Tuesday, October 27, 2015

152. The Devils

The Devils (apparently also called The Possessed or The Demons)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
1872
Around 700 pages












I feel like this book took me FOREVER to finish, but my last post was on October 7th, so I suppose it wasn't that long ago.  I also read a couple of books in between Erewhon and this as well.  I know I am bragging, but if you slogged through this disasterpiece, you would be bragging too.

Man, this was confusing.  Russian novels are always a bit confusing for me.  Everyone seems to go by three different names, each one longer than the last.  However, this one in particular completely baffled me.  Characters that I thought were dead would appear later and I am ninety percent sure it wasn't supposed to be a twist. Also, based on my understanding, several characters died twice.  This is embarrassing, but I was even confused by the Wikipedia plot synopsis.  I won't blame Dostoyevsky for this, as I probably wasn't paying enough attention.  But isn't it the job of the author to make me want to pay attention?

Basically, Nikolai Stavrogin (because of course his name has to be Nikolai) is a handsome aristocrat who is involved with several scandals.  Is that broad enough?  Is he even considered the main character?  Thank god the 1001 Gods don't make you take a test on this.

Like I said, horribly confusing and very dull.  I found myself unable to pick it up for days at a time.  All of the females are reduced to fainting ninnies and all of the men seemed to have a few screws loose.  Only one more Dostoyevsky left and I am afraid we will never be able to recapture the magic that was The Idiot.

RATING: *---- (feeling especially harsh today!)

Interesting Facts:

This has nothing to do with Dostoyevsky, but I visited Dublin last weekend!  While I was there, I was able to visit the Writers Museum.  I wouldn't exactly recommend it, since it didn't seem to possess a lot of interesting artifacts, just a lot of information about Irish authors.  However, thanks to The List, I saw some familiar faces in the displays, like Maria Edgeworth, James Joyce (ugh), Oliver Goldsmith, and Jonathan Swift!  Irish literature hasn't impressed me that much so far, but I still had a fun visit.

UP NEXT: In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

151. Erewhon

Erewhon
Samuel Butler
1872
Around 250 pages












I was not looking forward to this book in the slightest.  The description makes it sound like a rather dull reimagining of Gulliver's Travels and we all know how I feel about Jonathan Swift.  And by "all" I mean my mother.

Our narrator stumbles upon Erewhon, a nation with rather backward principles.  They try people in court for contracting illnesses and believe machines to be evil.  Of course, our narrator comes across a hot native and decides to escape with her.  The author is more concerned about describing the Erewhon nation (and thereby criticizing Victorian society) than laying out much of a plot.

Obviously by now, the idea of finding beauty in a society that initially seems stunted is a bit of a cliche. I didn't exactly hate it, but I didn't find the country of Erewhon to be nearly as interesting as the narrator wanted me to.  I always want a good story, not merely observations.  The love story seemed like it was thrown together to give this book some semblance of a plot, but I wasn't buying it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Praised by George Orwell.

Was published anonymously and sold extremely well.  It was generally believed that the author was a famous person, like Lord Lytton.

UP NEXT: The Devils by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  This is the last Dostoevsky novel on the List and he is going out with a 800 page bang.