Thursday, May 03, 2007

The devilish revenge of Summer of Dostoevsky Aught-Oh-Six

So I'm reading Demons (a.k.a. The Possessed) by your favorite dead Russian and mine, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and I realized two things as I read the opening chapters:

  1. Really funny stuff happens here. And not funny like "Oh ho ho I'm a stuffy English major" funny, but funny like, "Hey, Stepan? Varvara? That shit's hilarious!" funny.

    Like Imani's experiencing with Don Quixote (also on my TBR pile, as it's been for far too long now), I'm finding great enjoyment in finding unexpected humor in what you might call "dead lit." After all, as we all know, dead lit is serious business! So what's up with all the hilarity? I'm reminded of none other than your favorite living Brit and mine Kazuo Ishiguro, whose stodgy high school reading list Brit Lit book about a fucking butler for cripe's sake how much more dull can you get for real right was, I found when I finally read it, genuinely hysterical. (And heartbreaking, too, right.) But like, really, who would have thought, you know, with the the way we all go on like humor is some kind of basic feature you might find listed under those "Minimum System Requirements" that have no actual bearing on how your program is going to run once you load it up.

    Comedy! It's not just for postmodern novels anymore! (Nor is it just for lit crit types, either. That sound you hear is my standing ovation for Callie and her being "so tired of everything being so goddamned serious." Seriously.)

  2. I have absolutely no idea where any of this stuff Dostoevsky is describing is going. None. Well, I know there's a murder--the back of the book suggests there will be one--but that's about it. And I realized that of the big D's big Final Five novels (Demons is so Starbuck so far) there's only two--Demons and The Adolescent--that I get to approach with this degree of freshness. I find that simultaneously exciting and saddening, and it makes me sort of want to read the book even slower than I am already. To savor the sweet directionlessness and unpredictability of it. Which is, from what I know, precisely how F.D. would have liked me to read it.

    Also, in case you didn't catch that, I am a huge flaming lit dork.


callie said...

You are too kind.

My writerly crush on you remains ever strong. Perhaps growing...

Darby M. Dixon III said...

I so win.

fusis said...

I was surprised with the humor in The Brothers Karamazov. It's so lively, and here I was raised to believe that those big books are really hard to get through, dull, antiquated things.

Anonymous said...

Darby, have you read The Golovlyov Family by Shchedrin? I read it last year and loved it. Anyway, I mention it as reading it was one of those great experiences, like you describe, where I wasn't at all familiar with the book and had no preconceived notions of where it was going.

Meanwhile, you have convinced me to get a copy of Demons toot to the sweet.


Darby M. Dixon III said...

Fusis: Yeah, I'm looking forward to returning to Karamazov after...after more years than I care to figure out. And I think that's exactly how I've felt about a lot of classic stuff. I mean, today, I like classics, I like reading them, but even then I'm still surprised when they seem relevant and alive. Old mentality habits are hard to break.

CAAF: I have not. I shall have to. And I hope you see some of what I see in Demons, so I don't have to feel like I've missed it completely!