Archive for the ‘Crime and Punishment’ Category

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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).

Jon

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Obsession

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.

Jon

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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.

Jon

 

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Things Can Only Get Better From Here

May 23, 2012

….PSYCH!

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!

Jon

 

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The Unique Sadness of the Unicorn Man

May 8, 2012

That character that you (mis)translated as a unicorn, was in fact Marmeladov.  Don’t let his seemingly joyous sounding name fool you, for far from being a mythical, single-horned equine, he is instead, The Saddest Man In The World.

Your “unicorn” is an inveterate alcoholic, he’s drunk his family to penury–not once, but twice!  This has resulted in a daughter who has turned to prostitution and a wife whose love has evaporated.  Oh how I wish for a hovercraft sub-plot a la Back to the Future Part II (Or as I call it Just To The Future)!

I’ve spent some time pondering what role Marmeladov plays in the larger narrative and here’s what I’ve got as working hypotheses:

  • Perspective Fairy:  Marmeladov is there to show us (and Raskolnikov) that things could be worse.  Sure you didn’t get as much money for your pretty trinket at the pawn shop, but at least you aren’t forcing your loved ones to debase themselves for a kopek or two.
  • Humanity Mirror:  Marmeladov shows us that Raskolnikov is a good person…sure he’s thinking about murder via italicized adjectival nouns, but he’s not all bad.  He gives some of his much needed lucre to the Marmeladovs in their time of need.
  • Inveterate One-Upper:  We’ve all been there…you’re telling the story of your bad day and there’s that guy at the bar who, of course, has had it worse.  “Oh you had three meetings today, boo hoo.  I was  in meetings from 7AM til 8PM…and my daughter’s a prostitute because of me.”  “You‘ve got a busy weekend?!  I have to sit here all day and drink until my wife’s last ounce of love is completely gone…that’s what I’d call busy!”

…and I think he’s a symbol of purity and grace.

I hope your reading has more unicorns and hovercrafts…they sure do brighten up this book!

Jon

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Lost In Translation

April 19, 2012

Hello dear reading twin!

We’ve both been lax in our reading/posting and I’m sure we’re both feeling guilty about it…so why not mire ourselves in that classic of guilt and regret Crime and Punishment.  I don’t know a lot about this book (other than the fact that it’s a “classic”) but I do slightly remember the Made For TV Movie starring Patrick Dempsey and Julie Delpy and if I recall correctly anguished delinquency was running amok (okay I really only remember Patrick Dempsey’s sad eyes–they looked very regretful).

I noticed as I started reading yesterday that my copy of the book is translated into English by Constance Garnett and it reminded me a quotation regarding this very translator that I came across years ago (like 5 years ago) and I’ve always found it amusing.  It comes from Joseph Brodsky:

“The reason English-speaking readers can barely tell the difference between Tolstoy and Dostoevsky is that they aren’t reading the prose of either one. They’re reading Constance Garnett.”

And just as proof that I didn’t make this up–here’s a real-life quotation of it in the New Yorker.

So how much actual Dostoevsky I might be getting is up for debate, but I’ll take what I can get.  Are you reading the same translation?  It might be fun to compare how the translations match up (and when I say it will be fun I mean “fun for reading dorks like twins who blog about what their reading” as opposed to “fun” fun.)

But it could also be fun to read the same translation (see caveat above).

Anyway we read it it will be fun, fun fun!  FUN!!!

…and that’s probably the last bright post we’ll see while reading this book.  The first chapter opens up mighty gloomy and if Patrick Dempsey’s sad eyes were a harbinger of things to come, this is going to be an examination of misery to last us hundreds and hundreds of pages .

I’m looking forward to it!
Jon