Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Big D

Our latest book club selection was Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky, and since my copy of Notes is Dr. M's copy of Notes, and since it was sandwiched between two other selections (namely The Double and The Eternal Husband), I just read all three.

First, I have to say that this is one of the most awesome physical books ever. It was published in 1960, and it has a great faded greenish cover with pink type. Our copy got a bit waterlogged sometime in its past, but the paper is of very high quality, and the water stains are mostly on the outer edge. Plus the typography was done by Edward Gorey! Yay! (and the back cover is here)

The three novels are all quite good -- this was the first Dostoevsky I'd ever read, and I would like to read some more. Notes was probably my favorite of the three, although I don't want to say too much about it since our book club hasn't met yet.

The Double is one of D's earliest novels, and it tells the story of a man who, after a series of embarrassing and socially harmful mistakes, starts seeing a double of himself everywhere he goes. The double has his same name, and gets a job at his office. Everyone seems to like the double more than him, and he alternates between trying to suck up to the double (because he likes him more than himself) and to get revenge on him for ruining his life (because obviously the double made all those bonehead plays earlier, not our hero). Satisfying ending.

In The Eternal Husband, our hero is a bit of a playboy who has recently lost yet another fortune and is going through a period of depression. He meets the husband of his former lover in the street one day -- he hadn't seen either of them for nine years, and the husband tells him that his wife has died. The husband is distraught, and the man (who feels a little guilty for cuckolding the guy) takes him under his wing. It doesn't take long for him to notice that the man has a daughter who is just the right age to be our hero's daughter. A lot of weird psychological games are played between the two men as they try to second-guess each other's guilty actions and enact their revenge upon one another.

So: if you want some kind of misanthropic, internalized characters with a lot of guilt and big chips on their shoulders -- Dostoevsky is for you. He does it better than anyone else, and sometimes it really does the trick.

[And finally -- we are going to have some houseguests for the next few days, so posting may be spotty. Don't get too sad, please. I will not be at work and going out to eat a lot, and that should never be regretted.]


reasonably prudent poet said...

Yay for the big D. I read The Idiot last fall and even though it bugged me sometimes, I really enjoyed it. Now I'm reading The Brother's Karamazov and when it's over I think I will declare it my favorite book ever. It's reeeeeeaaallllly good.
Ok, no, To Kill A Mockingbird can't be demoted... but it will definitely be my second favorite book.

jh said...

I think it's almost time for another installment of wstybk. Yes?

Spacebeer said...

I am totally into the idea of another book club meet-em-up.