Archive for March, 2009

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A Correction, A Like, and A Dislike

March 31, 2009

Dear Twin,

  I fear that you are mightily confused…the synopsis that you provided is nothing like what I’ve read over the first two chapters (subtext: I’m two chapters in, get reading!).  I’m not a “literary” man by any stretch of the imagination, so I can’t be sure…but I think that you’ve lifted that plot from another story…And if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times–I refuse (refuse!) to discuss Wide Sargasso Sea any further!  (The joke there is that I want you to think that I believe the synopsis of Harry Potter that you provided in the post is from Wide Sargasso Sea–just in case that was confusing.  In my head that joke was quite wonderful.)

  Now to the book and my titular “like”.  I like Chichikov’s house serf Petrushka.  I like this barely-mentioned character because he, like me, likes to read

…for reading books, without bothering too much about their contents: it made no difference to him whether it was a tale about the adventures of a lovelorn swain or simply a primer or a prayer book –he read everything with equal attention; if someone had slipped a book of chemistry to him he would not have refused it.

Finally after the wading through the almost characterless morass of Brave New World I’ve found a character I can relate with once again…here’s to hoping that Gogol provides plenty more Petrushka!

Dislike.  And really just a slight dislike, a mere quibble if you will.  The intrusive narrator…not loving him (or her).  I get that we’re supposed to acknowledge the artificiality, blah blah blah, but it jolts my enjoyment of the story.  None for me, thank you.

So anyway I’m curious about Chichikov’s plan…I, for one, can’t foresee what he plans to do with all of those legally alive, actually dead serfs.  But I do hope its blisteringly satiric.

Anywho, I’m off to go Petrushka a cat mystery,

Jon

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Beginnings

March 30, 2009

Who knew that ol’ Fedya Dostoevsky was such a punster? I had him pegged as more of “high concept” kind of funny.

Glad to hear that you’ve had a chance to start Dead Souls. I will come clean and admit that I haven’t had a chance to read page one yet. Luckily, though, I have read the first chapter in this book before, so I think I can comment from memory.

As I recall things start off pretty slow. Slow that is until ol’ Chichikov turns 10 and starts receiving mysterious pieces of mail from a heretofore unknown Wizarding School, that his guardian aunt and uncle try to keep from him, and just when you think Chichikov is destined to miss out on his true destiny Hagrid comes and rescues him…and from there it’s pure magic. (Put that in your pipe smoke it, Fydor.)

Wait a second…is that Dead Souls?

Okay, so I need to start reading. Perhaps I will brew myself some tea out of an acorn samovar and start Dead Souls again.

That’s all I got. (Yup, yup, yup),

Justin

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Blurbs

March 26, 2009

Twin,

Does your copy of Dead Souls really say that?!  Mine definitely does not, but it does have some interesting author blurbs.  Here’s a selection:

This book is like borscht…it just can’t be beet! (And I ate it!) — Leo Tolstoy

Don’t be an Idiot!   Buy this book on The Double.  I’m buying it for all of my Brothers (Karamazov)!  –Fyodor Dostoevsky

If I were a rich man…I’d buy ten copies! –Tevye the Milkman

Oh Lev you punster! (And omnivore!).  Fyodor, you shameless self-promoter!  Tevye, you milkman!

Needless to say I was excited to start reading (but not so excited that I didn’t wait to start it until after I finished Revenge of Spellmans–nothing gets between me and my Spellman’s!–but I do apologize for the delay.)

But I have started now and this book seems very much more Bovary and/or Middlemarch than WITW or Brave New World.  Realism I welcome you back with open arms! 

In fact at first I was worried that Chichikov (I pronounce his name Chee-chee-kov in my head) was going to be a sort of Russian Charles Bovary, but by the end of chapter one Gogol hints that he may not be the milquetoast (or is it milk toast…mmmmm milk toast) that he seems.

Well I’m excited to see how this progresses…can’t wait for the ghosts to show up!

Jon



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O, Brave New World!

March 20, 2009

Wait a second, you finished Brave New World?

Sorry, I finished that book so long ago, I kind of forgot we were reading it. (That, and I’ve actively been trying to forever erase it from my memory.)

I will have you know I can’t even hear the name “Lenina” now without shuddering. (Thanks a lot, Aldous Huxley.) And you know how I’ve always loved the name, “Lenina.”

I, unlike you, was not struck by any paradoxical feeling upon finishing the book. (Unless, of course, the meaning of “paradoxical” has changed to mean “pure, unadulterated joy at finally finishing a horrible book.”) I was just glad to be done, and to never have to read that book again.

I plan on picking up Dead Souls here in the next day or so. According to my copy it is “a remorseless satire of imperial Russian venality, vulgarity and pomp.” You know how I love a good remorseless satire of imperial pomp. (Rumor has it while reading the book the Tsar was often heard to cry out “Zing! He is really sticking it to our love of pomp.”)

Justin

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Moving On

March 18, 2009

Well Twin,

  I officially finished Brave New World.  It was about 7:35 yesterday morning on my morning bus commute.  I was simultaneously happy to see this book end and saddened at the way the story unfolded.  And if there’s one thing that makes going back to work after a three day weekend hard, it’s paradoxically conflicting emotions.

  Did I mention I had a three day weekend last weekend?  It was wonderful.  I have another one this weekend (I can hardly wait!)

  Is it me or was this perhaps one of the weirdest books you’ve ever read?  It was for me.  And I don’t me weird like “Oooh in the future full meals come in pellets.”  Or “Zowie…in the future talking robots will be our maids.” (PS: The Jetsons is weird like that.  Freaky weird.).  I mean weird in the way the protagonist shifted, and the plot puttered and zoomed.  I’m genuinely curious to find someone who likes this book and find out what attracts them to it.  What am I missing?

  Anyway…If you look to the right you’ll see in the “What We’re Reading” box I’ve switched the title to Dead Souls.  I’m ready to start it if you are (maybe I’ll read it during my long weekend…did I mention that I have another long weekend this weekend already?).

  Au Revoir Soma.  Arrivedercci Alpha-Pluses.  Hello Tsarist Russia!

  Jon

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I’m Really Almost Finished

March 17, 2009

Dear Twin,

  I have been reading and I’m closing in on the last ten pages of this book…but I think that if I do finish tonight (not likely…I have laundry to fold and sleep to sleep) it will be too late for me to post anything that makes sense.  So I thought I’d write these quick thoughts before Fold-a-palooza 2009 starts.

  As I sat in Starbucks this afternoon enjoying the savory Pike Place blend and thinking futuristic thoughts I was unsettled as my mental meanderings took a turn towards believing that maybe Mustapha Mond is right and John is wrong.  We’re conditioned to think the dystopic utopias of futuristic fiction are in some way wrong…but if I was making judgments solely on the persuasive speeches given in Chapter 17, I think the victory goes to Mond.  (Because, it’s true “You can’t play Electro-magnetic Golf according to the rules of Centrifugal Bumble-puppy.”  Aside:  I really want to play Centrifugal Bumble-puppy.).  So as I finished that thought process I found myself radically decentered.  And if there’s one place in which it’s radically decentering to be radically decentered, its Starbucks.  So I came home and watched Perry Mason.  Perry Mason is radically centering–you always know what you’re going to get.  Although this episode (“The Case of the Prudent Prosecutor”) did have a bit of a surprise when Hamilton Burger (!) called Perry Mason to be his friend’s lawyer (!!!).

  So I should be finished tomorrow and then full steam ahead to Dead Souls.  I don’t know if this book was soul deadening, but it certainly was boring at points.  Here’s to hoping Gogol will pick up the pace.

  Sweet dreams,

  Jon

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As The Saying Goes…

March 15, 2009

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

As such, this will be a short post.

The most amazing feat of this book was that it actually made me hate Shakespeare a little. (“O, Brave new world!” indeed.)

In any case, I am now done with Brave New World and ready to move on to other things. So, let me get you thinking about the next book we will be reading.

After reading a book that was a bit soul killing, I think a change pace is in order. You know, something a little different.

So, I’ve chosen Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. 

Happy reading,
Justin