Shannon (Giraffe Days)’s review of Crime and Punishment > Likes and Comments

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Shannon (Giraffe Days) It's not the length that scares me - it's only about 550 pages long - but the density. These Russians, they really pack a punch! But I've been wanting to read Dostoevsky for ages now...

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Very true! But I'm determined to give it a go, and y'know, if I want to be an English teacher I really need to read more classics!

message 3: by Terence (new)

Terence Shannon,

What you say about the subjectivity of these "stars" is very true. I read Crime and Punishment in the 11th grade as part of a research paper. Picked out at random from a list of "great books" my English teacher Mr. Hartman gave the class, I fell in love with Dostoevsky and thoroughly enjoyed the novel, as well his other work.

Yet I don't like Turgenev and loathe Tolstoy (I couldn't make it through War and Peace it was so boring).

Over even Fyodor, however, I would recommend reading anything by Anton Chekhov. He's a master short story writer and playwright so you wouldn't have to invest mountains of time in reading mountains of prose. I forget the website now, but there's a page that posts all of his short stories online.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) I'll look up Chekhov, thanks, I can't think of anything he's written.

I enjoyed Anna Karenina and I'd like to read War and Peace, but I find it a bit daunting. Same with Les Miserables, because I heard they both have long sections of, what would you call it, "dry reading"?

I was surprised at the violence in Crime and Punishment, it was quite brutal. For me, if I can't take an interest in the characters then the whole book becomes a trial - unless the prose is something special. I found the prose here to be very clunky and awkward.

message 5: by Suvi (new)

Suvi Just a quick note that if you're interested in Chekhov, this might help. If you want to read some of his work online, that is.

message 6: by Julie (new)

Julie My brother LOVES Dostoevsky. He's read all of his books and enjoys them immensely - not sure exactly what it is that sucks him in. And he's 23!

(We are still wondering what happened to the kid who used to be obsessed with sports and wouldn't read anything longer than an ESPN magazine - now he's reading Dostoevsky and Thoreau for fun.)

Shannon (Giraffe Days) That's great Julie! My brother's that age and I'm not sure he reads anything at all to be honest! I wonder though, and this is a horrible generalisation, if these authors are more appealing to men than women? Like Kerouac and Hunter S Thompson, they're very popular with men. Just musing...

message 8: by Kristen (new)

Kristen I just finished Crime and Punishment and have to agree with you, perhaps it is that I don't have an understanding or appreciation of the time and place, or perhaps it is because I read it on my own and didn't have a professor pointing out the nuances that made it so great... but I just found it to be rather tiresome. Specifically the long monologues where no one says anything... the most interesting bit of the story was the letter his mother sent him at the beginning... from then on it was just slogging through the self centered behavior of a complete jerk.

That and everyone having nine versions of their name was a bit irritating.

message 9: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy "Reading should never make you miserable, so I did something I rarely ever do, and it nags at me but, well, there you have it".

Are you joking? I didn't know that there were a set of rules for how reading should make one feel. Supposedly, television makes people feel pretty good about themselves. Granted, that good feeling is pretty much artificial, but it seems as though someone like yourself wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Be careful about making assumptions about someone you don't know, Jimmy. You only invite them in turn.

message 11: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy "These Russians, they really pack a punch!"

I'm just saying that maybe you should avoid making inane statements like these. What exactly does that mean anyway?

message 12: by Kristen (new)

Kristen How is that an insane statement? It appears that you are just trying to pick a fight.

The statement is clear, that the classic Russian authors mentioned have a very distinct writing style and a lot to say that may be hard to take.

message 13: by Becky (last edited Sep 12, 2008 03:43PM) (new)

Becky Jimmy, I think Shannon was referring to the act of reading, not the feeling you get from what you read.

Life is too short to read something that you are not interested in, which I believe (and correct me if I am wrong Shannon) is what she was getting at, and the reason she set this book aside.

If this book is your ultimate favorite, Jimmy, that's great. More power to you, but Shannon is entitled to her opinion and her reviews. Not everyone must enjoy a classic just because it is categorized as one.

message 14: by Jimmy (last edited Sep 12, 2008 09:15PM) (new)

Jimmy Gin's right, I did say inane. It was not a typo. My point was that making blanket generalizations like that are patronizing. Couldn't the same thing be said about German authors? It's like saying that all Irish people drink a lot. Maybe, then again maybe everyone does.

This isn't my favorite book either. I haven't even finished it yet. My statements had less to do with that particular book, and much more to do with lazy criticism. I wouldn't even really have cared if Shannon had said that she hated the book. My problem was that she seemed to have no critical context beyond how miserable it was. The review basically consisted of a bland recapitulation of the plot, and ended with a bunch of entirely subjective complaints about how self-centered Raskolnikov is. What I'm wondering is just how this is supposed to be helpful to other people who are curious about reading the book.

And of course everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Who cares if I made a judgement about you. I could care less about who you are. You can direct as much criticism my way as you care to. I could really give a shit. I'm just sick of people adhering to such a standard set of cliches about what fiction owes the reader.

message 15: by Becky (last edited Sep 12, 2008 05:52PM) (new)

Becky "...but to describe something great that someone was nearly killed over in a way that seems dismissive is galling."

I think I must be missing something here, Gin, because it seems to me that you are implying that because authors are now pretty much free to write whatever they want, readers are free to choose to be blase or dismissive of their work, but if we decide to read something that was written by someone who didn't have that freedom or luxury, then they must either love or hate it. Interesting.

By the way, I certainly appreciate all those authors who died (or almost died) for their art in order to bring us to where we are today, but I disagree that a book should be respected on that basis alone, if it is not enjoyed by the reader.

Jimmy, I personally think that Shannon's review was helpful to those curious about the book. She gave a description of what she got (or failed to get, as the case may be) out of the book, and why.

You should probably not read any of my reviews, they are certainly not expert text evaluations, haha!

Shannon (Giraffe Days) All right, let's see...

Firstly, my reference to Russian authors being very hard-hitting is a personal reflection, because I remember what it was like reading, say, Anna Karenina (an equally "miserable" book, in subject matter, but one which I enjoyed). I love books that put me through the emotional wringer, like the latter book did, but this wasn't one of them. It read very forced to me.

Secondly, Becky was right, I was referring to the act of reading, nothing else - I say so quite clearly. Some people hate reading, which makes me sad, but as someone who loves reading all kinds of books (and who hardly watches an hour of tv a week), there's too much going on in my own life and too many other books to read, to force myself to read a book which I didn't find particularly well written or interesting.

I'm sorry you didn't like my review, Jimmy, but I wrote what I needed to say about it and nothing more. Different books call for different responses, and the act of reading, enjoying and interpreting books is entirely subjective. There's no right or wrong review. If I'd said "This book sucks" then that would have been a shitty review. Actually it wouldn't have been a review at all. But essentially, you can argue anything as long as you can back it up.

Your complaint is that the review was "lazy criticism" - from my perspective, I felt strongly about a book I didn't enjoy reading, and made a very strong effort to figure out why I reacted that way. Everyone reads for different things, different reasons, and connects in different ways. When I read I want believable characters and an emotional connection of some kind. A strong literary character can really carry a book, and a strong emotional connection - even a negative one (especially a negative one), will make it hard for me to separate my own life from the book. I love books that dig their claws into me and even ones that make me somewhat depressed. I read a variety of books that answer to or create different emotional reactions, and by no means are they all "happy" books.

I love books with "difficult" protagonists, characters who are essentially unlikeable or are hard to reconcile your instincts with, like Humbert Humbert. I enjoy reading books that make me question my own instinctive responses to issues and personality types, and that don't reduce things to simple black and white.
My problem with this book, I think, is that the writing forced a character on me and didn't allow me to form my own impressions and ideas.

Perhaps you should join a book club, Jimmy - you'll find that everyone reads the same book in different ways, and it's a very fascinating thing to see. Our reactions to books aren't always easy to express, though.

Finally, you say "I'm just sick of people adhering to such a standard set of cliches about what fiction owes the reader. " Your reaction seems to stem from my using the all-inclusive "you" - which is also a hypothetical "you", when talking about how reading shouldn't make you feel miserable. I still feel that way, but it is how I feel - or felt after reading this particular book. I'm sorry if you took it to mean I was telling you how to read; that was not my intention, though plenty of people feel that life's too short to spend it reading books you don't care for. It certainly won't be the last book to make me feel this way, and it usually wouldn't be enough to make me stop reading it.

I'm not about to start worrying about how you might read and interpret my reviews, but discussing this with you is certainly very interesting, and reminds me that once you have written something down it no longer belongs to you, but is open to interpretation and debate - the same can be said of reviews, it seems, as of the books themselves.

message 17: by Tina (new)

Tina I really enjoy reading your reviews, Shannon. It seems that you really analyze the books because you do such a great job of explaining what you liked and what you didn't like. It seems rather silly to me that someone would find something in your reviews to argue with you about - they're just you're opinions, after all.

On a side note, I tried to read The Idiot and just couldn't do it, so I can understand where you're coming from on this review. Also, I read Les Miserables a long time ago and remember absolutely loving it.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Thanks Tina :) It was more of a judgemental accusation than a healthy critique, and a surprising one at that. This is an open forum and he's welcome to his opinion, but I don't think it needs to be brought down to a personal attack on my character, of which he knows nothing.

I'd quite like to try Les Miserables, but I'm not sure what's a good edition to read. Any recs?

Igetnervousinsocialsituationsmotherfucker "First, I have a confession to make: I got two thirds of the way through and skimmed the rest. Well, worse than that: I flipped through and got the gist, but such is the way it's written you can't even skim."

You shouldn't read literature, if I may be so kind.

Igetnervousinsocialsituationsmotherfucker ...let alone write "reviews".

Even a narcissist like myself acknowledges his limits. ("For an egoist, any harm done is never intentional. But nevertheless, it is being done.")

message 21: by Faran (new)

Faran You shouldn't complain about the prose if you never read it. Do you read Russian?

message 22: by Katie (new)

Katie Wow, I can't believe people find this book tiresome and hard to read, I feel the opposite. I wonder if it's harder to read in English... By the way the book that I have is only 422 pages long - standard length for a book.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) If I had cared at all for the characters, especially Raskolnikov, or even the story, I would have liked it despite the prose. I don't know if this was a "good" translation or not, but it's kind of beside the point. I hated Raskolnikov. He was a whiny self-indulgent bore and I wanted to brain him with a brick.

Not sure what the relevance of the page numbers has to do with anything.

message 24: by Katie (new)

Katie I don't think you have to like Raskolnikov. I think what determines whether you like the book or not is if you like their philosophizing and the game between characters. Razumikhin says somewhere that we all lie and lying is not bad because it get you closer to the truth - that's what I mean by game.

I think the most interesting part in terms of philosophy is when Raskolnikov talks about an article he wrote for the newspaper. (Part 3, Ch. 5) In terms of game it's the converstaion between Raskolnikov & Porfiry (Part 4, Ch. 5 & 6)

message 25: by Vladimir (new)

Vladimir Interesting discussion going on here. Actually, my personal guess is - if Shannon really didn't like the book, why bother answering all those negative comments? So maybe in fact it did have a certain impact on her feelings...

And yet another bold guess - maybe a translation just isn't good enough? because i remember reading it in russian and it appeared all but boring to me.

anyway, no doubt, the book is just bound to be less informative and clear for a foreign reader, simply because Fedor Mikhailovich wrote it in a very specific time, staying within a certain literary tradition, thus his text should be seen in correspondence with historic and literary traits of the epoch.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Vladimir, this review has attracted the stupidest of comments and those I ignore, but I don't mind responding to genuine comments - mostly because I'm still trying to work out why this book really didn't work for me.

Maybe it is the translation, but I doubt it. That's too simplistic an excuse. And I love books with complicated, unlikeable characters, so it'd be nice if people (not you) ceased patronising me on this. It certainly did have an impact on me, just not in a positive way.

Here's the thing - it's okay for people to hate - yes, hate - certain English-language classics, but not to hate a Russian one? Plenty of people think certain English classics are boring, badly written etc., and while others can see that as a sadly missed opportunity to read deeper, they're not "bashed" for it. It's the disagreements that make it all interesting. We all actively read differently.

I'm not saying this defensively, just trying to point out that no book is above critique, or sacred. Certainly not this one.

message 27: by Annelida (last edited Nov 29, 2009 10:08AM) (new)

Annelida Your review really caught my eye, and I want to respond to your review with my own quick reflection on the novel.

One of the many realizations I've made about this novel is its universal nature. "Crime and Punishment" is something so metaphorical that I do not think of the characters as people I can "relate or not relate to" , but as CONCEPTS, bundles of ideas, of morals, of pieces of life. That I find to be the greatest wonder of the it can intricately weave a tapestry of human nature with its character fact, one of the points I think Dostoevsky is trying to convey is that human nature is CRUEL; if one does not relate to cruelty, to inhuman qualities of a human being, one will of course be unable to relate to this character. It will in fact be impossible. But being the thorough reader I am, I picked up on all nuances of human mind, thus far in my read, and I am overwhelmed and simply gobsmacked at the accuracy and brilliancy of their takes time to understand this novel, I've concluded.

You are entirely correct in accusing Raskolnikov in lack of excitement, and it is indeed a miserable read. Though personally I thought there was plenty of excitement in Raskolnikov, maybe not directly in himself, but what he represents, and excitement that derives from analysis of these concepts (EDIT: social struggle, redemption, corruption within society/individuals, sacrifice, and ironically LOVE...). These concepts are incredibly hard to write about, for me in this comment, not to mention how much genius it must take to write such a deep psychological analysis.


The ending is what really makes this book unique.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) That's very interesting Annelida, and I wish I could have read it that way. But I don't think that I was unable to relate to the character because I can't relate to baser human qualities - far from it. I wasn't trying to relate to Raskolnikov, just understand him. That wasn't the difficult part. I just don't have the patience for whiny, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, melodramatic people. Other characters interested me more, but I felt such contempt for Raskolnikov it was like a bad taste in my mouth.

They were real, though - I think that's what you mean by the accuracy and brilliancy of their depiction? Sometimes, most of the time, we shy away from too-real characters. Northrop Frye wrote about this in The Educated Imagination and can explain better than I can.

Hmm, yes, this is definitely one of those books that you should come to somewhat prepared, rather than going in blindly. But I find that I read for two things above all else: style of writing (prose), and character development. Those two things are what can make or break a novel for me.

message 29: by Daniel (new)

Daniel You "skimmed through" Dostoevsky?


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Yeah actually it's pretty near impossible. But I picked up the key points of the last quarter of the plot. I just didn't think I'd ever finish it.

message 31: by Kate (new)

Kate I think that it's hardly fair to ignore the blurb when describes the book as "a preternaturally acute investigation of the forces that impel a man toward sin, suffering and grace," if you are unwilling to really read the epilogue. And looking at these things, it does seem like it would qualify as character development, which is all the more dramatic because Raskolnikov seems so much more obnoxious than everyone else in the beginning.

message 32: by Vheissu (last edited Aug 19, 2010 10:28AM) (new)

Vheissu Shannon wrote: "I hated Raskolnikov. He was a whiny self-indulgent bore and I wanted to brain him with a brick."

I share your dislike of "Raskolnikov" and suspect that was precisely Dostoevsky's intention.

He wrote the book after release from prison for political agitation, during the short-lived period of the political and social reforms of Alexander II. Dostoevsky had lost some of his youthful enthusiasm for revolutionary change; he certainly came to question whether the reforms were worth their toll in human lives.

"Raskolnikov" represents the revolutionary who values progress without the slightest consideration of the human suffering it can create. I think Dostoevsky came to revile such persons; at the end of the story, Dostoevsky has "Raskolnikov" seemingly returning to the Church, which was then and remains today one of the most reactionary institutions in Russia. There could be no more obvious rejection of 19th century Russian reformism than that simple act.

I have now read several books in which the main character was not a good guy (Blood Meridian, Darkness at Noon, Crime and Punishment). Such stories, I believe, are quite different from what I call the "American Story." Three acts, protagonist versus antagonist, the good guy wins. Gary Kurtz recently remembered the wonderful filmmaker, Billy Wilder thusly:
"I took a master class with Billy Wilder once and he said that in the first act of a story you put your character up in a tree and the second act you set the tree on fire and then in the third you get him down,” Kurtz said. (Los Angeles Times, "Did 'Star Wars' become a toy story? Producer Gary Kurtz looks back," by Geoff Boucher, August 12, 2010)
I cannot imagine a better definition of what I call the "American Story."

I certainly enjoy "American Stories" and Star Wars in particular. I also enjoy non-American Stories, which are altogether different. I hesitate to call myself post-Modern, but I do enjoy non-linear stories and characters with deep, deep flaws. Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy are my favorite writers in that regard.

Diff'rent strokes, I suppose.

message 33: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Shannon, I wholeheartedly agree with you in that reading shouldn't make you miserable. I quit reading this book too. I rarely do that, but someday I may turn back to it, who knows? :)

message 34: by Andie (new)

Andie You articulated perfectly my exact thoughts on this book. I, too, couldn't get completely to the end and ended up flipping through the last few chapters. I had to read C&P for school, but that had nothing to do with the fact that I disliked the story, which didn't grab - let alone hold - my attention in any way. Consider me put off Dostoevsky for life (unless someone can convince me otherwise).

message 35: by Sean (new)

Sean I have to agree with you. I just put the book down. Up until the murders is exciting but then it gets really slow. Either you enjoy this book or you don't.

message 36: by Annelida (last edited Oct 14, 2011 06:00PM) (new)

Annelida It is sad for me to read such a continuous stream of negative comments. You have given up on this book without even finishing it, or even attempting to analyze and relate to it. This is sad. Were you put off by the lack of "excitement"? By the abundance of Russian last names? By your own ignorance about the time period and the deep psychological consequences that resulted from the political order of 19th century Russia? By your inability to comprehend Dostoevsky's brilliant use of symbolism, religious allegory (or research allegorical passages, for that matter), and suspenseful chronology? Sorry to be so blunt, but that is what these I-have-not-read-or-even-attempted-to-understand-the-book comments force me to conclude.

From the OP's review, There's also no mystery, and not much suspense. If this is true, then what IS suspense for you? Please enlighten me. Because if you are looking for a generic feeling of suspense, don't look for it in Dostoevsky. Go read Agatha Christie or something. It doesn't require any outside knowledge or research, just a box of popcorn and boredom.

message 37: by Sean (new)

Sean Relax. It's just a book.

message 38: by Jack (new)

Jack Bicknell I have to agree with Shannon. I had always heard what a great book it was .i read it and thought I don't get it.of course I often think that about classical books .they often are so dense and difficult to read.

message 39: by Abby (new)

Abby I also agree with Shannon, I'm in the process of reading this and I find it incredibly dry. Also completely agree with the fact that there are too many books in the world to force yourself to read one you don't like, hence why I'm considering giving up on C&P.

message 40: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Arbabzadeh Thank you for your review, Shannon. I read the book and gave it four stars. The reason I didn't give it five stars is exactly for the reason that you have mentioned--I could not in any way feel for raskolnikov. I am generally strongly taken in my less-than-saintly characters in a plot filled with horror and inhumanity. But I could not, despite my efforts, feel intrigued by his character.

With that being said, I find it extremely arrogant that some people assume that everyone should like the same books they like. Different books speak to each of us at different times. What I might not like reading now may be a completely enjoyable experience in the future. Perhaps I have gone through different experiences and have pondered certain questions that may seem trivial or irrelevant to others, or vice versa, issues which the author has focused on and speaks of. There is no need for anyone to feel threatened because someone doesn't like the same book. Someone's opinion does not in any way lower the value of the author's work.

message 41: by Yakub (new)

Yakub Medici For the sake of our youth, please never ever become an English teacher.

message 42: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Weber So good to see someone else have the same experience with this book. It's... just not interesting. At all. I can't seem to care about anything in this book. I have another 200 pages before it thankfully ends...

message 43: by Yakub (new)

Yakub Medici >reading should never make you miserable

Absolutely. All books should be rainbows and sunshine. Now, let us all have a group reading of Curious George and ignore all the sadness in the world.

message 44: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Yakuba: please, please write a book. You're so much smarter than everyone who wants to read for enjoyment.
I promise the world will read your book and not get your brilliance.

message 45: by Jacy (new)

Jacy Thanks for your review Shannon! I agree with it. It's always good for the soul to read outside your comfort zone, even if you don't end up being a fan.

And must add, I just love that some people think GR is some kind of serious literary review system instead of simply a social media outlet for books, in which reviewing a book is optional, not mandatory. Respecting someone else's opinion without nasty comments should be mandatory, but sadly this is not the case!!

message 46: by Yakub (new)

Yakub Medici Our definitions of "enjoyment" may differ. Besides, I am not sure how your comment is a proper response to mine.

message 47: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Yakuba, it was proper. There is no other way to respond to snark. Have a great night, and a great life. I hope you get to read all the great books you want in life, and maybe someday quit looking down your nose at people who don't see things your way on book reviews.

message 48: by Yakub (new)

Yakub Medici I'm fine with differing opinions, when they are actually justified. I am just not a fan of ignorance. One of my best friends can't stand Dostoevsky. The difference is that he makes a legitimate and intelligent case.

message 49: by Jacy (new)

Jacy Yakuba, Legitimate and intelligent are both very subjective terms based on Perspective!!!

Grow up and learn to accept that others have opinions you have no control over and your judgement is not final!!

message 50: by Jacy (new)

Jacy Accepting and recognizing a difference in opinion is not the same as calling it unjustifiable, unintelligent, and illegitimate. That would be openly passing judgement instead, unable to accept or recognize the value in another person's opinion...seems more like ignorance if we are haphazardly throwing around labels.

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