Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Foggy whiteout this morning, 67° and wet, 95%. 7H porch had rain last night, soaking cushions.

Every sunrise is different, and every sunset, close of day, some more extravagant than others, others, as above, simply closing peacefully with a hint of weather.

Yesterday to Tyndall for haircut (sir, how do you want it cut? short sides and tapered back. bzzzzzz bzzzzz bzzzzzzz bzz sir, do you want the back blocked or tapered? tapered, thanks. bzzzzzz bzz) no waiting, sometimes many airmen there, dependents, retired military like me, holding number tickets, but always goes fast. My longtime barber was Ira Sheffield, whose shop was next to the bus station on Harrison Avenue. Ira died some years ago. Just before Thanksgiving that year I went for a haircut, the shop was closed, and never reopened. A couple years later I googled Ira and found his obituary. He had a faithful clientele and knew us all. Once years ago, Walt went in there for a haircut, Ira recognized Walt as me (!) and from then on every time I went in, he asked me about my brother. I enjoyed Ira.

Forewarned: googling, one never knows whose obit will open and it can be a shock.

So anyway, down that trail, else yesterday my sabbatical Time was reading, what? googled and found a couple of students’ masters theses from years ago about holy fools and Dostoevsky: more incisive introductions than wikipedia or a book review. Have read and watched enough to perceive the holy fools in Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov, some short stories (Dostoevsky's short stories are not short, try "The Crocodile" and "Another Man's Wife") and as of yesterday, The Idiot. A novice with Dostoevsky, what gets me about him? The darkness. Hallways, passages, alleys, dark streets, steps, small rooms, bridges, stairways as places of transition, sometimes anticipatory, suspense, dread, hair-raising, the reader becoming part of the story and hoping against hope. And that Dostoevsky goes on and on, chapter after chapter, part after part. It’s supposedly sophisticated to read Dostoevsky, but the truth is, he wrote at such length because he was writing serial stories for newspaper, and he needed the money, and sometimes he himself didn’t know where the story was going. A masterful writer, something compelling the reader to go on to the next chapter, exactly like "The Edge of Night" and other afternoon television soap operas years ago. Same as Charles Dickens, also addictive newspaper serials where the reader can feel the oppressiveness of London and the bureaucracy and smell the debtors prison, with Dostoevsky the reader feels, senses and smells the mud, darkness, fear, threatening danger, filth and stench of St. Petersburg - -although so far, The Idiot is not outdoors but small groups of people talking inside (frankly their conversation can wear tedious). But the holy fool is obvious already: the poor but charming prince. The youngest brother. The prostituted daughter.

Dostoevsky does seem preoccupied with death, dying, certain anticipation of imminent death, execution, capital punishment; but naturally because as a young man condemned for political crime, he was in a line waiting to be shot, the friend in line in front of him was shot, just as a reprieve came from the czar. He was moments from death, experienced all the thoughts, fear, terror, of knowing that in five minutes, three minutes, two minutes he would no longer exist as all this life and world around him went on as though he never had been. Unlike others who don’t know when we will die, he’d been in that situation where he knew for absolute, without even the slight but nevertheless hope of a drowning man or a mortally wounded soldier, when death would strike. I’ve not read enough to know, but it seems to be an obsession with Dostoevsky, having been there will do that to a man.

Further to that, prominent so far in The Idiot is a painting by Hans Holbein, “The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb,” 

which apparently Dostoevsky, and his main character Prince Myshkin during his years in Switzerland, saw in Kunstmuseum Basel, and the prince a copy in the home of Rogozhin whose irredeemable darkness shows already in the opening train carriage conversation. Realistic, real, the painting is to me beyond grotesque. In particular, the head, face, eyes 

After walk this morning, I may read more. But already knowing the story, but I'll not read all of it, perhaps a bit and then Dostoevsky’s end with the prince and the evil one in the room with Nastassya’s murdered corpse, the idiot, the holy fool, going completely insane.

Why? Knowing I won't regret it, letting some sabbatical Time go on things I’ve meant to think, say, do, be. But to some extent, Dostoevsky's writing stirs similar feelings to Longfellow's poem "The Rainy Day."

DThos+ in Stoppage Time

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