June 06, 2007


Caption: This man is now portraying the devil that appeared to Ivan Karamazov while the latter was a little unhinged. Is it Ivan himself, a real devil, or just his fevered imagination?

El Cabrero begs the reader's forbearance while he attempts to get Dostoevsky out of his system. The last two posts didn't quite do it...

Sigmund Freud once called The Brothers Karamazov "the most magnificent novel ever written."

This is no doubt because the theme of the book is the murder of a father by a son and Sig never met a story about parricide he didn't like. After all, according to his theory of the Oedipus complex, that was something all sons unconsciously wanted to do.

I'm not sure how Dostoevsky would feel about that. He didn't have much use for what passed for psychology in his day, once saying "I am not a psychologist. I am a realist." His version of "realism," however is pretty out there, given his menagerie of characters, which includes intellectual axe murderers, saintly prostitutes, brooding nihilists, and holy fools and elders.

As William Hubben wrote,

All of Dostoevsky's stories belong to the literature of extreme situations. An ominous restlessness broods over the men and women in his novels. Frequently their reaction to seemingly small incidents is excessive, and events take a most unexpected turn.

The author would probably agree with that anyway. He once wrote "Always and in everything I go to the extreme limit." In his view, part of the human condition is the fact that we don't know our limits:

The ant knows the formula of its anthill; the bee the formula of its beehive...but man does not.

Ironically, it is said that in his later years, Freud couldn't abide reading Dostoevsky's novels in the evening because the characters were too much like the patients he dealt with during the day.

(OK, one more thought--how come nobody gets brain fevers any more like his characters got?)

TAX SUBSIDIES FOR WAL-MART. Good Jobs First is a policy resource center that promotes accountability for corporations and governments in economic development. They recently updated their Wal-Mart subsidy report. If you go to the site, you can click on your state to see how much the giant has gotten in corporate welfare. In El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia, that number is around $9.7 million. Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First executive director sums it up pretty well:

That a company with a predatory business model and a poverty-wage labor policy can even qualify for job subsidies suggests many public officials still don’t get it.


More than 4 million Iraqis have now been displaced by violence in the country, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday, warning that the figure will continue to rise.

The number of Iraqis who have fled the country as refugees has risen to 2.2 million, said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. A further 2 million have been driven from their homes but remain within the country, increasingly in "impoverished shanty towns," she said.

THIS IS JUST GREAT. Remember the part about the Bush administration getting serious on global warming? Nevermind...

The Bush administration is drastically scaling back efforts to measure global warming from space, just as the president tries to convince the world the U.S. is ready to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases.



Anonymous said...

I'm looking for a way to get ahold of Rick Wilson for a possible TV appearance to talk about right to work (or right to work for less).
Please call me at 720-6553.
Chris Stirewalt

Anonymous said...

ahh...the days of 7 digit phone numbers

Brecht said...

I went around for a couple of years saying the Brothers K. was the best novel, too. I also like Anna K., where Tolstoy gets his panorama, but also aims for F.D.'s psychological insight.

But I know Juanuchis speaks for many in finding F.D. heavy, and I love pop songs that condense whole books into a few minutes (like 'Killing an Arab'), so here's Magazine's take on F.D.:

A Song From Under The Floorboards

I am angry I am ill and I'm as ugly as sin
my irritability keeps me alive and kicking
I know the meaning of life, it doesn't help me a bit
I know beauty and I know a good thing when I see it

This is a song from under the floorboards
this is a song from where the wall is cracked
my force of habit, I am an insect
I have to confess I'm proud as hell of that fact

I know the highest and the best
I accord them all due respect
but the brightest jewel inside of me
glows with pleasure at my own stupidity

I used to make phantoms I could later chase
images of all that could be desired
then I got tired of counting all of these blessings
and then I just got tired

El Cabrero said...

That was a great song. Right out of Notes from the Underground. Thanks!

I wish I could join you in enthusiasm for Anna K.--and this is going to sound really bad--but I was ready for the second train scene WAY before it happened.

Which reminds me of an interesting topic. Some people put down Dostoevsky as a reactionary and admire Tolstoy for his dissident views but he was downright nasty to his wife (and secretary) and his views on women were almost Taliban-like. There was a cruel streak to his moralizing.

I think I prefer Fyodor. There seems to be more compassion and less moralizing with him.

El Cabrero said...

Hey Chris Stirewalt,
Game on! Thanks

Brecht said...

El Cabrero - Tolstoy, like Gandhi, was a much nobler man from a distance than he was to live with. Incidentally, Gandhi said Tolstoy's 'The Kingdom of God is Within You' was one of the three most important modern influences in his life.

They were both great men, but I'd rather have Fyodor as a guest.

El Cabrero said...

If Fyodor comes to WV, I'm gonna try to keep him away from the racetracks and gambling machines...

thinkulous said...

Goat Rope,

Loved your post on Freud and Dostoevsky -- being a grad student in psychology, and an minor-league lit-fiend, it fit.

Also love many of your other posts -- the weaving in of literature, big themes, the lack of boundaries between art and politics -- it feels a lot like the way I think (and talk, to the dismay of my friends).

You might like some of my posts lately. For a good example, I've been slogging through Moby Dick this month, and weaving it in with other themes on my blog: "Moby Dick and Yiddish Policemen's Union".

Hope you enjoy it! Keep up the good work -- I'll be Bloglining you.


El Cabrero said...

Thanks for the comment! I read your Melville posts and really enjoyed them. Haven't tried the other writer yet.

The thing about Moby Dick that many people miss is that it is laugh out loud funny, or at least parts of it are.

You might enjoy this post from one of Goat Rope's talking animals in which a dog discusses intertextuality in Moby-Dick:


After reading it, I've listened to it several times with unabridged recordings from the library. I even made my son listen to it as a kid and I think it stuck with him.