The Great Comet, Digressions, and The Nature of The Epic Novel

natasha

It’s been over two weeks since I saw Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet Of 1812 and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the implications of something like, adapting a few chapters of an epic novel into an Avante Garde rock opera. I was listening to the OBC yesterday and started thinking about how epic novels in general play with subplots.

The digression is a staple of the epic novel, and sometimes they can be a delight, and sometimes they can be a slog, and sometimes completely forgettable.

I’ve never read War And Peace the epic from which the digression that inspired The Great Comet is drawn but I’ve read others. (Les Miserables, Great Expectations, Gone With The Wind, The Lord of The Rings, hell at the moment I’m working through The Stand, which, whether it was Stephen King’s intention to write an old school epic or not, certainly reads like one.) And not all digressions are created equal. I know now that when I read War And Peace that this one will stand out to me, but whether it would have done anything without The Great Comet is hard to know.

Some digressions I love? The extended flashback to Waterloo in Les Mis where Thenardier saves Marius’s father’s life, which leads to Marius becoming the protector of Eponine and Gavroche (oh, did you not know that Gavroche is also a Thenardier child? Well, he is.) and deep guilt at their deaths. Scarlett and Rhett’s trip to New York & Saratoga in Gone With The Wind (Where Scarlett gets pregnant with Bonnie.) Anything where Pip was at school in Great Expectations.

Some digressions I can’t stand? Tom Friggin Bombadil, anything about Marius’s family history not connected to the Thenardiers, anything about Ashley Wilkes that isn’t directly illuminating how Melanie Wilkes is The Bomb Dot Com.

Anyway, that’s been in my head lately. As for actually reviewing the show? I don’t think that I understood enough of it to that. I really enjoyed The Great Comet, it’s a remarkable piece of theater and I’ve fallen very in love with the cast album, but it’s also strange and more than a little bit odd and deeply overwhelming in certain ways.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s