Guuuuuuuuyyyyyyyyyys. I’m warning you, this book may be a DNF – Did Not Finish. I wasn’t looking forward to this recap at all, and if you’re super-invested, I just want you to know, it might not happen. I might just go back to Nick and the gang. They don’t leave me feeling exploited.
BUT. I will stick it out as long as I can.
We open with a dramatic description of someone onstage in a production of Faust, I think, since Faustus is mentioned. And it’s fine, as far as it goes, but seriously, it’s a screenplay. Ian Holt is probably a fine screenwriter, but I don’t feel like I should be seeing this like a movie – or at least, not one that’s dictated to me. I’d like to put my own spin on the story, create my own storyboards, but I’m not allowed. I see every shot as Holt wants me to see them, and it’s…boring.
So Quincey Harker is onstage, pleased by his own ingenuity in designing the pyrotechnics. Then we get this bizarre doozy of a sentence, and I suddenly have no idea what’s going on:
With a whiplash smile as he threw off his bowler hat, stuck on a false goatee, placed a pointed hat upon his brow, threw a cape over his shoulders, and, in what seemed a well-practiced continuous motion, leapt up and spun around onto the edge of La Fontaine Medici.
You see that tiny little “as” up there, in the first line? Ignoring, for the moment, the absolute mess of commas and parentheticals that come after it, that one word fucks up the whole rest of the sentence. Take it out, see what happens. I’ll wait.
Right? It could almost make a kind of sense now. Almost. It’s still just a mess of parentheticals, so, you know. But those two little letters have us waiting for a clause that never shows up, in a sentence that does nothing but block the character on the screen for me. It’s stage directions. It’s boring and meaningless, because it’s too detailed.
Readers aren’t dumb. We know how to imagine people moving around and performing tasks. We don’t need it spelled out for us – especially when you can’t be bothered to spell out, in the last chapter, how an advertisement on a desk somehow means that the villains are decamping and headed for another city.
Anyway. We get a couple paragraphs that show off the authors’ research – no, don’t do this, either. It’s basically, “This is where the Medici Fountain is, and this is who the Medici were, and isn’t Quincey clever to do this show all by himself? He switches hats to switch characters, which involves a lot of skill! That’s what Wikipedia said, anyway.”
He waits for applause, but it doesn’t come. There’s some commotion at the other end of the park, and his audience is distracted. Instead of getting to the action, we’re treated to a paragraph that tells us how good an actor he is, and how his father, Jonathan, sent him to law school at the Sorbonne instead of letting him be on stage in London. An eleven-sentence paragraph that uses Quincey’s name six times and tells us that he was understudy to Charlie Chaplin. AND that Chaplin was rumored to be leaving for America.
So the crowd begins to disperse, and Quincey follows, bellowing out a soliloquy. He thinks he’ll regain the audience, but then he slips and falls on his ass and, while a great comedic moment, that’s that.
Quincey’s pissed. I mean, yes, this scene does show me what a douchecanoe he is, so I hope that’s the point. He looks up and sees his arch-nemesis, Braithwaite Lowery. I did not make that name up. Braithwaite. Jesus.
Quincey picks up the few coins his audience has thrown, and Braithwaite’s all ’80s-movie douche about how much money a “barrister” makes in a day. Oh. I see. This is Braithwaite:
Quincey says he doesn’t care about money, and Braithwaite’s all, “That’s because you don’t have to earn it, like I do.” Oh, but Braithwaite doesn’t know what Quincey has to do to get Jonathan’s money. It’s horrible! Being a grownup and having a day job! SO MUCH MAN PAIN, HOW CAN ANYONE UNDERSTAND?
Braithwaite’s shown up just to deliver Quincey’s mail. I won’t even bother to quote the mis-formatted paragraph that has both B and Quincey talking in it. Just – every character gets a new paragraph to talk in, okay? Otherwise, the reader thinks it’s the same person blathering on.
Jonathan’s sent Quincey a letter. Quincey’s not doing well at law school, because he’s always off acting instead of studying. If he flunks out, there won’t be any more money from Dad. This…seems completely reasonable, and I’m uncomfortable agreeing with Jonathan Harker about any damn thing.
Quincey stops reading the letter, which goes on for 13 fucking pages. Damn, Jon. STFU. He turns his attention back to the commotion in the park. Turns out it’s Basarab, a famous Shakespearean actor who’s in Paris. Quincey couldn’t justify a ticket to see him (Jonathan reviews all his expenses), so he feels lucky to be here now and get a glimpse of him.
Quincey goes out into the street with the crowd, and we’re treated to more research. I think Wikipedia should get a credit on this novel, frankly. Some internal dialogue of Quincey’s tells us that actors are generally considered part of the demi-monde, but Basarab – a Romanian – is a celebrity.
Oh, he’s going into the theatre listed on the ad Seward saw last chapter. That’s got to be important, right? Because Seward knows FOR SURE 100% that Bathory’s on her way to the same theatre.
Quincey marvels at Basarab’s charisma, his control of the crowd even without saying a word. Quincey decides fuck Jonathan, he’ll see Basarab perform, and damn the consequences.
And that’s the whole chapter. Like, guys, no. You don’t have to start a new chapter for every scene.
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