Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

100 Books by 40: Crime and Punishment Plus Winnie The Pooh

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The race to read 100 books by 40 has started. It feels less like a race and more like a long slog, but that hasn’t dampened my resolve.

Crime and Punishment felt suffocating in the way that days without the sun accumulate to a tangible heaviness. The seedy St. Petersburg teeming with people just barely subsisting coupled with the brooding main character permit no hope. The book’s relentless darkness didn’t put me off. I enjoyed the book as a portal to another time and place. One of the central themes of the book is how context is an actor on morality. Poverty provides people with a limited set of bad and even worst options. Political conquest issues a blank check to destroy human life at will. Although it might be comforting to believe in absolutes, they rarely emerge in a real practical sense.

I enjoyed the book and am happy that I read it, but it wouldn’t be accurate to say I enjoyed the process of reading it. It felt a little like a wool sweater sans undershirt. Not only is the darkness difficult to endure, but Fyodor Dostoyevsky often uses 50 words when 10 would have gotten the job done. I don’t know what this would be like in Russian, but I am guessing that it loses something in translation.

Winnie the Pooh was delightful. I deliberately selected something light after Crime and Punishment. I was not disappointed. If I had children, this book would be a regular bed time story read. I found the idiosyncratic verbal patterns of the characters a pleasant surprise. This frees the author from explicitly stating the speaker; this made me feel more immersed in the stories. I suggest this for adults and children alike.


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