Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How I learned to love Dostoyevsky

I was even younger. Oh so far away. Southeastern Idaho. I went shopping at a bookstore in Rexburg, Idaho--near Ricks college. I found a book describing books. Brief descriptions and then a set of categories, each complete with an icon. One icon meant a “classic.” The other icon meant something like “mature, challenging.” I was 14 years old, about to be a sophomore at South Fremont High School.

I went through the book, making a list of the books that had both icons--classic plus challenging. And I began to read. One of the first: Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Reading that book really did change my life. So weird. So much beyond my life: Mormon, rural, conservative, lower middle class (I didn’t know that then--but we didn’t have any money). I was mesmorized. Loved the book. Went on a Russian jag--in close order. The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, and a brave but unsuccessful run at War and Peace. I remember knocking at the door the The Red and the Black. Loved Steinbeck. It was such a mixed up amazing world of reading. So much beyond anything I had encountered before in books.

My real life at that point was encountering a radical kind of Mormonism--a crazy teacher who was actually a polygamist. But at the same time I was reading. No one could tell me I couldn’t read a book. It was my private magical world. Lady Chatterly’s lover. . . . . . You get the drift.

Reading was the way I found myself. And Crime and Punishment is at the very place where those paths that lead to who I am begin. . . . .


Lisa B. said...

C&P was one of those rare instances where a book I was assigned to read became a thrilling experience. I read it in AP English! But I remember reading it on a California winter night, at a house where I was babysitting--the eeriness of the book's atmosphere and the strange house--haunting.

Nate said...

I read Crime and Punishment while interning in DC during college. I will always associate it with the food court in Union Station.