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The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers
Ayn Rand, Tore Boeckmann, Leonard Peikoff
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Umberto Eco
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Virginia Woolf
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Edward Gibbon, Daniel J. Boorstin, Gian Battista Piranesi, Hans-Friedrich Mueller
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Douglas R. Hofstadter
Perfect Wrong Note - Learning to Trust Your Musical Self
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Niccolò Machiavelli
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Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy
G. Lee Bowie, Robert C. Solomon

The Brothers Karamazov (Pevear / Volokhonsky Translation)

The Brothers Karamazov (Pevear / Volokhonsky Translation) - There are so many potent scenes in the Brothers Karamazov it's hard to know where to even begin. One of my favorite parts was the dialog between the old man Karamazov and the Elder Zosima near the beginning of the book. Both argued so masterfully and with such humor that it was hard not to root for them both. I really didn't expect to find myself laughing out loud so much at anything by Dostoevsky. A taste of the humor:Blessed be the womb that bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck--the paps especially. When you said just now, 'Don't be so ashamed of yourself, for that is at the root of it all,' you pierced right through me by that remark, and read me to the core...If I had only been sure that every one would accept me as the kindest and wisest of men, oh, Lord, what a good man I should have been then! Teacher!" he fell suddenly on his knees, "what must I do to gain eternal life?"It was difficult even now to decide whether he was joking or really moved.Father Zossima, lifting his eyes, looked at him, and said with a smile:"You have known for a long time what you must do. You have sense enough: don't give way to drunkenness and incontinence of speech; don't give way to sensual lust; and, above all, to the love of money. And close your taverns. If you can't close all, at least two or three. And, above all--don't lie."Later in the book, the passions of the oldest Karamazov son, Dmitri, are wild and illogical, he goes from ecstatic to enraged in the same sentence but still his emotions are so real that I found myself going up with his ups and down with his downs. Alexei, his younger brother, is the perfect model of goodness and honesty and he constantly brings the good out in even the most base characters. Ivan is also passionate, but a man of the world and an atheist. The long poem he shares with Alexei is complex and full of angst and is masterfully juxtaposed against the religious life story of the elder, Zosima. Again, I found myself identifying immediately with two opposite world-views; Dostoevsky explains both so well that it is easy to be convinced. Smerdyakov, the fourth and illegitimate brother is the only one that I found it almost impossible to empathize with. He is physically weak but an intelligent schemer, vengeful and pessimistic... a thoroughly sordid character. The writing is beautiful. The book moves at its own pace, and from a smattering of perspectives. The only time I found it a little tedious was when the prosecutor gave his arguments near the end. That section seemed too drawn out and I think I partially disliked it just because it was so frustrating to read the truth being distorted so convincingly.Brothers Karamazov is definitely a Russian novel, full of philosophy, comments on society and pride for their country despite the prevalent suffering. It's a novel of the privileged, but unlike a lot of Victorian literature, it's no so far from the peasantry as to be unapproachable, not every character is overwhelmingly rich. Reading it makes me want to go to Russia. It makes me want to be Russian. They Russians are (or at least are portrayed as being) so naturally, so tragically philosophic, and to me, it's a beautiful thing.Here are a couple gems from Dmitri:"And I seem to have such strength in me now, that I think I could stand anything, any suffering, only to be able to say and to repeat to myself every moment, 'I exist.' In thousands of agonies--I exist. I'm tormented on the rack--but I exist! Though I sit alone on a pillar--I exist! I see the sun, and if I don't see the sun, I know it's there. And there's a whole life in that, in knowing that the sun is there."How could such passion not be contagious? Later, in a moment of feeling perhaps less excitement about existence Dmitri provides us with this insight:"God preserve you, my dear boy, from ever asking forgiveness for a fault from a woman you love. From one you love especially, however greatly you may have been in fault. For a woman--devil only knows what to make of a woman! I know something about them, anyway. But try acknowledging you are in fault to a woman. Say, 'I am sorry, forgive me,' and a shower of reproaches will follow! Nothing will make her forgive you simply and directly, she'll humble you to the dust, bring forward things that have never happened, recall everything, forget nothing, add something of her own, and only then forgive you. And even the best, the best of them do it. She'll scrape up all the scrapings and load them on your head. They are ready to flay you alive, I tell you, every one of them, all these angels without whom we cannot live!"All in good humor ;) Dmitri is a romantic at heart and like he says, they're "angels without whom we cannot live." I could quote for pages, but instead, I'll just say that I highly recommend The Brothers Karamazov. It's a reminder to live every moment and take nothing for granted. It's a testament to the value of life in a depraved world. It's a wonderful book.