REVIEW: Notes from Underground

Notes from Underground is my first, and potentially only, venture into the world of Dostoevsky.

The narrator of this novella, is, well, a pain in the ass. And not in the fun way (ie: The Dwarf). The first half of Notes from Underground is essentially the narrator’s diary, through which you learn his general philosophies and spitefulness. Continuing along, you learn of his general….philosophies and spitefulness. The first half concludes by tying up his general…philosophies and spitefulness.

(See how annoying that is?)

There was something about the way the first half of the novella is written that gave me Ayn Rand flashbacks. Different ideals, but, the same feeling of “Okay, bro, we get your point, let’s focus on the story.”

The second half of the novella was much more enjoyable and had a forward moving narrative which put our spiteful ball of a narrator’s perspectives into real life situations. Dostevsky manages to humanize the narrator in this half, and I actually began to empathize with him.

As a whole, IMHO Dostoevsky’s style is unnecessarily dense. And, while I did enjoy reading the second half of Notes from Underground, it didn’t make up for the first half. It is not a narrative that will stay with me.  I may consider giving Dostoevsky another shot down the road, but I don’t see him being a part of my near future.

Rating: 3 Rubles


REVIEW: Mrs Dalloway

My only prior experience with stream of conscious writing was when I was obliged to read  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man  by James Joyce in high school. I was not a fan. Then again, I was 15, stubborn, and had a set standard for what required reading should be. (Okay, not much has changed, but I swear I have matured in the past 15 years.) Consequently, I decided that it was time I give stream of conscious another go. Reading Woolf is in keeping with one of the goals of my biblio-adventure this year which is to revisit writing styles that left me cold because I was a callow youth when first introduced to them.

So far in the battle of the streams:

Virginia Woolf – 1

James Joyce – 0

The writing in Mrs Dalloway is exquisite. I was concerned that stream of consciousness would be hard to follow, but, because the novel takes place over a short span of time, I found it easy to settle in for the ride. The reason I am not giving this novel a super high rating is in no way a reflection of Woolf’s writing style, but merely the fact that I didn’t connect strongly with the story. The tale of Clarissa Dalloway is one that has been told a million times over (what if I had followed my heart instead of my head?), and while Woolf does a stronger job of telling it than most, she didn’t add any unforeseen twist or layers to the retelling to pique my interest.

Pluses to this story:

  • I didn’t find Mrs Dalloway to be irritating or whiney, which very easily could have happened (Edna in The Awakening, amirite?)
  • The plot line of Septimus (war vet) was beautiful and more intriguing than that of Clarissa’s.

So. I’m not inclined to read more Woolf, but I’ve overcome my abhorrence of stream of conscious writing. I also reserve the right to change my mind once I take on Ulysses.

Rating: 3.5 Love Interests