Confessions of an Inattentive Reader
I’ve tried to read The Brothers Karamazov (Братья Карамазовы) four times and failed. I’ve read the first 100 pages each time, and each time become distracted. As a person who wishes to be considered a member of the well-educated literati, this is most unfortunate. As one with formal studies in history and philosophy, an embarrassment. As one with a rather unfortunate history as a tortured-soul-up-and-coming-theologian (you know the type, whose only claim on Dostoevsky is to have read The Grand Inquisitor a dozen times), this is an abject personal failure.
I love reading philosophy, especially the more syllogistic, analytic type. I appreciate brevity in prose and dryness in wit…I’d be a perfect INTJ snob if only I had the money and a tenured professorship. =) Yet despite my fervent desire not to be an the subject of spot-on satire from The Onion, nonetheless I struggle to read dense fiction.
I’m not sure in what proportion to blame nature or nurture. My problem is 19th-century prose, saturated as it is with sprawling sentences of hubristic syntax and playful metaphor. The sheer ostentatious indulgence of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Dickens, et al, is at once off-putting and sublime. When I’m able to actually sit down and read it – decluttering my mind from Facebook, email, the chatter of political blogs, and my still inexplicable desire to create fantasy transit maps, I experience a fleeting transcendence that I deeply wish I had the patience to endure.
So this is my 5th attempt at TBK, and I’m on page 25 out of 776. Maybe publicizing my previous failures will compel me to complete perhaps the world’s best novel by force of guilt and social pressure. Hey, whatever works.