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July 30, 2007

Is Anyone There? Light Summer Reading

A long-time friend of mine, Dan Sullivan, asked me to join his quarterly book club. I agreed to do so, but for one reason or another, have failed to show up for the discussions.

However, here on The Point, I’m making a public pledge to show up for next month discussion on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

I have a confession to make: Despite really wanting to, I have never made it past the first few chapters of a Dostoyevsky novel. For work (thanks to Chuck), I skimmed through then read a biography about him, Dostoyevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850-1859 by Joseph Frank, which I can heartily recommend. (Since Dan is a big Dostoyevsky fan, I bought him a copy. Putting him on the spot: Good sir, have you read it yet?)

My sentiments about Dostoyevsky and other Russian writers is well expressed by P. G. Wodehouse in his novel Jill the Reckless:

No wonder Freddie [Rooke] experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a hard day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city reservoir, he turns to the cupboard only to find the vodka-bottle empty.

After expressing this sentiment to Dan, who has read Crime and Punishment seven times, he suggested I first read the novel lightly, going deep only in places.

Is anyone else in blog-land trudging through Crime and Punishment?

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I did work my way through Crime and Punishment last summer. It's an intriguing story, though definitely on the gray side. If I hadn't been told it was a great novel, I'm not sure I would have come to that conclusion on my own, but then I'm just an average guy, and not a literary connoisseur. I appreciated it more after reading some of Dostoyevsky's background.

I've found I need to read some novels more than once in order to truly "get" them, so maybe I'll give Crime and Punishment another try someday. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis is one such novel. Now that's a great novel! (and no one had to tell me). In fact, I think I'll read it again right now...

Kim Moreland

Good going Steve. My friend Dan says you need to read Crime and Punishment a number of times to really get it.

R Turner

I first read C&P when I was fifteen or sixteen; enjoyed it, but did not milk much from it. Then I re-read it for a college course a few years later. My second read was much more insightful than my first. Writing two papers on it made me even more a fan, so that I consider Dostoevsy my favorite novelist. C.S. Lewis said that the mark of an unliterary man is that he reads a book once and thinks he's covered it. I highly recommend multiple readings, and even study, of Dostoevsky's works (I'm piecing through Brothers Karamazov for the first time now, though).

Dan Sullivan

C&P is not light reading, but it IS accessible, more so than many of Dostoevsky's books. A second, or third (or seventh) reading helps, as does maintaining a steady pace and not getting bogged down. Anyway, it is (in many many people's mind) one of the greatest books ever written. My open question for the blog is "In what sense is it (or is it not) a Christian novel?" That is, is the gospel presented, implicitly or explicitly, in whole or in part?


I've never made it all the way through Crime & Punishment. I prefer The Brothers Karamozov.

Pinon Coffee

I had to read C&P for a college course, and fully expected to hate it--and wound up rather liking it.

It's more like a murder mystery than anything else I can think of, actually. It's good.

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