Have started reading Marius, Volume 3 of Les Misérables, at work. It starts with a many-page pean to the street boys of Paris--to the gamin--and then comes a particular boy: not Marius. But the boy "lives" or more properly his unloving parents do in a chamber in a lodging house (the same one Jean Valjean fled with Cosette when Javert got on their trail) next to Marius' chamber. So, then, meet Marius--but not yet. Next comes an old man, over ninety, comfortable, well-housed, in health, with all his teeth, a happy old bourgeois with many, many women in his past. And Marius? A young gentleman and very poor, so far this is all I know.
Where do all these people come from? There are so many, the primary characters have to shove their way through from the back of a crowd--it's always open mic night at Victor Hugo's writing desk, all day and every night somebody new spouting off, showing his flea bites, her mended stockings. Boys in the rafters make rude sounds at the old men on the stage; during the boys' acts the old men talk loudly, clatter and groan back and forth to the men's room, even snore. A warm, sour, semen-y pocket of space expands between the old men and the boys; encompassed by the mutual amusement which they take compulsively in watching (watching women, not alone); a hollow, safe, hidden place in the upper to middle air of the dusky theater, from which a clean man, without possessions, will emerge. And this I suppose will be Marius.