Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Brothers Karamazov

Every couple of years I re-read Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.  This latest endeavor was for last night's book club, and neither of my compatriots had yet experienced this masterpiece.  I was so happy that everyone enjoyed this new translation, and the book remains my favorite of all time.

The plot of the novel centers around the life and family of the unsavory Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, a small-time swindler and the neglectful (at best) father of three legitimate - and probably one illegitimate - sons. None of the sons grew up in Fyodor's household, but they all return to their small hometown in the opening chapters.  Dmitri Fyodorovich is the oldest, and somewhat of a scoundrel himself.  He spent his youth wildly and irresponsibly, spending beyond his means, charming women, drinking and carousing.  Ivan Fyodorovich left his childhood home to attend school and never returned.  Alexei Fyodorovich, considered by the narrator to be the hero of this book, is young and saintly, living in a monastery as the book opens.

Fyodor makes an immediately unpleasant impression on the reader, who soon learns that there is a great deal of near-violent conflict between Fyodor and Dmitri, over both money and the love of a woman.  Tensions exist between each of the brothers as well, with the exception of Dmitri and Alexei.  And it isn't long before Fyodor is murdered in cold blood, with all suspicions falling on Dmitri.  The crime, the investigation and the trial are riveting; it is so modern that with a few tweaks (cars instead of troikas, for example) it could happen today.  As with any Russian novel, there are numerous sidelines and back stories and digressions, some of which are as poignant as the core action.

Whether because of this wonderful translation, or because I've read the book enough times the plot was familiar to me, I discovered quite a few new things this time around.  First of all, it's a small thing, but I hadn't realized that the name Karamazov translates quite literally into "black smear"; Dostoevsky does not hide that he intends this family to be doomed.  Second, this is a really funny book.  There are lines that made me laugh out loud (such as when the pious monastic Elder Zosima tells Fyodor, "Do not give yourself up to drunkenness and verbal incontinence."), and entire scenes that border on ridiculous.

Most notably, it was not until this re-read that I realized that the narrator is an important character in his own right.  He is never identified, though we can infer based on where he sits during the trial that he's a man of some importance in the town.  He is omniscient for all intents and purposes, but he is by no means impartial.  He says from the onset that Alexei is his hero; he speaks of Dmitri's impending downfall from the beginning; and he peppers his narrative with unnecessary clauses or fixates on a word for a page or two without every using it again.  This drove a great deal of criticism when Brothers K was published, but it adds a truly fascinating layer to the story.

I stand by my assertion that this is the best book ever written.  If you have never read it, procrastinate no longer!

Next up: For book club, Easter Island, which was written by Jennifer Vanderbes, a college friend of mine.  I'm also going to squeeze in Herzog by Saul Bellow before starting that one.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The word on the Street

Can you believe Sesame Street is just launching into its 41st season?  The Bug is now an huge fan in her own right, which is pretty cool since I loved it when I was a kid.  Plus, I could always credit my strong Spanish proficiency entering college to the giant clam ("Abierto.... Cerrado!").

A new season began on Monday, and the sneak peeks I've seen on You Tube are pretty excellent.  I'm probably not the toughest critic at this point, though, because I think I know every word of season 40 and I am really ready for some new material.  Anyway, here's a strong contender for second best song of the year, by from the Black Eyed Peas:

Friday, September 24, 2010


Apparently Aunt Jessie has found a state that, in her opinion, rivals Colorado for natural beauty: the big sky country of Montana.  She was in Glacier national Park for a good friend's wedding, and wrote to the Bunny and the Bug that she hopes to take them hiking here someday:

I only hope to be invited along - I've never been there, and it looks stunning!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Battle of wills

The Bunny got a big ole ear infection a couple of weeks ago, which made her downright miserable.  She would cry and whimper all night long, so Joker or I would pick her up and comfort her, but she wouldn't want to be put back into her crib.  So we made the total rookie mistake of bringing her into bed with us.  Every night.  And usually more than once.  We were jackasses.

After a couple of weeks of truly terrible sleep - by us; she was completely content - we decided it had to happen.  She was going back in the crib.  Period.  All night long.  Whatever it took.  Tuesday night, the battle of wills began.  I am happy to say that in the end, Joker and I did prevail.  But it took two hours of back-rubbing, soft cooing.  (I admittedly suffered from a moment of weakness after about 1 1/2 hours of this ordeal, shouting to Joker "Just pick her up!"  To which he replied, "Turn off the monitor and stop listening!")  I have no idea how she could *seem* completely asleep, and yet begin to wail the second I left the room.  It was with pride, though, that I barely even had to comfort her last night - two small cries, I didn't even pick her up, and I was out of her room in less than five minutes.  With luck, her sleeping all night is back on track.

In other news, apparently we've been feeding her Beetlejuice for a week or so.  How gross is that?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My New York City

Like just about every other New Yorker I know, I still have visceral feelings about September 11.  I remember every excruciating detail about that day and those that followed.  I still feel angry that people would damage the fabric of this city so deeply, but every anniversary of that tragedy reminds me of how much I love New York. 

I brought my camera into work on Friday morning.  I'd hoped to go to the top of the Empire State Building as a way to thumb my nose at people who want to drive airplanes into skyscrapers, but the cloudy skies would have virtually eliminated the view.  Instead, I took some photos of the surrounding area - things that I see almost every day.  Here's a little glimpse into my daily New York.

Chrysler Tower over the South Facade of Grand Central Terminal
Patience (or maybe Fortitude) guarding the New York Public Library
Top of the Empire State Building reflected in a building on W. 37th Street
Tribute to industry, Herald Square
Empire State Building
Greeley Square