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Do You Hear the Fangirls Squee?

Don’t blame me for not posting for a month. Blame Victor Hugo. And Naughty Dog.

I just finished Les Miserables today. Okay, well, I just finished as much of Les Miserables as I want to read. In short, the Friends of the ABC bits are over. Hugo, I only came here for Enjolras.

SPOILER ALERT: Though, seriously, if you haven’t read the 150 year old book, watched any of the film adaptations, or seen the Broadway show, well, you really should.

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Les Miserables was the first Broadway show I ever saw and liked (Annie was the first, and it BLEW). “Do You Hear the People Sing?” was stuck in my head for weeks. The image of Enjolras on top of the barricade was burned onto the insides of my eyelids, fueling my then budding compulsion to write. There was also some lovey dovey shit in there, but it was all about the Friends of the ABC for me. And the Thenardiers. They were funny.

That was, geeze, probably 15 years ago, and I’ve only recently decided to tackle the book. Now, I’m no stranger to nineteenth century French literature (Alexandre Dumas is my favorite author), but, damn, Hugo sure loves his tangents. No disrespect to Victor Hugo, who was a literary master, or to Les Miserables, which is a masterpiece, but I’ll be honest here – I read a good 600 pages before saying “F*ck it” and moving on to the good parts. The ENJOLRAS parts.

It didn’t take long for me to get as irritated by Marius <3ing Cosette as Enjolras himself was. Seriously, dude, we’ve got more important shit to worry about, like, um, THE STARVING MASSES perhaps? Go listen to Dashboard Confessional and cry about it, Marius. We have a freaking riot to get underway. Jean Valjean, even you stop being interesting after you bust out of that nun’s fake grave. Enjolras, you had me at le Republique. I’m an Enjolrastifarian.

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From the very first description of Enjolras, Hugo pretty much paves the road for Fangirldom. Enjolras is beautiful, intelligent, convicted to his cause, and – perhaps most importantly – chaste. He’s so devoted to the Republic, he can’t even think about girls, and this sets him on a pedestal so unreachable, he becomes the angel Hugo repeatedly compares him to. As if it’s not obvious enough that Hugo is drooling over his own character even as he writes him, Grantaire is thrown in there to not only foil Enjolras but to fanboy over him to the extreme. Grantaire, the nihilist, the cynic, the dispassionate one, is devoted to one thing: Enjolras. Why? Because Enjolras is everything Grantaire is not. Plain and simple. Sure, it’s an ancient idea that opposites attract, but it’s ancient because it tends to be true. And with Enjolras and Grantaire, it feels much more real than most other opposite pairs in contemporary writing. In fact, their pseudo-friendship is a thousand times more poignant than Marius and Cosette’s crappy love story.

Enjolras is the revolution personified, and Grantaire is the face of people’s scorn. Enjolras is everything Grantaire wants to be, but Grantaire can never unknow what he knows except for those moments when Enjolras is there to eclipse even the shadowy doubts of his hopelessness.  Seriously, the fanfic writes itself.

ENJANDGRANT

Look, I get it. I get the 50-page chunk of Napoleonic history that appears for no blessed reason. I get that this isn’t just a story about a riot in Paris, it’s a philosophical manifesto. I get the descriptions of buildings that we never freaking go into. I get the unnecessary backstory of background characters that don’t even talk in the book. That was how they wrote back then, though Hugo may actually be one of the more tangential writers of even his time. I know I’m gonna get a lot of flak for this, but I really could’ve done without Valjean’s constant do-gooding-and-then-jailbreaking-and-then-do-gooding-again, the whole Javert coo coo crazy obsession with his warped ideas of justice, Marius and Cosette in general, and Fantine, too. A novel can’t be all war, it has to have some romance in it, and I get that. But the romance of Enjolras and Grantaire (and romance can mean bromance) would have fulfilled the love story needs of a separate book, a book about the Friends of the ABC, a book with sweeping passages of Napoleonic history thrown in just for the f*ck of it, following Little Gavroche on his sidequests, delving into the rich backstories of each unique insurgent.

My point: if you skim Les Miserables with a discerning enough eye, you’ll find L’Abaisse, which is a way better book.