One of the most common questions people ask me is: if you love literature so much, why didn’t you major in English? Sometimes I ask myself the same question. Recently, I realized the answer: I’m a closet hopeless romantic and I tend to seek out mushy, tear-jerking love stories in even the most unlikely novels. I shouldn’t think this would go over too well in a room full of literary, “intellectual” types.
Here, I’ve provided an example of a classic novel I’ve read in the past along with commentary of what I was really thinking during the reading, but never dared speak or write my ideas for fear my English teacher would flunk me for being an airhead. Instead, I parroted some dark and twisty thoughts about how this book reveals the nature of cruelty, suffering, guilt, alienation, and other such crapola as would earn me an A and help me graduate. Secretly, I thought this book had untapped love story potential.
Crime and Punishment. In 12th grade AP lit class, I never volunteered my take on the Raskolnikov + Sonya relationship. Throughout several hundred pages of plodding through Raskolnikov’s murderous guilt trip, I had my fingers crossed that Raskolnikov and Sonya would hook up. We all know this novel explores the dark labyrinth of the human soul, blah blah blah, but for me, it was all about the love. Don’t laugh! Don’t roll your eyes! All I’m saying is that there were plenty of hook-up opportunities for R and S. Remember that scene in his ramshackle hovel when R confessed his guilt to S and then she falls on her knees, urging him to go to the authorities and purge his soul. There’s nothing like a murder confession to ignite a first kiss? Am I right? (This was what I was thinking when I read it).
How about the ending when Moscow P.D. exiled R to a bleak and desolate Siberian labor prison to atone for his crimes and S followed him? Why? Because she loooves him. The story ends there with the certainty that R will find redemption after all. I’ve always believed that once he checked ‘redemption’ off his To-Do List then R and S can start dating in Siberia and do what couples in love do when they are exiled in an barren wasteland: have a snow fight, build a snow man, cuddle in a warm flannel blanket and watch the Northern Lights flicker ever so slightly, do the Russian kick dance around a campfire with the guards….all this, by the way, is visualized as a musical montage in my head. Damn. I’m getting all choked up over the Crime and Punishment musical montage.
In all likelihood, the fuzzy moments outlined above were probably a result of a Siberian starvation diet, in which case, the inhabitants would resort to eating Arctic lichens that may or may not have hallucinogenic properties. I know this because I have not one, but two botany classes under my belt. Two years and a several thousand Benjamins in debt later, I’m finally able to use this priceless information in The Lit Connection. Gee, that was the best grand I’ve ever spent! I also know sarcasm is hard to detect on the internet, so hint hint, that sentence was sarcastic. Let us all laugh while I secretly weep.
Have I spoken too much? Or should I mention that I pictured Keanu Reeves as Raskolnikov? As you can see, my casting skills were not up to par back in the day. But in my defense, I thought Keanu was hot (he still is) and by visualizing him struting through the mean streets of Moscow, decked out, mind you, in his Matrix black trench coat with ax in tow, helped me get through what would otherwise be a very heavy read.
Hold on a minute. Allow me to direct you to the picture of Keanu in the process of disrobing —> right there. Study it.
Does anyone remember Raskolnikov taking his shirt off in Crime and Punishment? So maybe Dostoevsky never mentioned it, but who’s to say R didn’t take his shirt off right after he axed his landlady? He’s gotta attack those blood stains before they set, right? See, attention to detail is of paramount importance when close reading a classic. This has been a lesson on reading between the lines.
Now I know I’ve spoken too much. I’m off to sneak in a stolen hour reading Rebel Angels by Libba Bray and contemplate such pressing matters as “Will Gemma and Kartik ever get together?” and “How exactly does Kartik get washboard abs when his major activities consist of lurking around the forest and playing cricket?”