To say Phantom was a formative part of my psyche is to understate the case; this is the stretch of the sky and the earth and all the feelings, some of which I made up for the occasion. The musical Phantom of the Opera came out around the same time, I got the CD as a gift, and I hit puberty; it was the perfect fucking storm. I don't just read it uncritically--I want to destroy worlds in his name and I just found out, in case anyone is curious, three of my kinks at least were born in like, the first one hundred pages.
There is nothing not epic and tragic and wonderful, operatic with a full orchestra, a troupe of ballet dancers, and possibly a brass section made entirely of depressed trumpets about Erik in this book, which when your start value is a extremely deformed guy with a questionable hold on sanity and a voice his own mother felt deeply uncomfortable listening to--I mean, settling down to anything less than a Greek tragedy is pretty much beneath you. Your narrators are the goddamn chorus.
I'm still reading through the Epic Fucking Tragedy of His First Love (yes, it really is) and how it's not that Erik stumbles blindly into tragedy and suffering, or that he orchestrates the thing (though yeah, he does get there like whoa), so much it's like watching a chemical reaction in which adding him in any way leads to explosions of perfectly normal things. If you have it, review the entire Luciana thing--so short, yet so inevitable, take a moment and come back, I can wait--and even now, seeing how ridic this is, nothing about it strains my credulity because Erik. Everything--and I do mean everything--that could have gone wrong there went wrong, right to the goddamn weak stone going out that he'd commented on earlier in such an offhand Erik way that despite the fact his book is not subtle, even while reading it today I missed the Foreshadowing. Everyone knew Luciana was doomed to a plunging death when it happened--in my heart, I believe Erik's existence weakened the stone in preparation for this very eventuality.
(Note: Even the narrators in some way seem to eventually realize something way beyond them is at work here. There's an actual sense of 'wtf' that comes through, like they're belatedly wondering, despite the fact they were there and telling us about it, how did this happen again? You almost want to say; because, Erik. Might help.)
It's one of those Epic things, I get--almost like the most annoying curse in the realms of probability manipulation ever; all good things will be unbelievably, almost preternaturally good, but they won't only end in horrible tragedy, they will end as horribly tragically as possible--that goddamn stone, you see. She couldn't just trip and fall over the balcony or jump in mindless horror, no--we had to have pre-weakened shitty stone as a conspirator. I read that like, twice just to take that part in.
Reading the book as an exercise in Erik being a living, breathing probability manipulator changes the landscape in really amazing ways. It's not paranoia when luck of the draw decided to join in and play.
This might also be influenced by Final Destination, which is one of those horror movies that I less watched than carefully avoided directly looking at the screen at key times because conceptually the idea fascinated me way too much to avoid it and it still kind of does.
Leaving aside the question of quality, it's this joke I used to make, how given a piece of furniture in the room, I'll fall over it, into it, or scrape my leg on it at least once even if it's in the same place for forty thousand years, even if I have no reason to go near it. An argument could be made I have poor depth perception, and when I was studying physics, my gravitational pull (being tall) was greater than most, but in my heart of hearts, I did believe that objects in my vicinity had a goal to get me to trip on them, fall over them, step on them, all at once if possible. If there is a leggo to step on, I will step on it, and sometimes they seem to be imported from the ether to be there for me to do just that. On a clear space to walk on, if an object can be put there to get under my instep and make me trip, it will somehow get there.
While I don't believe it was to kill me--I think it was like this ongoing joke among the objects of the world that just went on way too long--Final Destination did help in that I realized I got lucky and they didn't want to actually kill me or seriously injure me. They just thought it was funny.
In Erik's case, they wanted an ongoing Italian opera with Greek chrous to narrate; the only thing we're missing here is muffled applause after each successful ramp of a situation from Defcon 10 to HOLYFUCKMURDERBEARS.
I can confirm this in the ending, which if you don't want to know (you...don't know? Really?) where blah blah Christine looks just like Erik's mom but with Erik's own amazing voice in the feminine.
I read reviews where this was a problem for some people in a narrative that included Erik designing impossible buildings for a sultan while addicted to hashish while the sultana lusted after him desperately, but I'm not talking about straining credulity, because you want to hear the story of the Phantom of the Opera and think credulity is a feature, you're doing it wrong. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the hell they were expecting there; first chapter, baby Oedipus was seducing his mom with his voice and Stockholmed the fuck out of her and she liked it. But beside the deeply unsettling (read: fucking awesome), go for this.
(I have to make an effort not to wonder what would have happened if he'd stuck around past puberty because the ingredients here were so volatile I can't see how this doesn't end up with incest being quite literally the healthiest and preferable option to pretty much everything else.)
This is Erik, for whom it is murderbearsgetinthecarnow tragedy, but also epic, outrageous, amazing, unbelievable good. It's a perfect psychological study in marrying your mother, but screw that, this is the genetic blueprint of the human race getting into the game. This is Erik's idfic in flesh and blood, he could have written it himself, and oh my God, they give themselves to each other in mutual virgin passion for a single night of glory before he dies, which lets all face it, worse ways to die than getting laid by your impossible fantasy, and this being Erik, let's be fair here, probably because he didn't know what happened after that so death. The epilogue--you have to read this to actually understand what I mean about Erik's secret writing of idfic about his own life, but wow.
I need more people to have read this to mull the wonder that, for Erik, life might have literally been a stage.
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