08 February 2010

Mad Axe Man, or Reading Crime & Punishment Is Not My Best Idea

Snowbound still, all alone in my weirdly isolated little house in the city. Yesterday, for reasons which I cannot identify, I started re-reading Crime and Punishment. I haven't read it since college (when I read it twice), and I remember loving it, so I thought I'd give it a re-read.

And it is great, excellent actually, Dostoevsky is brilliant - it's even better than I remember. I do miss the profoundly insightful commentary of my Russian literature professor from college, one of the best professors and nicest men I have ever known - but I remember enough of his ideas to keep me going.

Unfortunately, Crime and Punishment is a book of feverish inaction and claustrophobia. After that initial burst of axe-murdering, Raskolnikov sinks into delirium, sickness, mental anguish, paranoia, unhappiness, rage - all kinds of entrapping emotions. It's an incredibly closed-in book; Raskolnikov's garret, scarcely larger than a closet, is the perfect metaphor or symbol for the kind of unhealthy containment the book deals with.

Stuck in my house, without the ability to get my car unearthed, with more snow on the way, having spoken to no one but my mother (via telephone) since Friday, I am feeling full of feverish inaction and claustrophobia. Except for brief excursions to the kitchen and the study, I've been mostly parked on my bed (the most comfortable bed in the world, incidentally), as the warmest place in the house. A Raskolnikovian/Oblomovian lethargy has overtaken me, coupled with some pretty serious pain in my back and my messed-up shoulders from all the shoveling. Lying in my bed, trapped in my house, reading about old Raskolnikov - this really is not the best reading idea of my life. But I'm sucked in to the book, and don't want to put it down. It's probably amplifying my own sense of cabin fever (and slight insanity), but I want to keep going. Better that than the heartbreak-amplifying Swann's Way.

I think, when I finish Crime and Punishment (which should be soonish - I'm not doing anything else except sleeping, shoveling and moping around the internet), I'll move on to The Grapes of Wrath, which I really never have read in its entirety at one go. That's at least a little more....outdoorsy, more open, than Dostoevsky.

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