Archive for January, 2014

bookmark: notes from underground

Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Sometime during your education, usually during your college years, you are going to be required to delve into the Russian writers, the two main writers being Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I have read both authors, though only one book by each; War and Peace by Tolstoy and Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. War and Peace I suffered through, but Crime and Punishment I enjoyed.

In an effort to broaden my reading base, I decided to read a little more Dostoevsky, and this slim volume seemed like a good way to do so. It was.

It was many years ago that I read Crime and Punishment, but the thing that I recall impressing me was the depiction of a mind slipping into madness. I could almost feel it myself. Notes from Underground has that same kind of feeling.

I was grateful for the footnotes as they gave an historical grounding to references in the book, particularly in the first part. This edition is from Everyman’s Library, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I also appreciated placing Dostoevsky within his own time frame, finding it interesting that he was at least partially contemporary with Edgar Allen Poe. Indeed, it made me wonder if Dostosevky had ever read any of Poe’s work, because some of their work seems to follow the same themes.

This book would not be for everyone, but I appreciated it, mostly, I think, because I could see how it related to Crime and Punishment. If you want to read Dostoevsky, I suggest starting with one of his other novels.

(Finished 1/31/14)

bookmark: a moveable feast

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

This is a short book detailing the early years that Hemingway, his wife, Hadley, and his son lived in Paris – 1921 to 1926. A note in this edition says that he had completed this book but had set it aside to work on another book. Though he made some revisions to it in 1960, it was published posthumously in 1964 and we will never know if he intended further revisions.

There is no “story” here, no plot, just selected reminiscences. Even at that, it was a fascinating book. I really wonder what it would have been like to have been on that scene at that time. Paris was truly a nexus of creative talent from all over the world at this time (and, of course, at many other times). It was a time and a place where it would have been wonderful to be “a fly on the wall.”

The book reminds me of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Indeed, I would be surprised if A Moveable Feast wasn’t one of Allen’s source documents for the movie. While I felt the film was a little weak, I totally understand the fascination with the time and place, and this book reinforced that fascination.

Besides providing rough profiles of some of the writers and artists, the book gives us a glimpse into Hemingway’s writing process. While he apparently did not like to discuss that subject, almost of necessity he includes parts of his writing habits and comments on what good writing should be.

It is strange to think that I’m just a bit older now than Hemingway was when he committed suicide. It’s also a bit strange to think that he and I both lived during some of the same years, though that should not be surprising in that he was born in the same year as my grandmother.

I am going to have to read more Hemingway.

(Finished 1/23/14)