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10 October 2010 @ 10:16 pm
what I did on my holidays: #37 through #44  
Shoved into one post to spare thy flists.

(What can I say, I have a boring life.)

Crime and Punishment, Feodor Dostoevsky

This story starts off promisingly, with a mentally deranged dude named Raskolnikov contemplating, and then committing, murder with an axe. It goes downhill pretty quickly from there, as he wanders about the streets of St Petersburg - well, one street - lamenting the fact that he's not Napoleon and alienating everyone he ever knew. I have absolutely no idea why Razumikhin put up with him - once Dunya came on the scene, yes, but he had no motive beforehand except a strange liking for assholes.

I pretty much wanted to strangle everyone by the end of it, including Dostoevsky who is, most unfortunately, ALREADY DEAD. But the most annoying character would have to be Porfiry, for his endless pages of weird monologues wherein he contradicts himself to no purpose. Worst detective ever.

They demand complete impersonality, they find the highest enjoyment in it! If one could only not be oneself, if one could be less like oneself in everything! That is what they consider to be the most complete progress.

Creepy. Better get drunk and stay drunk, Razumikhin.

Svidrigaylov was the most interesting of the lot, in that he had something to say and appeared to experience genuine emotions, such as loving Dunya. So of course having him shoot himself in front of a horrified witness was the best possible outcome! ... what.

No, better stay in your own country; here at least one can blame somebody else for everything and find excuses for oneself.

Eternity is always presented to us as an idea which it is impossible to grasp, something enormous, enormous! But why should it necessarily be enormous? Imagine, instead, that it will be one little room, something like a bath house in the country, black with soot, with spiders in every corner, and that that is the whole of eternity. I sometimes imagine it like that, you know."

"But surely, surely, you can imagine something juster and more comforting than that!" exclaimed Raskolnikov, painfully moved.

"Juster? For all we know, that may be just; and, you know, I would certainly make it like that, deliberately!" answered Svidrigaylov, with a vague smile.


In my opinion, that is, according to my personal conviction, it is the most normal condition for a woman. Why not? I mean to say, distinguons. In our present society it is not, of course, entirely normal, because it is forced on her, but in future it will be completely normal, because freely chosen. And even now she had the right to act as she did; she was suffering, and that was her stock, so to speak, her capital, wihch she had a perfect right to dispose of.

Oh, Sonya. There is a name for women like you, but prostitute isn't it. A prostitute might have more self-respect than to go chasing a sociopath like Raskolnikov across Siberia, ffs. I liked the eerieness of the presentiment here, something contemporary readers undoubtedly did NOT feel - they were probably disgusted. 100 years before the sexual revolution, at that! Although I draw the line at prostitution being 'the most normal' condition for women.

Did I murder the old woman? I killed myself, not that old creature! There and then I murdered myself at one blow, forever! ... but it was the devil who killed the old hag, not I..."


"You talked to her about tubercles?"

"Well, not exactly. Besides, she wouldn't have understood. But what I mean is this: if you convince a man logically that he has nothing to cry for, he will stop crying. That's clear. Or don't you think he will stop?"

"That would make living too easy," said Raskolnikov.

My copy was a Norton edition, which I've come to understand always contains dreary essays for students. It made me rightly thankful that I never studied literature; I might have to pretend to like shit like this. I did come across one gem, though (skimming; the essays were nearly more painful than the book, and that's saying something):

doestoevshchina - a derogatory term describing an undesirable mode of behaviour - deliberately difficult, hysterical or perverse OR excessive and morbid preoccupation with one's own psychological processes


The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard

Funny, whimsical and moving - and literally about the invention of love, the word, the poetry, the meaning. Tom Stoppard is just so clever, and knows so much, yet presents it in such a light and careless way. "Oh yes, I know scads about AE Housman's life of literary criticism - don't you?" Not to mention it was about boylove, and Oxford, two subjects very dear to my heart.

Housman I will take his secret to the grave, telling people I meet on the way. Betrayal is no sin if it's whimsical.


Ruskin When I am at Paddington I feel I am in hell.

Jowett You must not go about telling everyone, Dr Ruskin. It will not do for the moral education of Oxford undergraduates that the wages of sin may be no more than the sense of being stranded at one of the larger railway stations.


AEH Confronted with two manuscripts of equal merit, [Franken] is like a donkey between two bundles of hay, and confusedly imagines that if one bundle were removed he would cease to be a donkey.


'But this unlucky love should last
When answered passions thin to air.'

Did you send them to Jackson, the ones you didn't put in your book?


Chamberlain Saving them till you're dead?

AEH It's a courtesy. Confession is an act of violence against the offending.


Wilde [...] Art cannot be subordinate to its subject, otherwise it is not art but biography, and biography is the mesh through which our real life escapes. I was said to have walked down Piccadilly with a lily in my hand. There was no need. To do it is nothing, to be said to have done it is everything. It is the truth about me. Shakespeare's Dark Lady probably had bad breath - everyone did until my third year at Oxford - but sincerity is the enemy of art. This is what Pater taught me, and what Ruskin never learned. Ruskin made a vice out of virtue.

Wilde The betrayal of one's friends is a bagatelle in the stakes of love, but the betrayal of oneself is a lifelong regret. Bose is what became of me. He was spoiled, vindictive, utterly selfish and not very talented, but these are merely the facts. The truth is he was Hyacinth when Apollo loved him, he is ivory and gold, from his red rose-leaf lips comes music that fills me with joy, he is the only one who understands me. "Even as a teething child throbs with ferment, so does the soul of him who gazes upon the boy's beauty; he can neither sleep at night nor keep still by day," and a lot more besides, but before Plato could describe love, the loved one had to be invented. We would never love anybody if we could see past our invention. Bosie is my creation, my poem. In the mirror of invention, love discovered itself.

And I loved his Wilde, although ... what he said about 'inventing' the person you love? It made me feel a little uncomfortable, a little too much like that's really true. I don't want that to be true.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard

This is an A-level text. I can see why. I can also tell that it was written in the 1970s. There's something about literature from that decade that is as obvious as orange wallpaper and bouffant hair.

There's waaaaaaaaaaaay too much standing around by Guil and Ros as they lament 'what are we doing? Why are we here?' - I mean, dude. That's what you're supposed to tell US. It reminds me of those giveaways in writing where the writer gets stuck and the character shows it: "Susie had no idea why they were saying so many strange things" etc.

Guil -- Suicidal -- hm? Maidens aspiring to godheads --

Ros And vice versa --

Very Shakespearean humour!

Guil We only know what we're told, and that's little enough. For all we know it isn't even true.

Player For all anyone knows, nothing is. Everything has to be taken on trust; truth is only that which is taken to be true. It's the currency of living. There may be nothing behind it, but it doesn't make any difference so long as it is honoured. One acts on assumptions. What do you assume?

10% of life is what happens to you, the other 90% is how you react to it ...?

Ros [...] Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one, in childhood when it first occurred to you that you don't go on forever. It must have been shattering - stamped into one's memory. And yet I can't remember it. It never occurred to me at all. What does one make of that? We must be born with it, an intuition of mortality. Before we know the words for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling with the knowledge that for all the compasses in the world, there's only one direction, and time is its only measure.

Tom Stoppard makes me think weird thoughts. I didn't like this play, though. I assumed they were already dead? Because they had no recollection of the past? But they weren't? Eh.

Love's Shadow, Ada Leverson

I am really enjoying Golden Age fiction, I have to say! It's probably my favourite time in history: so much hope, so much change, no wars yet to ruin it.

This was the story of a girl called Hyacinth, the boy she loves, the woman he loves, and her friends the Ottleys, who are a bit ... special. In other words, Edith puts up with her husband, Bruce, being what in modern parlance we'd call emotionally abusive. She lets him get away with murder. For some reason I see a lot of this in the hospital - sweet little old wives apologising for their pigs of husbands - and it just makes me tired. There's no point in being sweet and kind if you allow your other half to be a pig to everyone. You're just being a pig by proxy then. No dice.

It was very witty, though, in fairness! Although the end was unpalatably abrupt.

She was feeling rather tired. She had spent several hours in the nursery that day, pretending to be a baby giraffe with so much success that Archie had insisted upon countless encores, until, like all artists who have to repeat the same part too often, she felt the performance was becoming mechanical.

"Anne, really tonight there were one or two little things taht made me think he is beginning to like me. I don't say he's perfect; I daresay he has his faults. But there's something I like about his face. I wonder what it is?"
" I know what it is, he's very good-looking," said Anne.

"Does he seem to show any particular bent for anything? I suppose hardly - yet?"
"Well, he's very fond of soldiers," said Edith.
"Ah!" said Mr Ottley approvingly; "what we want for empire-building is conscription. Every fellow ought to be a soldier some time in his life. It makes men of them" - he glanced round rather contemptously - "it teaches them discipline."
"I don't mean," said Edith hastily, "that he wants to be a soldier. But he likes playing with them. He takes them to bed with him. It is as much as I can do to keep him from eating them."
"The angel!" said Mrs Ottley.

The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov

The thing is, this play - about a family in ruin having to sell their beloved estate, while one daughter of the family throws herself away on a proselytising proto-Bolshevik and another loves a peasant who's in love with her own mother, herself a slave to a French hypochondriac - was billed as a comedy. A comedy! The only thing funny about it is that anyone ever thought it could possibly be humorous.

PISHCHIK. [...] My late father, god rest him, was a great joker, and he used to say our ancestors, the original Simeonov-Pishchiks, were all descended from Caligula's horse, the one he made a senator.

... oh, I suppose that's rather lol.

The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

The short little introduction to this book was by A.A. Milne, and I read it because it was short. He basically said that if you don't like this you are a loser ("But it is you who are on trial") and apparently don't deserve to inherit money? Well, thank god I have an independent income is all I say, because this SUCKED.

"What is hasn't got is not worth having, and what it doesn't know is not worth knowing.

DUDE. It's a bunch of water. It doesn't have anything, except rusted shopping trolleys, and nor is it able to reason or think.

"Toad," she said presently, "just listen, please. I have an aunt who is a washerwoman."
"There there," said Toad, graciously and affably, "never mind; think no more about it. I have several aunts who ought to be washerwomen."

Toad is fun! But he's constantly being held up as some kind of moral warning (... don't drive cars?) and it's dull.

"Oh, I have girls," said Toad lightly, "twenty girls or thereabouts, always at work. But you know what girls are, ma'am! Nasty little hussies, that's what I call 'em!"
"So do I, too!" said the barge-woman with great heartiness. "But I daresay you set yours to rights, the idle trollops!"

And now we get to the meat of it! A story which has no female protagonists, not one - I guess everyone reproduces by binary fission - slates what little female presence there is with utter callous viciousness. Twenty girls who are 'always at work' are also hussies and trollops?! And this same bargewoman is taunted by Toad - because she's FAT. Not because of her failings of character or difference of opinion (i.e., the horse belonging to her is hers), but because of her APPEARANCE. Later Ratty berates Toad for letting himself get thrown in the river 'by a woman'. OH NOES, WHAT WORSE FATE COULD BEFALL A MAN/ANIMAL/DISTURBING ANTHROMORPHIC COMBINATION OF THE TWO?

Should have stuck to banking, Kenneth.

Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

Oh, but this was charming and delightful and a little bit morbid. I loved it dearly.

Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John's, for instance, had a lagoon with flamingos flying over it at which John was shooting, while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it.

Totally surreal. I think J.M. Barrie would have loved Dylan Moran.

Michael should have used it also; but Wendy would have a baby, and he was the littlest, and you know what women are, and the long and the short of it is that he was hung up in a basket.

"What's a mother?" asked the ignorant Smee.
Wendy was so shocked that she exclaimed, "He doesn't know!" and always after this she felt that if you could have a pet pirate Smee would be her one.


The couch, as she always called it, was genuine Queen Mab, with club legs; and she varied the bedspreads according to what fruit-blossom was in season. Her mirror was a Puss-in-boots, of which there are now only three, unchipped, known to the fairy dealers; the wash stand was Pie-crust and reversible, the chest of drawers an authentic Charming the Sixth, and the carpet and rugs of the best (the early) period of Margery and Robin.

AN AUTHENTIC CHARMING THE SIXTH! Now I want so many stories about Neverland and how it's next door to Fairytale Land...

"Seventeen," Slightly sang out; but he was not quite correct in his figures. Fifteen paid the penalty for their crimes that night; but two reached the shore: Starkey to be captured by the redskins, who made him nurse for all their papooses, an melancholy come-down for a pirate; and Smee, who henceforth wandered about the world in his spectacles, making a precarious living by saying he was the only man that James Hook had feared.

... and how later on Peter met Smee and Starkey, and they tumbled accidentally into the Real World, where Peter couldn't help being sixteen and Starkey was a strange combination of gentle motherliness (papooses!) and dastardly daring (pirate!) and Smee was Smee...

There were odd stories about him; as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened.

He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.

I thought it was sad and perfect that Peter forgot Wendy so completely and everyone died.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2010:
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, Anton Chekhov | I'll take you there, Joyce Carol Oates | Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides ♥ | The School for Husbands, Moliere | On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks | The Famished Road, Ben Okri | Lord of the Flies, William Golding | Moby Dick, Herman Melville | A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway | Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell ♥ | The Sea, the Sea, Irish Murdoch ♥ ♥ | Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad | Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy | The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman | The Sea, John Banville | paddy clarke ha ha ha, Roddy Doyle | The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough ♥ | The Godfather, Mario Puzo ♥ | The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman | Possession, A.S. Byatt ♥ ♥ ♥ | Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales | The Mysteries of Pittsburg, Michael Chabon | Dragon Haven, Robin Hobb, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon ♥, Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby, Life of Pi, Yann Martel | Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier | At Swim, Two Boys, Jamie O'Neill ♥ | The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt | Un Dun Lun, China Mieville | Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel &hearts | This Book Will Save Your Life, A.M. Homes | Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons ♥ ♥ | Whose Body?, Dorothy L. Sayers
Current Music: love love love // the mountain goats (of COURSE)
girl; obsessed: * glasses in b&wcomplications_g on October 10th, 2010 09:51 pm (UTC)
I had no idea The Wind in the Willows was so faily. :\ I have such fond memories from my childhood, for some reason. And I can't seem to remember if the movie was any better.

I hate emotional abuse so much, and it's so sad to witness.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on October 10th, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC)
Well, at least you pass AA Milne's test! It's probably one of those books that does not get better with (your) age. And I was never very interested in talking animals to begin with, excepting cats.
girl; obsessed: disney - french kittyscomplications_g on October 10th, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
...Yay? I have no idea what that is.

&Cats; The Aristocats is still one of my favourite disney movies.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on October 10th, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, in the intro he basically said that reading and liking TWITW was a test of your moral fortitude, or something. Go you!

I remember crying at All Dogs Go to Heaven ... mainly because there were no cats. ;P
girl; obsessed: misc - black kittycomplications_g on October 10th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, ok, awesome!

Lol. :D
the claw-foot Ladysoftlyforgotten on October 10th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
Man, I agree with all of these thoughts SO HARD. (Except for The Wind In The Willows, but my dad read that to me when I was Very Small so I think I may be biased.

But oh my god, The Invention of Love, most heartbreaking and beautiful in the world (sometimes I have days that I go through mumbling "at night I hold you fast in my dreams, I run after you across the Fields of Mars, I follow you into the tumbling waters, and you show no pity," oh GOD), and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern felt clever to me but ultimately missing that emotional depth that other Stoppard has, and Crime and Punishment is the WORST BOOK IN THE WORLD. Seriously, on my list of hated books, it beats even Twilight.

To die will be an awfully big adventure♥
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on October 10th, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I feel that way about Dawn Treader - apparently people's most hated of the Narnia series! It feels like the start of my life! So I won't judge. :D

I liked him better as the dried up, sour, sad old man with one beautiful spot in his life, forever tarnished by the fact that he, like Wilde, invented someone better than the reality. R&G, well, I think my mom studied it at school, so. And I'm very much put off reading any more Dostoevsky! Then again I am not a hippie in the 70s so I'll probably be okay.

(I was kind of sad to discover that 'Never is a very long time' is not, in fact, in the book!)
Margravine Palavar: this is an outragemargravine on October 11th, 2010 02:20 am (UTC)
People hate Dawn Treader? Bastards! I love that book!
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on October 11th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
cleodoxacleodoxa on October 10th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
There's a couple of sequels to Love's Shadow (I'm not sure they're in print) in which Edith ends up with someone who is not Bruce. I found him a bit annoying too, actually, but at least he wasn't Bruce. I did like how the author is quite sly and ironic about it but makes it quite obvious how way too good Edith is for her husband.

The Wind in the Willows was one of those books I had around and poked at every now and and was never sure I'd read all the way through. I always suspected that if I had I'd have better grounds for my vague dislike and it sounds like I would have. Reading-wise there's not much worse than a book with a moral you disagree with.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Marie Antoinettescoradh on October 10th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
I actually saw that on the flyleaf, or anyway somewhere in the book. Oh yes, all those times he says are you smiling at me? like how dare she take that gross liberty. Do you know what happened about Anne? I meant to say, except for it being written in 1905, I could have sworn up and down there was supposed to be gay subtext between her and Hyacinth. Then again Ada and Oscar were beffies, so who knows ...?

I'm trying to get through Britain's 100 Favourite Reads, or 100 Books Everyone Has Read, as well as various other lists ... and Willows is on it. In fairness there's no actual moral I disagree with in it, so much as the whole ethos it seems to encapsulate, of 'simple hearty pleasures' that involve going outside far too much, and that money is a Bad Thing that should be kept at a distance or it will Ruin you. Give me the Rats of Nimh any day.
cleodoxacleodoxa on October 10th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I thought she might well have been hinting Anne had a thing for Hyacinth. But they don't appear again.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on October 11th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
Aw, shame!
(Deleted comment)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Bollywoodscoradh on October 11th, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
I found it in the Beatnik bookshop in Oxford, but it's by no means an old copy or anything. It's published by Bloomsbury if that helps.

I didn't notice much aristocratic hoo-ha in Willows; in fact the whole point seemed to be that they lived very much the Arts&Crafts ideal life. But I would totally buy Rat and Mole being the gayest of gay lovers! Rat is so very obliging to Mole that it has to be coming back to him SOMEHOW. :D

When I was looking for Stoppard's plays in Cork, the dude I'm friendly with in Waterstones told me not to bother reading them as they don't make sense offstage. That's all well and good except they aren't performed anywhere I could go see them (good thing I ended up going to so many bookshops in Oxford is all I say).
lokifanlokifan on October 11th, 2010 09:54 pm (UTC)
PETER PAN FTW! I love Stoppard, too.