Monday, November 16, 2009

Dostoevsky for Beginners?

Fast realizing that blogging every day for a month is not all it's cracked up to be. Unwilling to admit defeat, but not feeling very inspired tonight.

Oh! I know! A number of factors have converged to convince me that I should read some Dostoevsky:
  • reading David Foster Wallace's pro-Dostoevsky essay in Consider the Lobster, last week
  • seeing Tiny Kushner last night, which includes a scene where Laura Bush reads her favorite novel, The Brothers Karamazov, to the dead children of Iraq
  • the hype for From the House of the Dead at the Metropolitan Opera, based on one of Dostoevsky's lesser-known novels
  • a promise I once made to a young man that I would read The Brothers Karamazov if he read Atonement. I doubt that this man kept up his end of the bargain, and indeed, he broke some promises about things that are far more important than Ian McEwan novels--so I shouldn't feel like I owe him anything, but nonetheless, I still feel guilty that I haven't read Dostoevsky.
So now I have a question for any Dostoevsky fans who read this blog: where should I begin? Karamazov? Crime and Punishment? Something else? (I wish Wallace had addressed this in his essay.) What novel will best give me the quintessential Dostoevsky flavor and make me fall in love with his work? Please don't hesitate to offer your suggestions.


tim said...

This is weird. I had been thinking along the same lines a few months ago: I should read Brothers K; I've read nothing by Mr D. So I did a web search along the lines of "where to start" and found this in a forum, with a bunch of people agreeing. Don't remember where; I just cut and pasted into a stickie note.

"I started with Crime and Punishment, read Notes from Underground, The Idiot and am currently reading The Brothers Karamazov. It felt like a natural progression, at least to me, hence the suggestion."

So that's been waiting for me to do for about six months or so.

Marissa said...

Fantastic, Tim! Yes, it probably would make sense not to start off with Karamazov.

Maybe we should support each other in our Dostoevsky explorations. It probably wouldn't be too hard for both of us to read "Crime & Punishment" before the next Pub Night...