Saturday, May 13, 2006

Alexandre Dumas and nothing

I got really nothin' today. I've been pretty busy with my day job. Got a big trade show coming up that I'm trying to prepare for. Hope to get some pics at the Orchid show today.

Only interesting - somewhat I hope - anecdote I have, has to do with Alexandre (I like the French spelling) Dumas and his book "The Man in the Iron Mask." My mother-in-law found an abridged copy in her house and brought it over recently for my son to read. It's a bit old for him, but the pictures and title intrigued him. It also intrigued me, as I remember seeing the movie a long time ago, when I was probably 12. I liked it. It was about a French king who had a half-brother that he kept locked up in this iron mask, because the brother was actually the true heir to the throne.

The events took place around the time of Louis XIV, which was about 100 years before Dumas lived. But like a lot of great writers do (Shakespeare comes to mind), Dumas based his story on a historical legend and then embellished it. I found a great entry in the Wikipedia on the true identity of the "Man in the Mask." It turns out, it really is a mystery based on a historical person. One interesting thing is that the mask was not really iron, but cloth. How or why it was changed to iron in the legend, even before Dumas got ahold of it, is open to conjecture. Similarly, there seems to be little proof that the Man in the Mask was related to the king, of course, it has not been disproved either.

Dumas managed to tie the story of the Man in the Iron Mask together with his successful "Three Musketeers" serial. The Three Musketeers was another movie I saw as a kid and enjoyed immensely. I also have fond memories of the cartoon version of the Count of Monte Crisco (Not to be confused with the old Giants' pitcher John Montefusco, whose nickname was "The Count.")

When I was in college (about 15 years ago), this one-time affinity I had for video adaptions of Dumas' work motivated me to attempt to read the Count of Monte Crisco. It has some great stuff in it, but was definitely written in a such a style (it could have been the translation) that I could not have sustained reading the 500 pages in the book. I think I made it through the first quarter. The beginning, however, did include a fascinating account on torture and executions - like only a Frenchman could put together. And then, the last scene I read had this amazing account of a hashish or opium induced trip (I don't remember which) brought on by some after-dinner treats at a feast one night.

It turns about Dumas himself was quite a party animal. Here's the wikipedia entry on him.
I guess he was like a rock star in his day. From all accounts he was very famous, made quite a bit of money, but "spent it even faster than it came in." One account specifies that most of his expenses were related to "friends, mistresses, and art." Not a bad way to go through cash, especially if you're a writer. Keeps the karma on your side I think.



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