Saturday, March 28, 2009

Briefly: The Brothers Karamazov And Other Things

I'm reading The Brothers Karamazov for the first time. I'm about 200 pages into it.

What's amazing about it is just how readable and engrossing it is despite the fact that many of us probably can't relate to the trials and tribulations of 19th century alcoholic landowners, village idiots, monastic elders and underhanded mercantile ladies. I think part of its power though is that you relate with every one's constant bad decision-making (I know I do) and the fact that many of them, quite poetically and with often amusing and highly-drunken grandiosity, accept their ambiguous fates and continue to do the worst possible things to themselves and to each other.

Dostoevsky creates encounters that are supposed to be explosive and volatile, scandalous and melodramatic--and it all seems absolutely plausible and true-to-life. There is a deliberateness to these scenes that can seem contrived if they weren't also so affecting and just plain interesting. You often wonder how you would react in their situations, whether you'd be pushed to the breaking point, whether you'd flail and curse the heavens. Or really you wonder at their self-importance too and their sense of being fated to a certain life and not another. Do any of us feel that way? Do any of us feel humbled by the Sacred for that matter?

Back-stabbers, quarrelling families, religious contrarians, etc. talk and talk and talk and fight and fight and fight. It's a very talkative book. Huge dialogues over cognac. Rhetorical oneupsmanship. Not a lot of scene-painting, and it's almost like a play, which I guess was Nabokov's criticism of it.

There's little I can say about the book though that hasn't been said a thousand times before by more eminently qualified people. When I'm done with it, perhaps I can talk more about how to use it as a fascinating model for novel-writing.

A discussion which would have to include a lot of Bakhtin.


IN OTHER NEWS: People today are all abuzz over some infomerical anti-hero's violent run-in with a tongue-biting prostitute.

MEANWHILE, spring has been declared in Oakland and the local Whole Foods is abuzz with healthy and attractive people filling up their bicycle baskets with organic foodstuffs. I'm reminded of how desperately I need to bring a box-lunch with me, to bicycle again, and perform maintenance on my over-used and abused laptop computer.

IN LIGHT of FAILURE (to the grad programs yet again), I'm making swift, work time schemes and plans and I'd be lucky, if a third of them made their way from latency to fruition, things such as Transylvanian farm internships, writing fellowships in Vermont, part-time immigration law work (ANOTHER reminder at how woefully I failed in acquiring functional Spanish), careers in cultural anthropology (HA!) and being a thrifty penny pincher.

A handful of good, literary readings coming up in April though. Plus, my first trip to Macon, GA to see my parent's place. I'll take pictures.

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