Hi! I have been very scattered with this blog, and for that I apologize. It’s been a weird (but wonderful!) couple of reading weeks. I also just love being outside in the summer, meaning I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like reading. My pace has slowed considerably.
If you’ll recall, my last trio’s theme was short story collections. I finished my third of those and it was THE GREATEST. And I finished two other books, which I can’t really talk about… yet. How mysterious! Just kidding, that’s annoying, but I actually can’t discuss either of them in detail. I’m including them though, because – while they may be under wraps now – they are still books, and they’ll be published and available-for-purchase books someday very soon! I’ll give vague details.
Book #42 was The Eternal Husband & Other Stories by the incredible Fyodor Dostoevsky. I am very transparent about my obsession with Russian literature, so it will come as no surprise that I loved this short story collection. I don’t know what it is about those Russians. They just get it. Like, all of it. They are born with an innate understanding of everything that life entails. I’m convinced.
This collection was made up of 5 stories – 2 of which I had read before for a class in college. The stories were: “A Nasty Anecdote,” “Bobok,” “The Meek One,” “The Eternal Husband,” and “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.” I had previously read “The Meek One” and “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.” Both were just as good upon rereading.
“A Nasty Anecdote” was painfully funny and satirical, about a man getting drunk with his colleagues, walking home, and deciding to stop in on one of his employees’ wedding celebration with close friends and family. It was awkward and hilarious and made me cringe and laugh at once.
“Bobok” was also a bit less serious, about a man who drifts off to sleep in a cemetery only to hear the voices of the various dead people below him, as they argue and decide to spend the rest of their “lives” (built-up life matter that remains in a corpse anywhere from 2 months to a year after death) “living” free of shame. The narrator at one point interrupts the bodies’ discussions and they fall silent.
The other 3 stories were more serious, and shed more light on the human experience. “The Meek One” is a tragic, bitter story about a man who is simultaneously self-conscious, defensive, and narcissistic about his position in life. He marries a very young woman who’s been visiting his pawn shop. Sorry for the spoiler, but she commits suicide at the end of the story, and the man is unable to see past his own ego to see his fault in the entire matter.
“The Eternal Husband” was a really, really great story. I would read a 500-page book about the characters Dostoevsky created in this story. It’s about the relationship formed between two men: one who is recently widowed after his wife dies and one who had an affair with said dead wife while she was still alive and married to the newly-widowed. It was genius.
And last but not least, “The Dreams of a Ridiculous Man.” This was a beautiful story about a man (I wish I kept better track of all these “man” names, that would be easier to distinguish story from story…) who falls asleep and has a very realistic dream/vision about a perfect world, uncorrupted by violence or pain or jealousy or greed or any of the base human conditions that worsen a population. Said dreaming man then corrupts this entire population: he introduces greed and rank and status, war and violence, deception and selfishness.
He wakes up only to find himself changed, and he continues for the rest of his life preaching about this dream, believing the world that he dreamed of is possible to attain once again. This story felt sadly relevant today – especially as I was finishing the book up on July 5th – as violence against black people in America reaches a breaking point. It isn’t too much of a stretch to say the world is falling apart, and I’m not above placing my faith in the dream of a ridiculous (wo)man to help fix it.
That got oddly political, but if you like Russian literature, short stories, or reading the words of a 200-year-dead-man that articulate feelings and situations that you never knew you related to, then I would recommend this collection.
I took on the theme of short stories because that’s a genre I don’t read as often. This helped open my eyes to the beauty of the short story, and the skill it takes to create characters and a situation that readers are able to immediately invest in.
The other books: book #43 was a memoir written by a female athlete who is amazing. It comes out in September. I devoured it. Everyone read it even though you don’t know what it is yet.
Book #44 was written by my amazing cousin (who is actually like… a second cousin once removed, or something. I call her my cousin). Her name is Annie Westphal and she’s amazing. Check out her blog here. I read her book because I’m editing it! So far, working with her has been a wonderful adventure. She plans to self-publish, and the book is tentatively called Annabelle. That’s all I’m saying for now.
YAY for: 1) amazingly talented family members who trust me to edit their baby 2) inspirational women/kickass athletes and 3) Russian writers. ◊