It's even difficult to put into words what I think of this novel at this moment. As I was reading it, I would put it down and say "This is the crazies...moreIt's even difficult to put into words what I think of this novel at this moment. As I was reading it, I would put it down and say "This is the craziest novel I've read." Or just "It's crazy." That is still my overwhelming sensation. For those of you who know Dostoevsky well, you will find everything here, and maybe somethings you didn't expect. It is absolutely unclear to me why so many critics and professionals just write this novel off. It is a fine novel, especially on the heels of reading Demons. It is also a real page turner, super engaging, hard to put down, with countless plot twists. In fact, I finished it off on a flight from Houston to Portland -- I couldn't stop reading at one point with almost 200 pages to go! For those of you who know Bakhtin well, everything is here as well. Richard Pevear and Larisa Volkhonsky are really at the top of their game here, too. In fact, I have moved their translation of Brothers Karamozov to the top of my to read list now as a result of reading this and Demons. Demons, The Adolescent, and Brothers Karamozov are Dostoevsky's three last novels, and it looks like I have stumbled into reading them in order. Demons and The Adolescent were both new to me, while Brothers Karamozov is an old friend. It will be exciting to see how my understanding of that novel may change in the context of a new translation (new to me at least) and reading it in order with these others. There is definitely a thread (or several) that ties these three novels together.
I will have to ponder this one a while to formulate what I can say about it...(less)
Whether it is the book or the translation, it is the best Dostoevsky I have read thus far. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have achieved some o...moreWhether it is the book or the translation, it is the best Dostoevsky I have read thus far. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have achieved some of what other translators seem to be oblivious, the shifts of social language and speech genre, the highly idiosyncratic speaking voices, and the interplay and interpenetration of these in the text. What Bakhtin so admired in Dostoevsky becomes more immediately perceptible to the English speaking reader who cannot otherwise access the original text.
And here is Dostoevesky at his best as a novelist. It clicks along at an almost breakneck speed at times (I felt like I had to put it down for almost three months after Chapter 8 of part II just to take a breather). And Doestoevsky deploys all his skill at building tension and holding it, of hanging the action in the air ("tune in next week"), and his marvelous characterization is in full force as well.
We spent a long time discussing whether Demons is a better translation of the title than The Possessed. Half way through I didn't think so, but by the end, I was convinced that it is. And I can see why the suppressed chapter ("At Tikhon's") is absolutely necessary to the novel, but I also think that it might be best included just where it is -- as an appendix. You need this chapter to understand a lot about Stavrogin, and to understand the final letter to Darya and the final scene of the novel. But it is almost better to read it afterwards, to live with Stavrogin through the novel more or less as the other characters do, as something of a mystery. I think you also need this chapter in order to understand the grander plan of the novel -- its structure vis-a-vis the gospels. When you read it, Shatov and Maria's story falls more easily into place as does Kirilov's final conversation with Verkhovensky. But that's what I'm not finished thinking about yet, so I will try to return to it a bit later. (less)
I'm still processing this homage to film-noir, hard-boiled detective movies and the LA of the last days of the 1960s. Lovers of The Crying of Lot 49 w...moreI'm still processing this homage to film-noir, hard-boiled detective movies and the LA of the last days of the 1960s. Lovers of The Crying of Lot 49 will find a lot to love here, too -- and almost a revisiting of the same California seen from 40 years out. The usual Pynchon blend of outrageous but eerily recognizable freaks is there, and that landscape that is at once so central and so invisible behind the webs of intrigue, symbols, and desires. And the political undercurrent of Reagan era California (and the coming Reagan US) bubbles beneath it all. (less)
This book gets 5 stars for the quality of the reproductions. There are many works here I had never seen, and most of Bosch's work is accounted for. Ho...moreThis book gets 5 stars for the quality of the reproductions. There are many works here I had never seen, and most of Bosch's work is accounted for. However, the text is a bit old-fashioned and academic. There is little about Bosch himself (possibly becuase there is not much information out there). There is a very nice putting of Bosch into historical context, especially of late Medievel Dutch Catholic art. The chapters are organized by Bosch's central themes, which allows a fine overview and comparison between early and late paintings and discussion of works attributed to but not by Bosch himself. (less)
This is a really fascinating read about the Dutch, but what's most interesting is that it can tell you something about the US as well. Some real paral...moreThis is a really fascinating read about the Dutch, but what's most interesting is that it can tell you something about the US as well. Some real parallels in core values and post-colonial, posst-industrial world view. van der Horst has a great style that combines good history writing with cultural studies style argument. (less)
For Eco, the past is always with us in the present, and every sign, symbol, image, memory, is potentially part of the key that shows in what ways the...moreFor Eco, the past is always with us in the present, and every sign, symbol, image, memory, is potentially part of the key that shows in what ways the present is a rewriting, a palimpsest, of the past(s). In The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, as in The Island of the Day Before, the main character is caught in a hazy present, and we/he invent a curious quest to reconstruct the past to make sense of that present. You can see the influence of the crime story here, as in The Name of the Rose. One must pick out among a myriad of potential clues the ones that create a coherent story to explain not only what has just happened, but also what is about to happen. And here, as in that novel, Sherlock Holmes has an appearance. He shows up visibly in some illustrations from the Strand, but he shows up more as a textual model in the guise of Mickey Mouse and a comic retelling of The Musgrave Ritual. The Musgrave Ritual is certainly one of the novel's models, and as in that story, when the treasure is discovered, it is not at all what everyone (except maybe Holmes and the butler) expected and it seems to have a similar deleterious effect on the discoverer.
That aspect aside, the novel is also a wonderful retelling of the world of the generation of Italians who grew up before and during WWII: how, as adults, it is difficult for us to understand the ways in which children moved between American comics, folk tales, 19th century adventure novels, and the explicit and implicit teachings of the Fascist government. I for one had gotten used to Stalin/Lenin and young communists in kids' workbooks from the Soviet Union, but Il Duce and Bailla Boys insinuating their ways into spelling lessons was a new one on me.
The visual aspect of the novel is clever and for the most part beautifully printed, but it seems like at best a parallel story, at worst a gimmicky add on. It is not crucial to the text. I'm reminded a bit of Laura Esquivel's book The Law of Love, with its similar illustrations and an accompanying CD. In Esquivel's novel that seemed to be a bit more tied in to the narrative (and vice versa). In neither case is the promise of a graphic novel (so well lived out in many quarters these days) realized.
And I was a bit disappointed by the very typical ECO ending. After all that clever and sometimes moving musing on memory, identity, signs and symbols as in Foucault's Pendulum and The Island of the Day Before and to a lesser extent The Name of the Rose, everything simply spins out of control. The novel ends in a fast moving pastiche of images, people, stories emerging from and returning to the fog of memory and narrative. It's a bit over the top and a bit self-indulgent. Eco leaning back in his chair with a gentle smirk daring readers to put it all together (after all that's what we and the characters want in a novel, right?). It's OK, and I understand it as a novelist's sensible reaction (fighting off the tendency to over narrativize and especially to "buy into" the grand narratives by trying to subvert narration) within the history of reading and writing, but basically this is the same ending for the fourth time in a row! In fact the fear that that might be the case with the ending is what kept me from jumping into this book for over 2 years. And it may be the reason I don't take up any new Eco. (less)
These interviews with a French journalist are not so interesting as Vishnevskaya's biography, BUT they are very interesting with regard to hearing bot...moreThese interviews with a French journalist are not so interesting as Vishnevskaya's biography, BUT they are very interesting with regard to hearing both of them talk about contemporary music and working with contemporary composers. (less)