February 11th, 2014 / 5:20 pm
Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes & Events & Haut or not & Random


…but then got ran over by a bus and died. No im totally kidding! but you really did get the flu and couldn’t join me.

The talk was at Housing Works, and it included two other speakers: David Gordon and Michael Kunichika.Your expectations were unclear: talk about Russian writers who, though they left us long ago, remain potent presences for readers and writers today. From Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to Vasily Grossman and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, we’ll learn about obsession, madness, realism, fables, and more, in an event with all the drama and pathos (well, at least some of the drama and pathos) of the great Russian novels themselves.


Here are all the texts I would have sent you, in chronological order and without clarifying who said what, because color-coordinating via SMS goes a step too far:

truth-seeking urgency intrinsic in russian lit

antithesis to beckett & writers who focused extensively on beauty of language

falling in love w/ english language, less plot driven urgency

dostoevsky similar to conrad in terms of truth-seeking urgency

multivocality of dostoevsky

there is no right, just different truths

dostoevsky threw the best literary parties (metaphorically speaking, as a creator)

proust s parties were too long, and maybe the guests were wearing better clothes

abstract psychological curiosity in motives, including abnormalities–>russian approach

going in depth for big questions, characters not being introverted

serialization of lengthy works, such as ‘war & peace,’ adds towards creating a broader debate. they become part of the broader debates occurring during their time

some compare the creation of microcosms of russian lit to ‘the wire’

comparing to british office, where they look at the camera at moments of despair but the viewer cannot do anything to help // to embarrasing dostoevsky characters

nabokov disliked dostoevsky for his “bad writing”

dostoevsky had a v diff approach to writing from nabokov: almost got executed literally, then was told he had another five years

that is also why dostoevsky did not pursue inanimate writing, unlike tolstoy (?)

nabokov didn t like music!

neither did dostoevsky !! (probably diff reasons)

saul bellow s ‘dean of december’–>similar urgency in truth-seeking (someone from the audience)

can reading a book be so vivid it appears like a different life?

if yes, it depends on willingness of writers to go to great lengths in creating characters who go too far, embarrass themselves/ are visceral

perhaps a key element that helps bring about the urgent truth-seeking: religion s role for the writers

religion, like their fiction, was trying to explain what goes on beyond the physical

nabokov s direct ancestor was dostoevsky s jailor. weird how he was not willing to cut him any slack, considering

dostoevsky was crowd-pleasing oriented bc he lived off writing




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  1. deadgod

      ‘truth-seeking urgency’ good 4 dosto & tolstoy; overcoat diff kind of disclosure? or do you mean urgency of *author*, which sounds near-tautological

      ‘beauty of language’ wd be 4 russian-lang reader 2 decide? eg bakhtin on dosto: subtle polyphony. or my *guess* abt chekhov & even some w&p seems maybe beautiful

      what do you mean “no right”? boring/careless/merely sensational/trifling writing are wrong truths

      dosto’s emo-garish ppl/parties: fun? …in a way – ha ha

      ‘big questions’ explicit in dosto & tolstoy. there but embedded subtly in gogol, lapdog lady

      yes to serialization entering/precipitating broad debate, best eg dickens

      ‘inanimate writing’?

      ‘russian writer of ‘i” – bellow’s great ambition starting w augie march

      reading *better* be different life

      urgent truth-seeking is condition for possibility of religion, not vice versa

      whoever writes not for $ is a ‘blockhead’ – hello internet, samuel johnson

      edit: constitutively implicit 4 ’embedded’

  2. elias tezapsidis

      dickens was actually mentioned in re: serialization

      “no right”–>no ultimate/ absolute truth, duh

      i was a little confused w/ “inanimate writing” too. i think the example was from tolstoy