They sure don’t write ‘em like this anymore, which is both a good and a bad thing. The book is ridiculously long, and riddled with tangents, some of which go on for fifty or more pages. In the middle of the story Hugo drops in an excruciatingly detailed 60-page account of the Battle of Waterloo. Why? Dieu only knows, because the battle has only the tiniest of connections with the plot. I’ve also encountered page after page of description of the beliefs and practices of an obscure Parisian convent, and a lengthy treatise on the
That said, the novel is amazing, and everything I had hoped it would be. The story is moving, beautiful, and full of grace, in both the literary and theological senses. I know that a very famous musical is based on this book. I know people who normally hate musicals tend to love this particular one. And I am tempted to check it out. But only tempted. Eventually I come to my senses and remember that I hate musicals, no matter the source material. Now a Les Miserables Thick as a Notre Dame Brick progressive rock suite I could handle.
In other musical musings, I am experiencing iPod envy. My daughter Rachel bravely entered the iPod world last week. And I want my own iPod. I think. But what I really want doesn’t exist. I want the iPod that will hold 5,000 albums, not 5,000 songs, and I want it to automatically include all of the songs in my vinyl collection after I magically wave it in front of the stacks.
Mostly I fear the death of the glorious Album. I don’t care about the format. The album can come on vinyl, it can come on CD, it can come on 8-track tape for that matter. But I like the idea of buying a collection of songs. Sure, it’s a rare album where every song works. But there are many, many albums where the whole adds up to more than the sum of the parts, even if some of the parts are better than others. Now with the ascension of iTunes and the resurrection of Napster I fear that the idea of a collection of songs will go the way of the dodo, the Edsel, and the gatefold album cover. Now it’s all about the song, at 99 cents a shot.
And this is simple Old Fart grousing, but when it comes right down to it I like the physicality, the massed thereness, of good, old-fashioned albums. I like the Space Age Bachelor Pad feel of walking into a room that is filled with vinyl and CDs. Enter the shrine if you dare. Yes, it’s idolatry. Damn it, I admit it. But where’s the fun in having eight gazillion songs in something smaller than your wallet? They should make an iPod the size of a Buick for something like that. Yeah, I know, it probably wouldn’t be portable (but think about this: Buicks have wheels; why not the iPod?).
So maybe I don’t want an iPod after all. But I’m glad Rachel has hers. Rachel is a great fan of musicals. And now she has little earphones.