Friday, July 28, 2006

Creepy Alyosha

I am on page 132 of The Brothers Karamazov. As you can tell, I have a long way to go in the book, and we will see whether my impressions are correct or not. But here's a temporary thought. While I am impressed with Alyosha, the "good guy," I am a little worried, too, that some earnest readers who are not basically like Alyosha, but who wish to emulate his good qualities, may not be able to because he seems to posess them inherently. In other words, I may wish to be Russian, but simply can't because, well, I wasn't born that way. Similarly, old Karamazov seems inherently reprehensible. I know that is all problematic in terms of existential choice, but really, this is how it currently looks.

My daughter, though not a prodigious pianist, shows some very respectable talent. For example, on her own she transposed the otherwise hopelessly perky "Alouette" into a minor key that sounds really awesome; she calls it "Creepy Alouette," I believe. Now, I'm not saying I prefer "creepy" things to cheerful things, but here's a tie to Alyosha. Alyosha "confesses" that he is capable of doing very bad things, and that he is a person subject to passions just as much as his brother, though he has not as yet taken more steps up the ladder. There is the choice element, but still and all, Aloysha's nature seems to be nicer to start with. He would be transposing himself, rather than living out a minor-key composed life.

What is the point of this? I guess it brings me to think of Jean Valjean. In him, I think we have a ho-hum guy who chooses (admittedly under very absurd circumstances, i.e., a rough social and penal structure--"When Valjean was judged, God was not there") to become hard, and then, under very gracious circumstances (the Bishop), choses to lead a compassionate, atoning life. In a word, can more people become Valjean than Alyosha?

You may at this point wonder why one would wish to emulate a literary character at all . . .

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Consider the Writings

Who would consider the lillies without being told? Who would read literature, or craft texts of literary quality, without an assignment or obligation to do so? Some would, sometimes. Perhaps many do many times. Doubtless the problem is personal; reading and writing and pondering lillies is hard work.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Some Temporary Last Words

Who wants the last word? It is the Southern joke about taking the last biscuit--how it simply must not be done. So wait until the lights go out.

I don't believe in last words; I subscribe to Faulkner's vision of man continuing to talk even if the world be destroyed.

Why do Faulkner's grand words appeal to me so?

I hope it is not the case of the doctor Zossima quotes in The Brothers Karamazov: "I love humanity, but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular . . . the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity."

Literature is about love and its failures. Auden's option is not a false dichotomy: "We must love each other or die."

Once a professor and I were discussing something about literature; I cannot remember exactly what. I suggested that reading literature made us better people. He came back with a statement of this spirit, if not these exact words: can you tell me then why people in this English department are so mean?

See Zossima above. Keep reading. Keep trying. I will.