Saturday, February 11, 2006


Crime and Punishment

In "The Squid and the Whale," Bernard Berkman repeatedly christens his favorite works "dense." Crime and Punishment, a book I claimed to have read for much of my life, but in reality only read a certain portion of while in high school, is dense. Dense, in fact in the Berkmanian sense AND the physical sense (a pound of 551 lovingly designed tightly set pages in my Vintage Classics edition). In seeking to develop a seminal review of the work that would dance artfully over every one of its oppositional relationships (Raskonikov/Razumikhin, Raskolnikov/Svidrigailov, Raskolnikov/Sonya, Raskolnikov/Mom, Raskolnikov/Dunya, Raskolnikov/Luzhin, Raskolnikov/Petrovich, and so on) before tying them together with a snappy platitude befitting this blog and what is arguably the penultimate work of Russia's penulimate author w/r/t Brothers Karamazov and Tolstoy, respectively, I realized I had a better chance of actually writing Crime and Punishment myself.

I decided to record how I saw C&P's bigger themes (emotion's superiority to reason, the possibility of redemption, the indigent's inhumanity to the indigent, Western society addiction to scandal, the nature of the gifted -- notice that I am, but no longer, avoiding Superman theory, which the book doesn't so much reflect on as repudiate) in my everyday life. That, of course, would be stupid and self-indulgent. So C&P is dense, and easily defeats my short-attention-span effort to capture every thought that occured to me while I read it (and there was more than one, jackass). But -- shifting into platitudes generally expressed in back-cover copy -- it is beautifully dense: it vividly describes abject poverty in 1860s Petersburg, so meticulously and intuitively tracks the inner monologues of its protogonist and antagonists that psychologists could classify their disorders, and occasionally breaks passages of cinematic writing that make it easily mistaken for a sprawling genre fiction manuscript by a philosophy minor.

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