Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crime and Punishment

I just wanted to alert you, Gentle Reader, that I have finally counted coup on Dostoyevsky and read one of his books. That I haven’t till now is just one of those holes in my reading. It may not be instructive but it is interesting to note the books and authors that one has not read. I shan’t delve into that now, but I admit that I have yet to read Don Quixote. I guess I had ought to make a list.

I avoided Dostoyevsky for some while because the grimness I inferred to exist in his books was not attractive to me. More lately, I just haven’t gotten around to reading him. I’ve read Tolstoy by Warren Peas, but that had the great historical agitation to interest me. I slogged thru 200 pages of Anna Karenina and got no more than that it was a soap opera, and gave up. I do not claim that as my critical assessment, but I have difficulty brewing up sufficient jimjam to try again.

So I have reached the third paragraph, still nattering. I should have lead with the report that Crime and Punishment was pretty pissa. Surprisingly so, given the grim plot points, and the grind of the philosophical underpinnings.

Raskolnikov fails slightly in the category of lovable, but D manages to keep the character sympathetic and engaging. Not in the sense of readers worrying how he’ll turn out, but in the psychological delineations portrayed within his character. He seems at first like the usual hyper introspective protagonist that goes wrong in a dazzle of novelistic contrivance, canned sorrow. Turns out that D can both philosophize and allow his characters to act like humans. In contradistinction to, say, Ayn Rand and her theories in human form.

D’s touch is superbly light, it seems to me. We catch R in media res, with fully fermented plans all a-bubble. I had absorbed already that he would murder but D did not code it desperately. He let R find his own way.

At the points when D could have popped the cork and gone novelistic, like the actual murder, or later, the suicide of Svidrigaïlov, D drily reports. I think I read that Hemingway radiated from D. That makes sense, not that I’m so keen on the big H.

D’s ability to write of a social nexus makes me think of Balzac. I have not read enough Balzac to make that claim sufficiently, but I think it might be a point to consider. The ending, with R in prison and all that, brought to mind the end of Magic Mountain. Thru out double M, Hans Castorp is a regular character experiencing, you know, stuff. It’s like a conversation, or argument, maybe, whereby Mann donates a bunch of Castorpian stuff to the cause, and the reader muddles thru. The ending, tho, is whammer jammer majestique. Castorp has become a ghostly impetus in the horrid impulse of WWI. Zounds! Uppercut to the chin wowzer.

D pulled way, way back from R, in the final pages, resonating a delivery of thoughtful regard that is a poetic laurel branch. To me, anyway, maybe I am inflating.

Our friend Melville’s emphatic embrace (in Moby Dick most securely) dissolves the margins of novel and plot. D, methinks, follows suit, in some sense. Actions see thought, and thought sees action. I do not think that C&P is a greatest, but D pitched a good game. I am so eager to read The Brothers Karamatsov, both because it is one other by Master D, but also because the shape of it, as I glean by skimming, seems to be of the order of masterpiece. We shall see, and thank you, imaginary and non-existent reader, for following my enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the delivery of art.

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