’s the alpha, the beta, the sigma and the gamma? [I read it in 2010 and not since, so excuse if my memory is faulty. Roark is sigma, as he has no wish to lead and values his independence above any will to power. Ellsworth is gamma, forming a secret club to manipulate and he’s passive-aggressive and cowardly. K.]

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