Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What is to be done?

Today I discovered that my blog co-author has betrayed me and, more importantly, you the reader. I caught him, in flagrante delicto, reading a non-Russian novel. It's not the first time he's prostituted himself like this. He has a habit and belongs on the HBO reality show, Intervention. I mean, he can't seem to leave non-Russian novels alone. Lord knows where he gets them. I suppose the fact that he works at a library is too much for his feeble will-power. You might as well send a recovering alcoholic to an Irish wake or a Blues club. As you can imagine, I had a stern conversation with him, evening issuing a formal written warning about his offense. I told him that it sometimes seemed to me as if he had never heard of Russian literature, or didn't know that he was surrounded by the stuff. After the anger and shock wore off, I realized I had what they call in my business "a teaching moment." So I asked Nick to sit down and spread out about three dozen first-class Russian works of fiction in front of him, including Russian classics, contemporary works, short-stories, and novels. I told him he had lost his capacity for rationale judgement when he overlooked books by Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Babel, and Gorky. Too tired for the classics? I pushed his face into a pile of twentieth century masterpieces, including stacks of books by Nabokov, short stories by Bunin, prose by Platonov and lesser known novels by Troyat, Montefiore, Simonov, and Berberova. From time to time I lost my cool. Who can blame me? Had he even read a single book by Alexei Tolstoy? Has he forgotten that an obscure man named Mandelstam (to say nothing of Pushkin) had written some prose that might be worth a glance every now and again? Could he really claim to have sucked the marrow from the bone of Solzhenitsyn's brilliance? Did he somehow think he was above reading another work by Pasternak? Some of my readers may believe my co-author didn't know any better, but I submit to you that he does know better. This is a man who, after all, can't pick up a copy of Brothers Karamazov without noting the translation. This is a man who stared back at my stack of novels and commented dryly: "Well, I wouldn't mind reading Pnin a fourth time..." Trust me, he knows better. The only question to ask is that which Lenin's favorite novelist asked, What is to be done? (Note that Lenin, whatever his faults, read that book five times in a single summer). Chernychevsky, help me understand how my co-author could do what he has done--and what is to be done...

No comments:

Post a Comment