I was wearing a mask and a strapless black tuxedo dress and high heels. A man in a long nosed Venetian mask was playing the violin in a way I could watch and hear all night long. As I sat down at the table, placing my napkin in my lap, ready to hear all about Juvenile Diabetes, the thrilling dance scene from the masquerade ball in The Phantom of the Opera came on. It was beautiful and I was reminded that the movie lay on a shelf in my house, unseen, because I wanted to read the book first, which sat on another shelf in my house. When the night was over, having taken off my mask, trading my black dress for some pajamas, I climbed into bed with the book in hand and began.
Three days later I finished it and rewarded myself with the movie. This has been my most disappointing book in a long time, and for a classic too! It was released to American readers as a serial, much like The Count of Monte Cristo, which I had loved. It was a page turner- I wanted the riddle of the Opera Ghost to be solved, but much of my desire was based on the high expectation I have for classics that have withstood the test of time. I expected the ending to make it all worth it. But for me, and this may not be true for you, I have to resonate with at least one character. I have to be able to see the world as they do, to feel it as they do, to understand them as they understand themselves. I couldn’t do this with any character in the book. I didn’t understand the fascination Christine had for the OG, and was baffled by her behavior and Raoul’s continued dedication to her. In the end we finally glimpse the OG, know him as a real man, hear some of his story. There was a line after which I paused and for the first time felt something for the character. It was a singular event, not making the reading of three hundred pages worth it for one line’s worth of reflection.
Rewarding myself with the movie was like taking a steaming hot shower after going running on a summer afternoon in Texas. If you thought the book was bad…..see the movie. Or better yet skip them both: put on a mask, some high heels and a fancy dress, and dance the city down!