Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reading

I just finished reading Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground. I read it first almost twenty years ago, and I had this idea in my head that it was this big, ground-breaking, formative book for me. Having just finished it, I don't see how it could have been. Don't get me wrong...I'm not going to dis the big D. I enjoyed the wildly neurotic main character...too intelligent to "fit" into the machinations of society. Maybe that's what draws young readers to the book...this idea that intelligence and perception are burdens. Young thinkers reject and embrace the world at the same time. That part of the book I can really understand. Still, it wasn't this overwhelming read for me this time...not at nearly forty years old. Was it ever an overwhelming read or, at twenty, did I just feel cool having actually finished a book by Dostoevsky. Hell, I think it's the only manageable book, page-wise, that the guy wrote. I can still remember the six months (or more?) that I lived with The Brothers Karamazov (which I also remember as a great book).

Interesting what memory does with the books we read. In memory, do those books become something else? Well, I mean they have to. They must end up affecting us more in a subconscious way rather than a conscious way. In the end, like with the main character in Notes, maybe reading just makes us miserable...by making us intelligent and perceptive.

I don't know. But, it could be all my reading that triggered the cynicism in the blog post below. Though, I reread it, and I stand by what's written down there.

As to other reading, I just started (and am enjoying) E.L. Doctorow's City of God. I don't know much about Doctorow, other than he wrote Ragtime (which I haven't read), and he gave the great quote: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

In any case, I'm digging City of God. It's a tough read. Lots of thought. Lots of jump in narration and narrative point of view. Still, worth staying with. Doctorow strikes me as a writer, not a creative writer (see my post below). Doctorow is a statesman of letters.

He's dealing with faith issues in the modern world, for Christ's sake! Who does that? The book was published in 2000, so that's pretty darn contemporary for me.

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