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The Middle-Aged Man who Cried “Woolf”

September 25th, 2017

The Errors of my Youth Now Look Like Master Strokes

I finally finished Crime and Punishment, and that means I am done with the real jawbreakers of the Columbia Lit. Hum. reading list. It also means it’s time for me to unload on Dostoevsky.

Do I have to say it? This book is boring. Boredom seems to be the unifying trait of the Lit. Hum. selections. C&P isn’t nearly as boring as tedium titans like Don Quixote and The Iliad, but it holds its own.

People say Dostoevsky is a literary giant, and that this book is a masterpiece. Did we read the same book? I found C&P clumsy, poorly structured, improbable to the point of making suspension of belief impossible, long-winded, uninspired, and depressing.

Get ready for spoilers.

Raskolnikov, an empty, impoverished intellectual, decides he’s a super being. He is important, and the rest of us are insects. Accordingly, he decides to murder an old lady and rob her in order to support his studies. Then he’s too much of a wuss to deal with the fear of prosecution, so he goes insane temporarily and then, after about 3/4″ of needless tedium (as the bookworm crawls), he turns himself in and goes to Siberia.

The “P” part of C&P is around ten pages long. If you’re hoping to get insights on the Tsar’s penal system, from an author who lived in it, forget it.

One of the dumbest things about this book is the notion that a sociopath capable of murdering an old lady with a hatchet would be tormented by anxiety afterward. Real sociopaths blame their victims, society, white privilege, global warming, and God knows what else, and they don’t have a healthy person’s concerns about the consequences of their actions. The real Raskolnikovs go about their business without much distress, and many of them are never caught. That wouldn’t make a good story, though. I suppose it would be even worse than C&P.

This book is so unimportant as a life experience, I feel I would be cheating myself by spending a significant amount of time criticizing it. I’ve already been overcharged temporally. I don’t want to prolong the time-wasting.

When you read a really good work of literature, such as a Shakespeare play, you come across all sorts of memorable stuff. You find things you want to underline and memorize. Things resonate with you. Maybe you will find things that inspire you or change your outlook in a lasting way. No danger of that with Dostoevsky. C&P is a meaningless tale about a bunch of idiots who don’t have a clue about anything. Is it supposed to be a nihilist work? I can’t even tell. Surely there is a point to such pointlessness.

There isn’t one single admirable person in the book. There is no character you would consider capable of giving intelligent advice. There is no one in the book who I would want to know. Every character is a fool and a failure.

The last two books on the Lit. Hum. list are by Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. I consider one a whiny, victimhood-obsessed affirmative action case and the other a wretched, hopelessly conceited person who failed at existence. I’m going with William Golding for my next choice, and I can’t remember who comes after that. My blog has a search function, so I suppose I’ll find out what I chose.

Lord of the Flies is a much better book than C&P, because it’s under 200 pages long. If it were a pamphlet, it would be better still.

Has the Lit. Hum. list been a total waste of time? No. I learned a lot about the development of Western thought by reading the stuff that came before Cervantes. I got some historical perspective. Other than that, it has generally been a bad experience.

I can’t understand why people love these books. I see why we are forced to read many of them, but I think people who claim they enjoy them are full of it. I enjoyed Catch-22. I enjoyed Animal Farm, The Count of Monte Cristo, Cyrano de Bergerac, Voltaire, a bunch of the French poets, , D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, James Thurber, Antoine de St. Exupery, and a lot of other things I’ve read. Enjoying Homer is probably impossible.

People love to pretend they enjoy things they don’t. A lot of people pretend they enjoyed Ulysses, which is about as much fun as a twenty-hour dental cleaning. Me, I admit there are books I can’t stand. Think I’m stupid if it makes you happy. I am okay with that, because if you think I’m stupid, your opinion means nothing to me.

I may put Virginia Woolf back on the list. I just checked, and her book is only 200 pages. I know quality when I see it.

Yes, she’s back on the list. I checked some other options, and they’re way longer. Forget that.

I can’t believe how long it has taken me to read this garbage. These books, I mean. I thought I would breeze through it in two months, but the pain was just too much. I had to space it out. I started in the summer of 2016, and it is nearly fall, a year later. Surprising.

I thought I might go through Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization readings, too, but what if they’re just as horrible? Also, I don’t think Macchiavelli and Hobbes are going to have a major positive influence on me at this stage of my life.

Will this experience drive me to resume reading literature? No way. I don’t miss it at all. I may look at Shakespeare from time to time, and I will surely read a few other things, but I’m basically done with fiction. I got tired of it in my twenties, and Lit. Hum. reminded me why that happened. Lost, bitter people who don’t know God, making up unpleasant stories to justify their discontent. That’s most of literature, in a nutshell. You really have to pick and choose.

Now that I’ve read Crime and Punishment, I can’t wait to get out there and not read the rest of Dostoevsky’s works. My crime was refusing to do the reading when I took Lit. Hum. in college, and my punishment is nearly over. I don’t plan to become a recidivist.

Maybe I should study Columbia’s Art Hum. curriculum and learn to be glad I don’t care about art.

That’s it until I get started on Golding. No, Woolf. Whatever.

Time to go ride on the tractor while listening to Christian music and packing a 10mm.

3 Responses to “The Middle-Aged Man who Cried “Woolf””

  1. MXC Says:

    Because I don’t stalk you properly, I don’t know if you wrote a post about Lord of the Flies? I always loved that book, it’s a fast read, and fun, and it’s representative of society on the whole. For better or worse.

    Catch-22 is one of my favorites, I suppose it wouldn’t be enjoyable for a humorless type who pretends to like Ulysses. Or Crime and Punishment. I’ve suffered through much of this too.

    I never minded required Tony Morrison reading. At least it’s engaging,

  2. Ken Says:

    Other than a couple of Tom Clancy books, haven’t read fiction for 40+ years. There’s so much to read about things that actually happened, why waste time and effort with fairy tales?

    Truth is stranger than fiction. Another Catch 22 fan tho, I was draft bait at the time…

    All that required reading is directed at womyn and homosexuals; real men don’t do that kind of crap….but this is true of anything considered ‘art’.

    When the Guggenheim Art Museum did ‘The Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibit, it had the most attendance of anything they had ever done. The target audience was guys, real guys; no homos. Or womyn. When they had something guys liked, they showed up, I went to Las Vegas to see it.

    But real guys aren’t interested in screwing around with liberal arty kind of topics. They want those STEM courses….

  3. lateniteguy Says:

    Speaking of wolves, perhaps you would get a lot out of reading Wolves in the City: The Death of French Algeria by Paul Hennisart. It was published a few days before I was born and was based on a lot of interviews with the actual players back in 1970 who were still alive and angry. Understanding that interplay in the context of Soviet activities is eye-opening.

    Not the happiest story, but part of history.