I've been enjoying, once again, reading Alexandre Dumas' Three Muskateers. For the weekend I also ordered the earlier Hollywood film with Don Ameche. I love the old classic movies almost as much as the classic novels.
I started it about two weeks ago and it's about 800 pages in a hardback -- a hefty volume. Each page is filled with the rich prose only Dumas could write. I adore his books, especially the Count of Monte Cristo. This morning while I was reading over coffee it felt like I'd been with Athos, Porthos, Aramis and, of course, D'Artagnan for quite some time and that led me to thinking about how would the Three Muskateers be written today.
While it is mostly D'Artagnan's story, readers are also treated to pretty full stories of his companions. They have their loves, their losses, their personal battles and their crusades. They also have their close friendship. I thought back on one of the more "recent" portrayals, which isn't that recent at all Richard Lester's 1973 version with Michael York, Oliver Reed, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain and a host of other marvelous actors and actresses. When he originally made the film it ran over four hours and was broken into two -- the Three Muskateers and then the Four Muskateers. I'm still a little in love with Michael York although in retrospect, Oliver Reed is quite appealing as a hero. Even with the longer length of the movie, the screen version does not even begin to compete with the book.
I have to wonder if the book were written today, given our rushed world, our 142 character lives on twitter and slightly more on facebook, in a world of novellas that are quick reads on our e-readers, how would The Three Muskateers fare at being published as an original today. A part of me suspects that the author would either write it as a four book series from the git go or that an editor would ask him or her to divide it into four books, one for each of the heroes. It wouldn't be the same story, far from it -- yet I think many of our modern series books draw from Dumas' idea of four devoted friends who are larger than life who ride in to save the day. Maybe not on horses, but in helicopters, fast cars and motorcycles.
I like the way Dumas wrote his story -- I like that the four threads are woven into one action packed and often emotional tale and not broken into four books of a series. I'm not sure it would fly in today's reading world.