I can’t do Paradise Lost yet. I just can’t. I’ve started it. I blundered through Book One and the first couple pages of Book Two. But I, too, am afraid of John Milton and I need to plan out my reading of Paradise Lost like Bethany has, but I haven’t had the inclination to get organized on that front yet. I think I’ll probably need to read it in the late morning, someplace quiet, with a table, and a coffee, and a pen in my hand. And maybe also a notebook. So here is what I’ve decided to do, until the fates align for me to make a dent in Milton’s masterpiece: I’m skipping it for a while and I’m moving on to Crime and Punishment.
Crime and Punishment was my second failure of AP English (after The Portrait of a Lady). I blame it on Anne Rice. We were assigned to start this one over Christmas Break 1993. I distinctly remember that we were supposed to read Part One. I read Part One. And then I read Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and The Queen of the Damned. And then it was time to go back to school. Where I learned that my friends had all finished Crime and Punishment while I was reading vampire pornography for two and a half weeks. And once school got rolling I simply did not have time to finish it. I picked up my copy a few days ago and found my “bookmark,” a receipt from Super Crown dated 10/25/93, for the Cliff’s Notes for The Portrait of a Lady. Yup, I can now put an exact date on when my AP English year started its downward spiral.
What upset me the most about not finishing Crime and Punishment is that I was actually enjoying it. I liked Part One, but I wanted to read Anne Rice more. It didn’t even occur to me to read the whole thing over break that year. I felt super-dumb about that at the time, and I occasionally still do. But damn, I loved those Anne Rice books.
The premise of Crime and Punishment is that Raskolnikov, a university drop-out living in St. Petersburg, plots to kill a money lender so he can rob her. He is drowning in desperation and has no money. At some point he actually does kill the money lender, and her innocent-bystander sister, according to the back of my copy. From what I remember from class this novel was revolutionary in that it focused on a single character, a villain, and was one of the first novels to utilize stream of consciousness as a narrative technique. I don’t generally love stream of consciousness, because it lends itself to long paragraphs and run-on sentences, but I am hopeful that this technique in its infancy will be less difficult for me to get through than, say, its later iterations in the pages of Faulkner.
I am very much looking forward to getting into the meat of this book. I do love the Russians, though my only experience with them was in AP English. I’ve never let myself buy any other Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy novels, and I don’t know why. There are plenty of minimally intimidating titles; I didn’t need to jump into War and Peace. Probably after I finally finish Crime and Punishment that will change. I guess we’ll just have to see.
Bookshelf picture is from Powell’s City of Books.
I love the detail about the receipt for the Cliff’s Notes. If it’s any consolation, I’m pretty sure I didn’t read all of Crime and Punishment over Chrismas break either. I probably just did a lot of nodding and smiling when other people said they had.
I thought you’d enjoy the bookmark story. You did a lot of smiling and nodding when it came to book finishing senior year, I think. I would have felt a lot better about myself if I’d known you weren’t 100% compliant with our reading assignments too. Or maybe not. I wasn’t very happy with myself in general back then.
I definitely did a lot of nodding and smiling, although I think I thought everyone else was nodding and smiling too. I didn’t really know hard other people worked until I started teaching.