Thursday, September 25, 2008
Experiences slightly like getting hit by a truck
1) Watching Hotel Rwanda
2) Reading Crime and Punishment
4) Getting hit by a car
5) Noticing that your closest friend is not only a violent fascist but intends to fully pickle himself in alcohol before the night is out.
So. . . here's the thing about reading Dostoevsky, or at least Crime and Punishment. As far as I can tell, there are three options; you can try to stonewall it and not feel anything, you can take it tongue in cheek, or you can read the whole thing literally and let the melodrama of it sweep you into its world.
I have a bit of a problem with taking things literally, so naturally my first reading was all about this third approach. . . hence, slightly like getting hit by a truck.
Lately I've been introduced a little into how the rest of the radical left carries its self. Some are just bitter and/or delusional; a few are very well read and insightful. Among the many ideas I'm not particularly familiar with yet is that socialism is the next stage in some sort of natural progressive order, to succeed our present system just as capitalism replaced monarchy.
It occurs to me that some people have a kind of literalist-Dostoevsky approach to the world; they see all the wrongs that come of this stage in that "historical order" in vivid detail, perhaps even exaggerated, but as a matter of perspective, not dishonesty. They walk the streets and meet a man whose family is starving, and over the course of a thousand pages they watch helplessly from a very slightly less precarious position as that family--and the various exceedingly human individuals in it--continue in their abject poverty until they are mercilessly crushed by the system in which they've no choice but to exist.
They experience all this in a sort of vivid technicolor detail, and for them life is rather like getting hit by a truck. I go through stages of being this kind of person, but most of the time I've only a relatively blunted underlaying awareness. Still, the awareness is there, and the emotional-truck people are impossible to discredit. After all, the world is much more full of Marmeladovs--people whose lives actually, rather than emotionally, resemble being hit by a truck; perhaps the world is a lot like Fyodor saw it after all.