Sunday, February 28, 2010

324. The Breast - Philip Roth

History: This book was published in 1972.
Plot: David Kepesh, becomes a 155-pound breast. Throughout the book Kepesh fights with himself. Part of him wishes to give in to bodily desires, while the other part of him wants to be rational. Kepesh, a literature professor, compares his plight with that of fictional characters such as Gregor Samsa in Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis and Kovalyov in Nikolai Gogol's short story "The Nose". Throughout the novel, he describes the various sexual and physical feelings he has while people handle him, while initiating sex with his girlfriend, and while he is alone.
During a stay on the beach with his girlfriend, Claire, Kepesh had wished to have breasts, to be a breast, and he struggles with the idea that apparently this wish was fulfilled while other more important wishes were not.
Review: What follows is a deliriously funny yet touching exploration of the full implications of Kepesh's metamorphosis—a daring, heretical book that brings us face to face with the intrinsic strangeness of sex and subjectivity. The Breast is terrific for a thing of its kind: inventive and sane and very funny, though filthy.
It's incredible, in fact, how smart he is for a man so hung up with his you-know-what. I would agree that Kepesh’s transformation into a breast began oddly, but “it” is what is truly odd. The result of this transformation would seem to render any discussion of the initial redness around the penis as neither here nor there. Alas, that is where Kepesh begins his book, and it’s not the most intriguing aspect of the book. I much prefer Kafka’s approach when he simply begins the story with the fabulous metamorphosis already having taken place. In this case, though, the fact that the transformation begins in Kepesh’s genitals seems to be relevant, particularly as an indication of why Kepesh might have transformed.
The Breast is about the banal. Kepesh is a man with a sexual appetite that doesn’t stope when he becomes a breast. He’s still flesh — only now he can never fully reach climax, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Such scenes are not interesting, not to me, anyway. The novella becomes exceedingly interesting, however, when Kepesh tries to intellectualize himself around his problem: He persists in intellectualizing about his condition, posing questions, looking into his mind, looking into his past. He used to be a professor of literature, and for years he
taught Kafka, Gogol and Swift. Perhaps there’s an answer there.
Opening Line: "It began oddly."
Closing Line: "You must change your life."
Quotes: When I came around, I at last realized that I had gone mad. I was not dreaming. I was crazy. There was to be no magical awakening, no getting up out of bed, brushing my teeth, and going off to teach as though nothing more than a nightmare had interrupted my ordinary and predictable life; if there was ever to be anything at all for me, it was the long road back — becoming sane."
Rating: Okay.

323. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson

History: The novel first appeared as a two-part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, was printed as a book in 1972, accounting for two trips to Las Vegas, Nevada, that Hunter S. Thompson and attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta took in March and April 1971.
The first trip spawned from an exposé Thompson was writing for Rolling Stone magazine about the Mexican-American television journalist Rubén Salazar, whom officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had shot and killed with a tear gas grenade fired at close range during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War in 1970. Thompson was using Acosta — a prominent Mexican-American political activist and attorney — as a central source for the story, and the two found it difficult for a brown-skinned Mexican to talk openly with a white reporter in the racially tense atmosphere of Los Angeles, California. The two needed a more comfortable place to discuss the story and decided to take advantage of a Sports Illustrated magazine offer to write photograph captions for the annual Mint 400 desert race being held in Las Vegas.
Thompson wrote that he concluded their March trip by spending some thirty-six hours alone in a hotel room "feverishly writing in my notebook" about his experiences. The genesis of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is in that notebook.
What originally was a two-hundred-fifty-word photo-caption-job for Sports Illustrated grew to a novel-length feature story for Rolling Stone; Thompson said publisher Jann Wenner had "liked the first 20 or so jangled pages enough to take it seriously on its own terms and tentatively scheduled it for publication — which gave me the push I needed to keep working on it". He had first submitted a 2,500 word manuscript to Sports Illustrated that was "aggressively rejected".
Weeks later, Thompson and Acosta returned to Las Vegas to report for Rolling Stone on the National District Attorneys Association's Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs being held from 25–29 April 1971, and to add material to the larger Fear and Loathing narrative. Besides attending the attorneys' conference, Thompson and Acosta looked for ways in Vegas to explore the theme of the American Dream, which was the basis for the novel's second half, which Thompson referred at the time as "Vegas II".
On 29 April 1971, Thompson began writing the full manuscript in a hotel room in Arcadia, California, in his spare time while completing Strange Rumblings in Aztlan, the article chronicling the slain Chicano journalist Rubén Salazar. Thompson joined the array of Vegas experiences within what he called "an essentially fictional framework" that described a singular free-wheeling trip to Vegas peppered with creative licenses.
H. S. Thompson posits that his drug use (unlike Dr. Leary's mind-expansion experimentation drug use), is intended to render him a mess; that he is the poster boy of a generation of "permanent cripples, failed seekers...;" their erratic behaviour depicts the restless failure his generation feels.
The "American Dream" is the novel's prevalent thematic motif, while searching for the literary and metaphoric American Dream, and for an eponymous real place in Las Vegas, Duke and Dr Gonzo find only a burnt psychiatric office. At story's start, Duke claims their adventure shall be a "gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country", an idea soon cooled when the excess and fear settle in them; the symbolism of the burned psychiatric office is clear. Throughout Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the protagonists go out of their way to degrade, abuse, and destroy symbols of American consumerism and excess, while Las Vegas symbolizes the coarse ugliness of mainstream American culture.
Plot: The basic synopsis revolves around journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they arrive in 1970s Las Vegas to report on the Mint 400 motorcycle race. However, they soon abandon their work and begin experimenting with a variety of recreational drugs, such as LSD, cocaine, alcohol, mescaline, and cannabis. This leads to a series of bizarre hallucinogenic trips, during which they destroy hotel rooms, wreck cars, and have visions of anthropomorphic desert animals, all the while ruminating on the decline of American culture.
Review: The book was an entertaining look at the effects a huge amount of dangerous drugs have on a person, making them do crazy things, and the paranoid delusions and hallucinations that result from them. I don't love Hunter Thompson, but I appreciate the book, because it is humourous, and probably most of it true.
Opening Line: "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."
Closing Line: "A man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident."
Quotes: “Jesus, where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to become president?”
Rating: Okay.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

322. Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey

History: This book was published in 1988.
Plot: Oscar Hopkins is a contradictory man, both pious and corrupt. He was raised by a strict, religious father, but he abandons his father's religion in favor of Anglicanism. He spends the rest of his life wondering if his decision has damned his soul to hell, as his father believes. Oscar further endangers his soul when he takes up gambling while in divinity school. Oscar justifies his vice by philosophizing that believing in God is a gamble anyway. How could God condemn a man for having a bit of fun at the racetrack? Locked in an inner conflict between his fears of damnation and his need to gamble, Oscar decides that a little suffering might go a long way towards redeeming him in God's eyes. He decides to face his crippling fear of the water and sail to Sydney, where he intends to devote his life to dangerous missionary work in the wild badlands of Australia. On board the ship, he meets his counterpart and fellow compulsive gambler, Lucinda Leplastrier.
Lucinda is a feminist ahead of her time in the Victorian era. She is shunned by society for her independent views and refusal to wear dresses with corsets. The rich heiress owns a glassworks factory in Sydney, which her male employees will not let her enter without permission. Lucinda is returning to Sydney from a year-long sojourn in London, where she had hoped to find a husband. However, London society shuns her more cruelly than Sydney society.
She returns home, where her weakness for gambling and cards destroys the reputations of the only two men who dare to befriend her, Oscar and Reverend Dennis Hasset, a fellow glass enthusiast. Hasset is sent up-river to a parish in the wilderness by the Bishop of Sydney as punishment for his friendship with Lucinda. Oscar is kicked out of the church entirely by the Bishop when the local press discovers his late night card games with Lucinda. Lucinda feels responsible for Oscar's downfall and takes him into her home. There, the two misfits eventually become friends, and he learns to share her love for glass. Their unmarried, though chaste, cohabitation causes an even bigger scandal in society, but they take refuge in their growing love for one another. Their lack of social skills prevents them from acknowledging that they are in love, but their shared love of glass and gambling spurs them to bet their entire fortunes on a venture to build a glass church. Oscar nobly agrees to deliver the church to Hasset's wilderness parish in an act of love for Lucinda, whom he imagines to be in love with Hasset.
Although love proves to be the ultimate gamble for Oscar and Lucinda, the story never strays too far from the terrible possibility that even the most thunderstruck lovers can remain isolated in parallel lives.
Review: There shouldn't be, on the face of it, anything unconventional about Oscar Hopkins or Lucinda Leplastrier. Between the two of them they represent the Church and Capitalist Enterprise, the twin bulwarks of Victorian society. Oscar is an Oxford-educated, High Anglican priest, while Lucinda, the inheritor of a substantial fortune, is the proprietor of one of the colony's pioneering glassworks factories. And yet they gamble.
For Oscar--a slight, otherworldly, figure given to visions and transports of divine ecstacy--gambling reveals itself as a schema for tracing the arbitrariness of Divine Grace. Invoking Pascal's metaphor of the "necessary gamble", he concludes that faith is itself a die thrown on the chance of the Omnipotent's existence. It is all a bit too much for the colonials. Oscar and Australia prove to be a terrible match. It is a reckless convicts’ land with a strange puritanical streak. He is the opposite paradox, a bookish parson with a mad thirst for gambling. Very quickly, he turns out to entirely, absurdly, out of place in Sydney--in the way a man can only be in his home.
For Lucinda, his companion in games of chance, gambling is rebellion. She plays cards for money because she shouldn't; it is a way for a proud, independent woman to defy the conventions of colonial society. From Lucinda's love of chance, comes an obsession with glass--a substance which, in its protean variety, its sensitivity to myriad combinations of light, colour and lightness, seems to embody the beauty of a life irradiated by chance and discovery. With gambling and glass, Oscar and Lucinda soon start to test the extent and meaning of Australia's "good luck". After all, the foundation of modern Australia was not an episode of universal good fortune. For the
native Aboriginals, it was an event of monumental bad luck, that led to centuries of murder, persecution, and continuing immiseration. Carey's heroes are alive to the way that blacks were abused in early Australia--so often ground like the mortar needed for the nation's construction. Lucinda feels she does not deserve her wealth because it was robbed from the natives, and Oscar protests in vain while blacks are massacred. Their refusal to accept conventional racism, is a give-away that they are not gamblers like everyone else--they take it too earnestly, too religiously.
Colonial Sydney might be besotted with gambling, but only as a concession to the dominance of rigid, antique codes of living. An illicit hand in a Chinese den at sundown compensates for a life in which the outcomes are always the same: injustice for blacks, suppression for women, ridicule for innovators. But gambling is another game entirely for Oscar and Lucinda, an expression of their desire for real change and reformation. In that sense, gambling is also an expression of their innocence. The walls of social obstruction rises around them with fatal inevitability, and the two toss everything on one fantastic, final wager: to transport a glass church across the continent to an isolated missionary outpost.
This book was awful reading. The story itself was not even interesting, and the sentences did not make sense, and were mixed up in each paragraph, almost on purpose just to confuse.
Opening Line: "If there was a bishop, my mother would have him to tea."
Closing Line: "And when the long-awaited white fingers of water tapped and tapped on Oscar's lips, he welcomed them in as he always had, with a scream, like a small boy caught in the sheet-folds of a nightmare."
Quotes: "The look was soft and pleading. It did not belong in that hard, black-bearded face, did not suit the tone of voice. Oscar knew this look. He had seen it before. It was a will-o'-the-wisp. If you tried to run towards it, it retreated; if you embraced it, it turned to distance in your arms. You could not hold it, that soft and lovely center in his father's feelings."
Rating: Awful.

321. Billy Bathgate - E.L. Doctorow

History: This book was published in 1989.
Plot: In the poorest part of the Bronx, in the depths of the Depression, a teenage, fatherless street kid who will adopt the name Billy Bathgate comes to the attention of his idol, master gangster Dutch Schultz. Resourceful, brash, daring and brave, the narrator understands that morality will have no influence in lifting him from his poverty; by hitching his wagon to the mobster's star he can hope to provide his gentle, mad mother and himself with a way to rise out of their desolate existenceThe title character is a poor and fatherless teenager growing up in the Bronx, Billy. Billy's mother works in a laundry and is mentally ill. Billy is in a gang, happily living in poverty, and is getting sex from Becky, a girl in the orphanage next door. The book opens as Billy witnesses a grisly murder of Beau, a mobster that was working for Dutch's rival. Billy and his friends are in awe of the flashy mobsters in the neighborhood.Billy became involved in the mob by catching the attention of Dutch Schultz and Otto Berman, based on the real-life mobsters, and they hire Billy as a gofer and become mentors to him.
There are tax evasion charges on Dutch, and this is a time of stress within the gang. Beau is found out, and killed, and Beau's girlfriend, Drew, is taken into the gang as Dutch's muse. Drew is a young, beautiful blonde; she is married to a wealthy older man.
The gangsters take Billy upstate, where they are awaiting a trial. Schultz, as an attempt to become liked within this small town, becomes a community leader and converts to Catholicism. Drew is to be Billy's governess, and they begin to spend a lot of time together, they are close in age.
Billy works his way up because of his motivation and intelligence. He begins to question the integrity of his "friends" after several incidents, mainly when one of Dutch's thugs bloodied his nose to cover the blood from a murder. And Billy falls in love with Drew, or in lust. Berman sends Drew to Saratoga because she "knows too much" during the trial, and sends Billy along with her to keep an eye on her. This is when they become sexual together, and act as a couple. Billy becomes afraid, realizing Dutch's temper and brutality. He begins to suspect danger, and calls Drew's husband in New York City to come and rescue her. And he does, and Drew is whisked away in the middle of the races, right in front of the mobsters.
After Schultz is acquitted, Attorney General Thomas Dewey brings up more charges and the gang goes into hiding in a brothel in Union City, New Jersey. Dutch hires Billy to spy on Dewey. While Billy is visiting the gang to give them updates on Mr Dewey's routine, unnamed gangsters come in and kill everyone except Billy and the bartender.
Just before his death, Dutch tells Billy the combination to his safe. After everything settles down, Billy goes back to Schultz's hotel room and takes all the money from his safe. The Spring after Schultz's death, a man in a uniform drops off a basket with a baby inside. It was Billy's son that he had with Drew, and his mother instantly helped raise him. Billy went on to join the service, and become a good citizen.
Review: The story of a teenage boy from New York who idolizes the notorious Dutch Schultz and delves somewhat into Dutch's history and associates, but mainly tells the story straight and intensely from Billy's point of view, from
disappointment to excitement, sex and school and orphans, the dilapidation of the neighborhood where he grew up, and society in general.
Opening Line: "He had to have planned it because when we drove onto the dock the boat was there and the engine was running and you could see the water churning up the phosphorescence in the river, which was the only light there was because there was no moon, nor no electric light either in the shack where the dock master should have been sitting, nor on the boat itself, and certainly not from the car, yet everyone knew where everything was, and when the big Packard came down the ramp Mickey the driver braked it so that the wheels hardly rattled the boards, and
when he pulled up alongside the gangway the doors were already open and they hustled Bo and the girl upside before they even made a shadow in all that darkness."
Closing Line: "And all the life of the city turning out to greet us just as in the old days of our happiness, before my father fled, when the family used to go walking, this bazaar of life, Bathgate, in the age of Dutch Schultz."
Quotes: "I think now that the key to grace or elegance in any body, male or female, is the length of the neck, that when the neck is long several conclusions follow, such as a proper proportion of weight to height, a natural pride of posture, a gift for eye contact, a certain nimbleness of the spine and length of stride, all in all a kind of physical gladness in movement leading to athletic competence or a love for dancing. Whereas the short neck predicts a host of metaphysical afflictions, any one of which brings about the ineptitude for life that creates art, invention, great fortunes, and the murderous rages of the disordered spirit."
Rating: Excellent

320. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

History: The writing of the work was completed in 1844. Like many of his novels, it is expanded from the plot outlines suggested by his collaborating ghostwriter Auguste Maquet.
Plot: Edmond Dantès, a young and successful merchant sailor recently granted his own command by his dying captain Leclère, returns to Marseille to marry his fiancée Mercédès. Leclère, a supporter of the exiled Napoléon I, charges Dantès on his deathbed to deliver two objects: a package to Maréchal Bertrand (who had been exiled with Napoleon Bonaparte to the isle of Elba), and a letter from Elba to an unknown man in Paris. Subsequently, an anonymous letter accuses Dantès of being a Bonapartist traitor. The letter is later revealed to have been written by Mercédès' cousin Fernand Mondego and Danglars, Dantès' ship's supercargo. Villefort, the deputy crown prosecutor in Marseille, assumes the duty of investigating the matter. Villefort is normally considered a just man, but on discovering that the recipient of the letter from Elba is his Bonapartist father, he ultimately chooses to save his political career and condemns Dantès without trial to life imprisonment and protects his father by destroying the incriminating letter.
During his fourteen years imprisonment in the Château d'If, Edmond is visited in his cell by the Abbé Faria, a priest and fellow prisoner trying to tunnel his way to freedom. Faria provides Dantès with education in subjects including languages, history, economics, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry and the manners of political society. The priest, ill from a form of catalepsy and knowing that he will soon die, confides in Dantès the location of a treasure hoard on the Italian islet of Monte Cristo. After Faria's death the following year, Dantès escapes and is rescued by a smuggling ship. After several months of working with the smugglers, he gets the opportunity to go to Monte Cristo for a goods exchange. Dantès fakes an injury and convinces the smugglers to temporarily leave him on Monte Cristo. He then makes his way to the hiding place of the treasure. Using the directions he memorized, he finds the treasure, which is a trunk of gold and jewels.
He returns to Marseilles, where he learns that his father has died in poverty. He buys himself a yacht and hides the rest of the treasure on board. With his new found wealth and education, Dantès buys the island of Monte Cristo and the title of Count from the Tuscan Government.
Returning to Marseille, Dantès puts into action his plans for revenge. Traveling in disguise as the Abbé Busoni, Edmond first meets Caderousse, whose intervention might have saved Dantès from imprisonment. Now living in poverty, Caderousse believes his current state is punishment by God for his jealousy and cowardice. Dantès learns from Caderousse how his other enemies have all become wealthy and prosperous since Dantès' betrayal. Edmund gives Caderousse a diamond that can be either a chance to redeem himself, or a trap that will lead to his ruin. Caderousse murders the jeweler to whom he sold the diamond and is sentenced to life in the prison galleys. Dantès (using another disguise, this time as the English Lord Wilmore) frees Caderousse and gives him another chance at redemption. Caderousse does not take it, and becomes a career criminal.
Learning that his old employer Morrel is on the verge of bankruptcy and disgrace after his ships have been lost at sea, Dantès (in the guise of a senior clerk of the banking firm of Thomson and French of Rome) buys all of Morrel's outstanding debts and gives Morrel an extension of three months to fulfill his obligations. At the end of the three months and with no way to repay his debts, Morrel is about to commit suicide when he learns that all of his debts have been mysteriously paid and that one of his ships has returned with a full cargo (the ship had been secretly rebuilt and laden by Dantès).
The story then moves forward nine years. Dantès debuts in public as the Count of Monte Cristo, a mysterious and fabulously rich aristocrat. He surfaces first in Rome, where he becomes acquainted with the Baron Franz d'Epinay, a young aristocrat, and Viscount Albert de Morcerf, Mercédès's and Fernand's son. He later rescues Albert from Italian bandits. Dantès subsequently moves to Paris, and with Albert de Morcerf's introduction, becomes the sensation of the city. Due to his knowledge and rhetorical power, even his enemies - who do not recognize him as Edmond Dantès - find him charming, and because of his status they all desire his friendship.
Monte Cristo meets Danglars, who has become a wealthy banker. Monte Cristo dazzles the crass Danglars with his seemingly endless wealth, eventually persuading him to extend him a 6,000,000 francs credit, and withdraws nine hundred thousand. Under the terms of the arrangement, Monte Cristo can demand access to the remainder at any time. The Count manipulates the bond market, through a false telegraph signal, and quickly destroys a large portion of Danglars' fortune, and the rest of it begins to rapidly disappear through mysterious bankruptcies, suspensions of payment, and more bad luck on the Stock Exchange.
Monte Cristo threatens Villefort with knowledge of his past affair with Mme Danglars, which produced a son. Believing the child to be stillborn, Villefort had buried the child. The boy was rescued and raised in Corsica by his enemy, Bertuccio (now Monte Cristo's servant), who gave the child the name "Benedetto". As an adult, Benedetto becomes a career criminal who is sentenced to the galleys with Caderousse, but after being freed by "Lord Wilmore", takes the identity of "Viscount Andrea Cavalcanti" (sponsored by the Count) and cons Danglars into betrothing his daughter Eugénie to him. Caderousse blackmails Andrea, threatening to reveal his past.
Cornered by "Abbé Busoni" while attempting to rob Monte Cristo's house, Caderousse begs to be given another chance, but Dantès grimly notes that the last two times he did so, Caderousse did not change. He forces Caderousse to write a letter to Danglars exposing Viscount Cavalcanti as an impostor and allows Caderousse to leave the house, but the moment Caderousse leaves the estate, he is stabbed in the back by Andrea. Caderousse manages to dictate and sign a deathbed statement identifying his killer, and Monte Cristo reveals his true identity to Caderousse moments before Caderousse dies.
Ali Pasha, the ruler of Yannina (in French, Janina), was betrayed to the Greeks by Fernand. After his death, his daughter Haydée and his wife Vasiliki were sold into slavery by Fernand; subsequently, Haydée was located and rescued by Dantès and becomes the Count's guest in his residence. The Count manipulates Danglars into researching the event, which is published in a newspaper. As a result, Fernand is brought to trial for his crimes. Haydée testifies against him, and Fernand is disgraced.
Mercédès, still as attractive as before, alone recognizes Monte Cristo as Dantès. When Albert blames Monte Cristo for his father's downfall and publicly challenges him to a duel, Mercédès goes secretly to Monte Cristo and begs him to spare her son. During this interview, she learns the entire truth of his arrest and imprisonment. She later reveals the truth to Albert, which causes Albert to make a public apology to Monte Cristo. Albert and Mercédès disown Fernand, who is also confronted with Dantès' true identity and subsequently commits suicide. The mother and son depart to build a new life free of disgrace. Albert enlists and goes to Africa as a soldier in order to rebuild his life and honor under a new name, and Mercédès begins a solitary life in Marseille.
Villefort's daughter by his first wife, Valentine, stands to inherit the entire fortune of her grandfather (Noirtier) and of her mother's parents (the Saint-Mérans), while his second wife, Héloïse, seeks the fortune for her small son Édouard. Monte Cristo is aware of Héloïse's intentions, and "innocently" introduces her to the technique of poison. Héloïse fatally poisons the Saint-Mérans, so that Valentine gets their inheritance. However, Valentine is disinherited by Noirtier in an attempt to prevent Valentine's impending marriage with Franz d'Epinay. The marriage is cancelled when d'Epinay learns that his father was killed by Noirtier in a duel. Afterwards, Valentine is reinstated in Noirtier's will. Héloïse then targets Valentine, so that Édouard will finally get the fortune.
After Monte Cristo learns that Morrel's son Maximilien is in love with Valentine de Villefort, he saves her by making it appear as though Héloïse's plan to poison Valentine has succeeded and that Valentine is dead. Villefort learns that Héloïse is a murderer and confronts her, giving her the choice of a public execution or committing suicide by her own poison.
Fleeing after Caderousse's letter exposes him, Andrea gets as far as Compiègne before he is arrested and brought back to Paris, where he is prosecuted by Villefort. Andrea reveals that he is Villefort's son and was rescued after Villefort buried him alive. Villefort admits his guilt and flees the court. He rushes home to stop his wife's suicide but he is too late; she has poisoned her son as well. Dantès confronts Villefort, revealing his true identity, which drives Villefort insane. Dantès tries to resuscitate Édouard but fails, and despairs that his revenge has gone too far. It is only after he revisits his cell in the Château d'If that Dantès is reassured that his cause is just and his conscience is clear, that he can fulfill his plan while being able to forgive both his enemies and himself.
After the Count's manipulation of the bond market, all that Danglars is left with is a tarnished reputation and five million francs he has been holding in deposit for the hospitals. The Count demands this sum to fulfill their credit agreement, and Danglars embezzles the hospital fund. Abandoning his wife, Danglars flees to Italy with the Count's receipt, hoping to live in Vienna in anonymous prosperity. However, he is kidnapped by the Count's agent. Danglars is imprisoned the same way that Dantès was. Forced to pay exorbitant prices for food, Danglars eventually signs away all but 50,000 francs of the stolen five million (which Dantès anonymously returns to the hospitals). Nearly driven mad by his ordeal, Danglars finally repents his crimes. Dantès forgives Danglars and allows him to leave with his freedom and the money he has left.
Maximilien Morrel, believing Valentine to be dead, contemplates suicide after her funeral. Dantès reveals his true identity and explains that he rescued Morrel's father from bankruptcy, disgrace and suicide years earlier. He persuades Maximilien to delay his suicide for a month. On the island of Monte Cristo a month later, Dantès presents Valentine to Maximilien and reveals the true sequence of events.
Having found peace, Dantès leaves for an unknown destination to find comfort and possibly love with Haydée, who has declared her love for him.
Review: Alexandre Dumas's _The Count of Monte Cristo_ is one of the greatest novels of all time and in fact stands at the fountainhead of the entire stream of popular adventure-fiction. Dumas himself was one of the founders of the genre; every other such writer -- H. Rider Haggard, C.S. Forrester, Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour, Mickey Spillane, Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy, John Grisham -- is deeply in his debt.
The cold, brooding, vampiric Count (born Edmond Dantes; known also, among other aliases, as "Sinbad the Sailor," Lord Wilmore, and a representative of the firm of Thomson and French) is the literary forebear of every dark hero from Sherlock Holmes and the Scarlet Pimpernel to Zorro, Batman, the Green Hornet, and Darkman. And the intricate plot provides everything any reader could want: adventure, intrigue, romance, and (of course) the elegant machinations of the Count himself as he exacts his terrible revenge on those who have wronged him -- thereby serving, or so he believes, as an agent of divine justice and retribution.
Opening Line: "On the 24th o Feruary, 1815, the look-out at Notre-Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples."
Closing Line: "Darling," replied Valentine, "has not the count just told us that all human wisdom is summed up in two words? -- `Wait and hope.'"
Quotes: There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good life is to live.
Rating: Good.