Thursday, February 28, 2013

Victor Hugo-isms: #1

Victor Hugo is, in my opinion, a wonderful, wonderful man, writer, and thinker.  I am more than halfway through Les Misérables, of which I have been enjoying an almost two-month long infatuation with.  I am almost ashamed to admit that I was never very interested in reading novels from the nineteenth century (I loved the stories, but didn't quite want to read them), believing the language would be so different, difficult, stiff, unimaginative, and dull.  How wrong I was!  Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is exciting, incredible, beautiful - I could rave for pages about it.  And when I am reading and suddenly it's time to go to work, or go to bed, or go wherever, I do have a hard time forcing myself to put the book down.

I have a small, wrinkled little receipt that I have been using as a bookmark and which is now filled with page numbers.  There are phrases from the novel that are so beautiful that I need to write down the page number so that I can reflect later.  But alas, where to put this little collection of mine?  Since I now am maintaining a blog, I figured it would be fun to create a little series called Victor Hugo-isms.  It is my hope that Les Misérables fans will stumble across them and enjoy them and perhaps it will encourage those fans of the musical who have never read the book to give it a try.  It is my hope that non-Les Misérables fans will find something special in them, as well.  And if that is not the case, I have them here for me to look back on and cherish, always.

And so without any further ado, I begin this series, below.

#1: "He believed that faith gives health.  He sought to counsel and calm the despairing by pointing out the Man of Resignation, and to transform the grief that contemplates the grave by showing it the grief that looks up to the stars."

Where: Page 17.

What's Happening: Monsieur Myriel, otherwise known in the show as the Bishop of Digne who gives Jean Valjean shelter, freedom, and a chance to become an honest man, goes to comfort those who are dying and those who have lost loved ones.

What I Learned:  When I read this quote, I think I literally gasped out loud/smacked a hand to my chest in awe/had an epihany/let the air know how pleased I was.  I learned that perspective is important.  When we lose a loved one, we can deal with it in two entirely ways.  We can be shriveled by grief, staring down into a deep hole in the ground, bitterly wondering where everybody ends up, wallowing in pity and fear and despair, and letting death conquer our thoughts.  Or we can use grief to reach a higher place and instead stare up at the sky, at the eternal stars, using hope as medicine, and conquering the thought of death with faith.  Or, I suppose, you could think of it this way: one can believe that everybody dies and ends up in a hole in the ground only, or one can believe that everybody dies and gets the chance to soar through the sky.  The bottom line is that Monsieur Myriel was an extremely positive man who gave his fellow men the gift of faith and hope and comfort and I, personally, would rather look up than down.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

...Inanimate Objects Have Adventures, Too.

January 24th was an excruciatingly chilly day.  It was one of those days where the temperature was in the single digits and the weather forecasters warn you to bring your pets inside.  I was to spend the day in ultimate comfort, blasting the heat on my three and a half hour drive to Connecticut to visit family, eating Star Wars gummies and listening to my newest favorite musical, Les Misérables.

But this tale isn't about me, it's about a baked good. 

In the earliest minutes of my journey, I stopped at Barnes and Noble to buy Les Misérables, the novel by Victor Hugo.  As I stood at the check-out, so excited and so proud to be purchasing such a fantastic story, a higher-up employee, who must have been some kind of manager, walked by behind the counter.  He plunked a tiny silver tray onto the counter and said to the cashier, "I leave you in charge of selling this last cookie."

It was sort of an ugly cookie, but it still looked scrumptious.  It was a Christmas sugar cookie, wrapped tightly in plastic with a maroon sticker on it that announced: 50% OFF.  Already a month had passed since Christmas of 2012, so this was an old, forgotten holiday cookie, indeed.  I wasn't even sure what the cookie was supposed to be; it was obviously a face of some sort and I'm guessing it was supposed to be an elf, although it looked more like a creepy ventriloquist doll.  It was decked out in red frosting and had the coldest, blue eyes that reminded me of freezing, freezing icicles.

"I'll take it," I said very suddenly.  Only three seconds had gone by since the man had clunked it down on the counter in front of me and although I would have preferred a snowman or Christmas tree cookie, I could not stop the words from coming.  I'll take it.  I'll take it?  Yes, I suppose I'll take it.

The man and the cashier, obviously glad (and almost a bit incredulous), laughed.  It was clearly a victory for them.

I shrugged and smiled.  "It looks good."  And I did mean that.  It looked ugly, but it did look delicious.  I figured I'd want a cookie at some point during my three and a half hour car ride.

So after establishing myself as probably the most bizarre customer of the day, I walked out of Barnes and Noble with my book and my cookie, laughing to myself.

After living at Barnes and Noble for who knows how many months, the Christmas cookie embarked on one last adventure, with this author.  In the comfort of a toasty warm jeep, the cookie rode shot gun all the way to Connecticut.  It most likely did not see much scenery, but it got to listen to almost the entire score of Les Misérables and hear occasional bursts of frustration from me, aimed at either my own driving or somebody else's.

That night, the cookie's long shelf life ended.  I didn't eat it at home, microwaved and with a cup of tea like the cashier had recommended.  I ate it at midnight, in the cold bathroom over a sink, after waking up with an extreme craving for sugar.

Alas, inanimate objects can have lives, too.  Strangely, I will forever associate that trip to Connecticut with my discovery of Les Misérables and the purchase of an old, forgotten cookie that needed desperately to be taken away from the quiet of a bookstore, to the freedom of the open road.