The Amazingly Specific Insults of Dmitri Prokovich Razumihin

October 9, 2012

This blog has been known to take enjoyment in the antiquated put-downs of classic literature (cf. “Son of a Rum Puncheon!”)…but no one matches Razumihin in the department of withering zingers.  What he lacks in brevity he makes up for in amazing specificity.  Here’s how he lays it on Raskolnikov

You are made of spermaceti ointment and you’ve lymph in your veins instead of blood.

You can’t take that back.  I probably would have just shrieked “Dickhead!!!” and started crying out of frustration.

And get your head out of the gutter it’s an ointment based on the “wax present in the head cavities of the sperm whale” (Wikipedia).  Inappropriate.

I just finished part two.  We had a return visit from Marmeladov.  My earlier assumption was that Marmeladov’s character was intended to showcase Raskolnikov’s humanity…showing the duality residing in him — at once murderer and caring individual.  In this scene Marmeladov wakes Raskolnikov from his post-murder depression/stupor/fugue state…and I guess he gives Raskolnikov another opportunity to show his better self, but I’m left questioning the full import of his character’s role.  I’m sure someone’s written about it, but I”m a glass of wine into the evening and starting to feel tired and “not carey”.

Also…maybe I’m too pedantic in my reading, but there seem to be a lot conveniences in the plotting of this book…every time this guy leaves a building he runs into another of the major characters.  When I walk around the city I almost never see anyone I know, let alone Marmeladov.

Now that Raskolnikov’s family has come for a visit, I think the real fun is going to start (and by fun I mean despair that is slightly less stultifying).




September 21, 2012

I can’t stop being fixated by the size of Raskolnikov’s room!  We get this description:

Mistrustfully and with an affectation of being alarmed and almost affronted, he [Luzhin] scanned Raskolnikov’s low and narrow “cabin.”

Sounds tiny, right?  But then by my count there are five people in the room: Raskolnikov (in bed), Razumihin, Zossimov, Luzhin, and (I think, in the corner) Nastasya.  And three of them (Razumihin, Zossimov and Luzhin) are sitting–that means three sitting platforms in addition to the bed…it’s now sounding practically palatial.  But remember he can reach the door from his room.  Maybe it’s some kind psychadelic “breathing” room, expanding and contracting, expanding and contracting.

Or it’s just a normal room that I can’t picture well.  I don’t have a good imagination.

I still don’t understand what puts Raskolnikov in such a snit about Luzhin.  He seems like an okay guy to me…but he can’t do anything right in the eyes of Raskolnikov.

But then again Raskolnikov murdered an old lady, so maybe we shouldn’t trust his emotional intelligence.

Fun fact!  We learn here (Part II, Chapter V) what Raskolnikov’s first name is…Rodion.  So next time you play Trivial Pursuit and the answer is “Raskolnikov” you can say “Rodion Raskolnikov” or even “Rodion Romanovich Roskolnikov” or if you’re feeling cool “R Cubed” and when your opponents look confused you can say with a withering look of disbelief “uh…Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, you know the most famous anti-hero of literature.”  However you say it what you’ll be saying is “I’ve read Crime and Punishment” (we won’t tell them about your lack of blog posts).

Well either “I’ve read Crime and Punishment” or “I’m a pedantic ass.”

Potato, Potato.



Guilt By Association

September 16, 2012

Whoa…time to blow the cobwebs off my copy of C&P.  This weekend I have watched two movies (Arbitrage and Rope) where the protagonist(s) is the purveyor of a crime.  As I watched Richard Gere fleece Graydon Carter and Farley Granger sweat under the disappointed moue of Jimmy Stewart I realized I’d been neglecting the goings-on of that other protagonistic criminal, Roskolnikov, and decided to find my copy of the book.

One quick side note about Rope….John Dall looks a lot like the actor Ben Affleck.  I found it distracting.  I just kept thinking “Wow, Ben Affleck could play John Dall in the The John Dall Story!”

One more side note about Rope…Constance Collier and Cedric Hardwicke walk away with that film…so good.

But I digress about Rope…back to books.  Much of section two has focused largely on Roskolnikov in bed.  So far we’ve had about forty solid pages of hallucinatory lying about.  My working hypothesis is that this is where Dostoevsky metes out Punishment to the reader (Our crime?  Undisclosed, but I’m betting it’s “hope”).  But things have started to pick up now that Roskolnikov’s friend (?) Razumihin (I know I haven’t read this book for a while…but where did this character come from??) recounts the latest developments in “The Case of the Murdered Pawnbroker” to Roskolnikov as he lolls.

In this recounting we learn that the head of the Investigation Department is Porfiry Petrovich.  This was also the first name and patronymic of the protagonist of a series of mysteries I read in high school Stuart M. Kaminsky‘s Rostnikov novels (well worth a read!–I’m thinking I’ll re-familiarize myself with those soon)…so that was a pleasant literary daisy chain! (for me…possibly boring for you).

A tall dark stranger just entered the text when I stopped reading this afternoon…so I’m thinking (and, for the love of goodness, hoping) that the action is going to pick up.  I’ll keep you posted.




Demoted To A Conceit

August 13, 2012

Well twin brother, I’ve decided to wait no longer for another post from you.  I get your “I’m too cool for school” message loud and clear.  You’re just not into Dostoevsky.  Roger that.

But I will not stop reading this book…I’ve decided instead to treat you as a sort of WordPress conceit…it’s kind of like when I watch Pretty Little Liars with my dog.  Sure she doesn’t really have any idea who A might be (how could she–she hasn’t seen the first season!!!) but it’s fun to pretend that someone else who cares about that show is watching it with me.

So that is how I shall continue reading (and posting — lucky you one reader in Ecuador!) as if you were posting responses, but without having to talk about boring things I’m not interested in.

So here is what I’m interested in…the layout of Raskonikov’s room  (apartment?).  Get a gander of this description:

His room was so small that he could undo the latch without leaving the bed.

Wowser!  I thought….that’s a tiny room!  How would that work?

So I drew a schematic:

Quite Small!

As you can see quite tiny!  As you can also see “straight lines” are not my forte.

I don’t know that that room is factually accurate (I didn’t consult the text while drawing).  But it is definitely a room from which a door could be unlatched from the bed-area.

Oh blog reader you might just be lucky enough to find more Raskolnikov inspired art on this blog yet!

Until next time,



What Would Peyton Randolph Do?

July 6, 2012

Only the history books know for sure.  But I feel pretty secure in stating that whatever the president of the first Continental Congress may have done throughout his lifetime, one thing I feel pretty secure in saying wasn’t in his wheelhouse was grisly axe murder.

Like most people on the 4th of July, no matter what I’m doing — enjoying a bratwurst, melting in the 100+ degree heat during local neighborhood festivities — my thoughts tend to drift towards how the Founding Fathers might react in similar situations — How much Benjamin Franklin would enjoy that particular Slip-N-Slide, how William Few and George Clymer would have dominated that volleyball tournament.

So as I lay down to read a few pages of our selected text before bed, my thoughts were drifting towards Jacob Broom and Jared Ingersoll frolicking with sparklers.  Too soon those entertaining anachronisms were wiped clear from my mind. Eradicated from my imagination box,  as I entered into some of the most frightening pages of any book I’ve ever read.  Dostoevsky is very….descriptive.

So instead of dreams of Thomas Jefferson (remember I’m a bit of a Jefferson scholar, so those dreams are firmly rooted in the historical record) and John Dickinson, instead I had nightmares about poor Lizaveta (poor, poor Lizaveta). 

As I start Part II, I am interested to see how Roskolnikov will get caught, but before that happens I have a feeling we’re in for a lot of angst (his and ours).

Did the book play any part in your holiday festivities?  A Crime and Punishment-themed barbecue mayhaps?  Has it played a part in your summer at all? (n.b. It was still spring the last time we heard from you).

Happy (belated) Independence Day!



Dog and Pony Show

June 22, 2012

Well twin brother it’s been a while.  I think I wrote my last post right before I embarked on my travel to your nuptials…and now here we find ourselves almost a month later with nary a post published, with virtual cobwebs starting to obfuscate the pretty picture of books found in the banner of this blog.

My excuse is this:


That’s right…I’m blaming the puppy.  No one tells you when you get a puppy that you will find yourself with little to no time to concentrate on anything other than said puppy.  If I’m not looking for signs that she has to pee (and then cleaning up subsequent messes), I’m pulling shoes, iPhones, and pillows out of her mouth (or trying, “I am the Alpha!”).  Luckily tonight we took her for a long walk  that has sufficiently tired her out (doesn’t she look like an angel when she sleeps????) so she has removed herself to under the sofa, which mean I find myself with some time to write a quick post while she’s out for the count.

Because of said puppy I also haven’t read much further in C&P, but I’m hoping to work in some regular Dostoevsky time now that she’s a little more settled.  I just finished the chapter where young Roskolnikov witnesses the horse murder.  As I read it I could only imagine the term paper upon term paper that has probably been written on that scene.  Roskolnikov’s moral outrage over the horse killing in relationship to his actions later in the book (or at least the actions I’m surmising will happen later in the book).

Since so much has already probably been written about it, I’ll just add here that I am no fan of horse murder.  Not even a little.  I’m against any form of horse death imaginable.

Soooo….are you still reading the book?  No pressure.  Just, um, looking for someone to talk to about Roskolnikov and that horse and whatnot.

The puppy is emerging from under the couch…I must sign off.



Things Can Only Get Better From Here

May 23, 2012


Or so I imagine our friend, Fyodor shouting in the face of his unsuspecting reader.  After taking the reader away from the sad unicorn, Dostoevsky shines a little ray of hope into the story in Raskolnikov’s letter from his mother.  Or rather…Dostevsky SEEMINGLY shines a little ray of hope into the story.

In my reading of the letter it seemed like good news…all Sonia’s engaged, we’re out of penury, hope she’s not a bridezilla (but then you know Sonia!).  Ahh…a soupcon of relief!  But this New Yorker cartoon from two years ago (which I just read–don’t judge me!) should have primed me for disappointment.  I mean with a title like that…(like Crime and Punishment–not cheery concepts either one).

For in the next chapter Raskolnikov turns his unblinking eye of despair on the seemingly joyous news and quickly disabuses the reader of any hope for even the tiniest scrap of happiness in the next four hundred odd pages.  Raskolnikov’s skill as a sadness radar (and magnet?) is matched only by his adherence to the New Criticism (anachronism alert!)…for he close reads the hell out that missive and un-earths the grimy, forlorn subtext that, in fact, Sonia’s betrothed cares nothing for her and she has saddled herself (knowingly!) into an unloving marriage all for Roskolnikov.

So… cheery that.  Was I slow on the uptake…did you pick up the clues that this letter was, in fact, bad news?   Or did you have to wait for the next chapter (or this blog post?!–oops.  *Spoiler Alert*) to find out as well.

With all this cheeriness I suppose it’s easy to see why instead of reading on I’ve been watching reruns of The Vicar of Dibley (no unexpected subtext there–just pastoral hilarity!).

Well I’m excited to see how this book will get sadder…I’ll keep you posted!