Saturday, May 31, 2014

the last book I ever read (Duty by Robert M. Gates, excerpt one)

from Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M. Gates:

I had been through three previous confirmation hearings. The first, in 1986, for deputy director of central and culminated in a unanimous vote. The first, in 1986, for deputy director of central intelligence, was a walk in the park and culminated in a unanimous vote. The second, in early 1987, for director of central intelligence, occurred in the middle of the Iran-Contra scandal; when it became clear that the Senate would not confirm me with so many unanswered questions about my role, I withdrew. The third, in 1991, again to be DCI, had been protracted and rough but ended with my confirmation, with a third of the senators voting against me. Experience told me that unless I really screwed up in my testimony, I would be confirmed as secretary of defense by a very wide margin. An editorial cartoon at the time captured the mood of the Senate (and the press) perfectly: it showed me standing with upraised right arm taking an oath—“I am not now nor have I ever been Donald Rumsfeld.” It was a useful and humbling reminder that my confirmation was not about who I was but rather who I was not. It was also a statement about how poisonous the atmosphere had become in Washington.



Friday, May 30, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt ten)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

The Movie at Nine, more than the usual basketball epic, was a story of transcendent courage on the part of the gallant but doomed L.A. Lakers, as they struggled under hellish and subhuman conditions at Boston Garden against an unscrupulous foe, hostile referees, and fans whose behavior might have shamed their mothers had their mothers not been right there, screaming epithets, ruining Laker free throws, sloshing beer on their children in moments of high emotion, already. To be fair, the producers had tried their best to make the Celtics look good. Besides Sidney Poitier as K.C. Jones, there was Paul McCartney, in his first acting role, as Kevin McHale, with Sean Penn as Larry Bird. On the Laker side were Lou Gossett, Jr., as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Douglas as Pat Riley, and Jack Nicholson as himself. Vato and Blood, who were watching this down at the garage in Vineland, being both passionate Laker fans, had to find something else to bicker about. “Say Blood,” Blood remarked, aggressively, “some righteous-looking shades Jack’s wearing tonight.”

Vato snorted. “You wear them for workin on mufflers, Vato, lookit ‘em, they ain’ even big enough to cover his eyeballs.”

“What’s that you’re wearing on your own face, Blood? What do you use them for, messin’ with Contras?—Whoo!” both of them distracted for a minute as Lou Gossett, Jr., appeared to execute a perfect skyhook.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt nine)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

She recognized Hector right away, even after all the years, but the sight didn’t raise her spirits. He looked like shit—run-down, congested in every system of circulation, appearing to her as at the edge of a circle of light, out of the frozen dark of years in service, of making deals and breaking them, betrayed himself, tortured, torturing back . . . long-term ravages . . . He ought to’ve broken by now—what kept him going? Somebody he loved, some drug habit, simple stubborn denial? She breathed his tobacco aura, withstood his crooked jovial born-to-lose laugh. So this was who he’d become—who, at least through her lack of surprise or any be reflex sorrow, she, down at her own modest level, must have become as well.

Just to get it done, she asked, “Is this official? Do you have any backup from DEA or Justice on any of this, or are you working some private angle?”

Hector began to pop and roll his eyes, as if working up to a full-scale freakout. Back at the Tubaldetox he’d had women talking to him like this all the time, another reason to escape, obliged never to scream back at them, as this earned him demerits that would even further postpone his release date. How he would have preferred violent body contact, shock, the recoil of a weapon, some scream of agro, some chance just to drum his heels on something, but his options these days didn’t even include teethgrinding. Once suave and master of himself, the fed was now having some trouble “trying,” as Marty Robbins once put it in a different context, “to stay in the saddle.”



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt eight)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

There was a weirdness here that Hector recognized, like right before a big drug bust, yes, but even more like the weeks running up to the Bay of Pigs in ’61. Was Reagan about to invade Nicaragua at last, getting the home front all nailed down, ready to process folks by the tens of thousands into detention, arm local “Defense Forces,” fire everybody in the Army and then deputize them in order to get around the Posse Comitatus Act? Copies of these contingency plans had been circulating all summer, it wasn’t much of a secret. Hector knew the classic chill, the extra receptors up and humming, gathering in the signs, channels suddenly shutting down, traffic scrambled and jammed, phone trouble, faces in lobbies warning you that you don’t know them. Could it be that some silly-ass national-emergency exercise was finally coming true? As if the Tube were suddenly to stop showing pictures and instead announce, “From now on, I’m watching you.”



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt seven)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

“And they never forgave us.” Mucho went to the stereo and put on The Best of Sam Cooke, volumes 1 and 2, and then they sat together and listened, both of them this time, to the sermon, one they knew and felt their hearts comforted by, though outside spread the lampless wastes, the unseen paybacks, the heartless power of the scabland garrison state the green free America of their childhoods even then was turning into.

Downtown, in the Greyhound station, Zoyd put Prairie on top of a pinball machine with a psychedelic motif, called Hip Trip, and was able to keep winning free games till the Vineland bus got in from L.A. This baby was a great fan of the game, liked to lie face down on the glass, kick her fet, and squeal at the full sensuous effect, especially when bumpers got into prolonged cycling or when her father got manic with the flippers, plus the gongs and lights and colors always going off. “Enjoy it while you can,” he muttered at his innocent child, “while you’re light enough for that glass to hold you.”



Monday, May 26, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt six)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

With the volume all the way down, Zoyd settled in in front of the Tube, Woody Allen in Young Kissinger, and slowly relaxed, though the absence of marijuana in the place was mystifying. Psychedelicized far ahead of his time, Much Maas, originally a disk jockey, had decided around 1967, after a divorce remarkable even in that more innocent time for its geniality, to go into record producing. The business was growing unpredictable, and his takeoff was abrupt—soon, styling himself Count Drugula, Mucho was showing up at Indolent, down in the backstreet Hollywood flats south of Sunset and east of Vine, in a chauffeured Bentley, wearing joke-store fangs and a black velvet cape from Z & Z, scattering hits of high-quality acid among the fans young and old who gathered daily for his arrival. “Count, Count! Lay some dope on us!” they’d cry. Indolent Records had rapidly become known for its unusual choices of artists and repertoires. Mucho was one of the very first to audition, but not, he was later to add hastily, to call back, fledgling musician Charles Manson. He almost signed Wild Man Fischer, and Tiny Tim too, but others got to them first.

By the standards of those high-riding days of eternal youth, Count Drugula, or Mucho the Munificent, as he also came to be known, figured as a responsible, even sober-sided user of psychedelics, but cocaine was another story. It hit him out of nowhere, an unforeseen passion he would in his alter unhappiness compare to a clandestine affair with a woman—furtive meetings between his nose and the illicit crystals, sudden ecstatic peaks surprising negative cash flow, amazing sexual occurrences. Just as he arrived at that crisis point between wild infatuation and long-term commitment, his nose went out on him—blood, snot, something unarguably green—a nasal breakdown. He did not go into rehab, the resources in those days not yet having achieved the ubiquity they did in later years of national drug hysteria, but instead sought the help of Dr. Hugo Splanchnick, a dedicated and moralistic rhinologist working out of a suite of dust-free upper rooms in Sherman Oaks. “You’ll do me a small favor? I have to take some blood—"

“Huh?”

“—only enough for you to dip this pen into here, and sign your name to this short letter of agreement—"



Sunday, May 25, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt five)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

Brock scanned face after face, registering stigmata, a parade of receding foreheads, theromorphic ears, and alarmingly sloped Frankfurt Horizontals. He was a devotee of the thinking of pioneer criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909), who’d believed that the brains of criminals were short on lobes that controlled civilized values like morality and respect for the law, tending indeed to resemble animal more than human brains, and thus caused the crania that housed them to develop differently, which included the way their faces would turn out looking. Abnormally large eye sockets, prognathism, frontal submicrocephaly, Darwinian Tipped Ear, you name it, Lombroso had a list that went on, and skull data to back him up. By Brock’s time the theory had lapsed into a quaint, undeniably racist spinoff from nineteenth-century phrenology, crude in method and long superseded, although it seemed reasonable to Brock. What really got his attention was the Lombrosian concept of “misoneism.” Radicals, militants, revolutionaries, however they styled themselves, all sinned against this deep organic human principle, which Lombroso had named after the Greek for “hatred of anything new.” It operated as a feedback device to keep societies coming along safely, coherently. Any sudden attempt to change things would be answered by an immediate misoneistic backlash, not only from the State but from the people themselves—Nixon’s election in ’68 seeming to Brock a perfect example of this.



Saturday, May 24, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt four)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

By morning there were scores of injuries, hundreds of arrests, no reported deaths but a handful of persons unaccounted for. In those days it was still unthinkable that any North American agency would kill its own civilians and then lie about it. So the mystery abided, frozen in time, somewhere beyond youthful absences surely bound to be temporary, yet short of planned atrocity. Taken one by one, after all, given the dropout data and the migratory preferences of the time, each case could be accounted for without appealing to anything more sinister than a desire for safety. At his news conference, Brock Vond referred to it humorously as “rapture.” Fawning, gazing upward at the zipper of his fly, the media toadies present wondered aloud where, in his opinion, if it was OK to ask, Mr. Vond, sir, the missing students might have gotten to. Brock replied, “Why, underground, of course. That’s our assumption in this, from all we know about them—that they’ve gone underground.” Somebody from the radical press must have infiltrated. “You mean they’re on the run? Are there warrants out? How come none are listed as federal fugitives?” The reporter was led away by a brace of plainclothes heavies as Brock Vond genially repeated, highlights dancing merrily on his lenses and frames, “Underground, hm? Rapture below. Yes, the gentleman in the suit and tie?”

Earlier, while the newshounds had all been across campus at the main gate, preoccupied with getting shots of coed cuties in miniskirts being handled by troopers in full battle gear in which leather recurred as a motif, none had noticed the small convoy of field-gray trucks, locked shut, unmarked, that had left out the back way without even pausing for the security at the checkpoint. Threading a complex array of ramps, transition lanes, and suspiciously tidy country roads, the trucks eventually pulled up onto the little-known and only confidentially traveled FEER, or Federal Emergency Evacuation Route, which followed the crestline of the Coast Range north in a tenebrous cool light, beneath camouflage netting and weatherproof plastic sheet. It was a dim tunnel that went for hundreds of miles, conceived in the early sixties as a disposable freeway that would only be used, to full capacity, once.



Friday, May 23, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt three)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

It was a slow pan shot of 24fps as constituted on some long-ago date the two women were unable now to agree on. An incoherent collection of souls, to look at them, a certain number always having drifted in and out—impatient apprentices, old-movie freex, infiltrators and provocateurs of more than one political stripe. But there was a core that never changed, and it included genius film editors Ditzah and Zipi Pisk, who’d grown up in New York City and, except for geographically, never left it. California’s only reality for them was to be found in the million ways it failed to be New York. “Magnin’s?” Zipi would smile grimly. “OK for a shopping center, somewhere on Long Island perhaps, very nice ladies’ toilet of course, but please, this is no major store.” Ditzah was the food kvetch—“Try and get a Danish anywhere out here!” They found West Coast people “cold and distant” as invariably as they remembered apartment living in the Big Apple being all “warm and neighborly.”

This amused the others. “Are you kiddeen?” Howie, who took care of the paperwork, would snort. “I visited my sister back there, try to even get eye contact it’s yer ass, babe.”



Thursday, May 22, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt two)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

Moody. He’d once been a junior Texas rounder, promoting bad behavior all over the Harlingen, Brownsville, McAllen area. For a while he and a small gang had managed to migrate as far as Mobile Bay, spreading apprehension from Mertz to Magazine, but he was soon back in his native orbit, hanging out to all the ladies Dauphin Island orchids kept fresh with the beer in an ice tub in the truckbed and resuming his ways, which included driving fast, discharging firearms inappropriately, and passing around open containers, till a sheriff’s deputy friendly with the family suggested a choice between the Army now or Huntsville later. The war then approaching was never mentioned directly, but, “Well, what’ll I get to shoot?” Moody wanted to know.

“Any weapon, any caliber.”

“I mean, who do I get to shoot?”

“Whoever they tell you. Interesting thing about that, way I see it, you don’t have nearly the legal problems.”

Sounded good to Moody, who went right down and joined up. He met Norleen while he was at Fort Hood at services in the same narrow wood church they got married in, just before he shipped out. It was about mid-Atlantic, surrounded by nothing that did not refer, finally, to steel, vomiting for days, imagining the horizon outside, the unnatural purity, before he understood how terrified he was. It was the first time in his career he couldn’t climb in the truck and head for some borderline. He felt himself about to go crazy in this deep overcrowded hole, but he hung on, he tried to see through his fear, and when it came it was like finding Jesus—Moody saw, like the comics or Bible illustrations, a succession of scenes showing him the way he had to go, which was to imagine the worst and then himself be worse than that. He must torture the violent, deprive the greedy, give the drunks something to stagger about. He would have to become a Military Policeman, be as bad as he had to be to make it, using everything he knew from those rounder days. And so he did, pulling his first MP duty in London, on and about Shaftesbury Avenue, accessorized in virgin white, known, in military slang in those days, as a “snowdrop.”



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt one)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

What the federal computers this morning had not brought to Hector’s attention was that the alleys today were scheduled for junior regional semifinals. Kids were in town from all over the northern counties to compete on these intricately mortised masterpiece alleys, dating back to the high tide of the logging business in these parts, when the big houses framed all in redwood had gone up and legendary carpenters had appeared descending from rain-slick stagecoaches, geniuses with wood who could build you anything from a bowling alley to a Carpenter Gothic outhouse. Balls struck pins, pins struck wood, echoes of collision came thundering in from next door along with herds of kids in different bowling jackets, each carrying at least one ball in a bag plus precarious stacks of sodas and food, each squeaking open the screen door between lanes and restaurant, letting it squeak shut into the next kid, who’d squeak it open again. Didn’t take many of these repetitions to have an effect on Zoyd’s lunch companion, whose eyes were flicking back and forth as he hummed a tune that not till sixteen bars in did Zoyd recognize as “Meet the Flintstones,” from the well-known TV cartoon show. Hector finished the tune and looked sourly at Zoyd. “Any of these yours?”

Here it was. OK, “What are you sayin’, Hector?”



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt sixteen)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

“You couldn’t have heard anything. You’re making it all up!”

“But I’m not talking about that (though I did hear something). No, I’m talking of the way you keep sighing and groaning now. The Schiller in you is in revolt every moment, and now you tell me not to listen at doors. If that’s how you feel, go and inform the police that you had this mischance: you made a little mistake in your theory. But if you are convinced that one mustn’t listen at doors, but one may murder old women at one’s pleasure, you’d better be off to America and make haste. Run, young man! There may still be time. I’m speaking sincerely. Haven’t you the money? I’ll give you the fare.”

“I’m not thinking of that at all,” Raskolnikov interrupted with disgust.



Monday, May 19, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt fifteen)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

“What! Mad? Am I mad? Idiot!” shrieked Katerina Ivanova. “You are an idiot yourself, pettifogging lawyer, base man! Sonia, Sonia take his money! Sonia a thief! Why, she’d give away her last penny!” and Katerina Ivanova broke into hysterical laughter. “Did you ever see such an idiot?” she turned from side to side. “And you too?” she suddenly saw the landlady, “and you too, sausage eater, you declare that she if a thief, you trashy Prussian hen’s leg in a crinoline! She hasn’t been out of this room: she came straight from you, you wretch, and sat down beside me, everyone saw her. She sat here, by Rodion Romanovitch. Search her! Since she’s not left the room, the money would have to be on her! Search her, search her! But if you don’t find it, then excuse me, my dear fellow, you’ll answer for it! I’ll go to our Sovereign, to our Sovereign, to our gracious Tsar himself, and throw myself at his feet, to-day, this minute! I am alone in the world! They would let me in! Do you think they wouldn’t? You’re wrong, I will get in! I will get in! You reckoned on her meekness! You relied upon that! But I am not so submissive, let me tell you! You’ve gone too far yourself. Search her, search her!”

And Katerina Ivanova in a frenzy shook Luzhin and dragged him towards Sonia.



Sunday, May 18, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt fourteen)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

“We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if it’s one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner, and that’s all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that.”



Saturday, May 17, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt thirteen)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

“I don’t know that,” answered Dounia, dryly. “I only heard a queer story that Philip was a sort of hypochondriac, a sort of domestic philosopher, the servants used to say, ‘he read himself silly,’ and that he hanged himself partly on account of Mr. Svidrigaїlov’s mockery of him and not his blows. When I was there he behaved well to the servants, and they were actually fond of him, though they certainly did blame him for Philip’s death.”

“I perceive, Avdotya Romanovna, that you seem disposed to undertake his defence all of a sudden,” Luzhin observed, twisting his lips into an ambiguous smile, “there’s no doubt that he is an astute man, and insinuating where ladies are concerned, of which Marfa Petrovna, who has died so strangely, is a terrible instance. My only desire has been to be of service to you and your mother with my advice, in view of the renewed efforts which may certainly be anticipated from him. For my part it’s my firm conviction, that he will end in a debtor’s prison again. Marfa Petrovna had not the slightest intention of settling anything substantial on him, having regard for his children’s interests, and, if she left him anything, it would only be the merest sufficiency, something insignificant and ephemeral, which would not last a year for a man of his habits.”

“Pyotr Petrovitch, I beg of you,” said Dounia, “say no more of Mr. Svidrigaїlov. It makes me miserable.”



Friday, May 16, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt twelve)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

Porfiry Petrovitch was wearing a dressing-gown, very clean linen, and trodden-down slippers. He was a man of about five and thirty, short, stout even to corpulence, and clean shaven. He wore his hair cut short and had a large round head, particularly prominent at the back. His soft, round, rather snub-nosed face was of a sickly yellowish colour, but had a vigorous and rather ironical expression. It would have been good-natured except for a look in the eyes, which shone with a watery, mawkish light under almost white, blinking eyelashes. The expression of those eyes was strangely out of keeping with his somewhat womanish figure, and gave it something far more serious than could be guessed at first sight.

As soon as Porfiry Petrovitch heard that his visitor had a little matter of business with him, he begged him to sit down on the sofa and sat own himself on the other end, waiting for him to explain his business, with that careful and over-serious attention which is at once oppressive and embarrassing, especially to a stranger, and especially if what you are discussing is in your opinion of far too little importance for such exceptional solemnity. But in brief and coherent phrases Raskolnikov explained his business clearly and exactly, and was so well satisfied with himself that he even succeeded in taking a good luck at Porfiry. Porfiry Petrovitch did not once take his eyes off him. Razumihin, sitting opposite at the same table, listened warmly and impatiently, looking from one to the other every moment with rather excessive interest.

“Fool,” Raskolnikov swore to himself.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt eleven)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

As he said this, he was suddenly overwhelmed with confusion and turned pale. Again that awful sensation he has known of late passed with deadly chill over his soul. Again it became suddenly plain and perceptible to him that he had just told a fearful lie – that he would never now be able to speak freely of everything – that he would never again be able to speak of anything to anyone. The anguish of this thought was such that for a moment he almost forgot himself. He got up from his seat, and not looking at anyone walked towards the door.

“What are you about?” cried Razumihin, clutching him by the arm.

He sat down again, and began looking about him, in silence. They were all looking at him in perplexity.

“But what are you all so dull for?” he shouted, suddenly and quite unexpectedly. “Do say something! What’s the use of sitting like this? Come, do speak. Let us talk…. We meet together and sit in silence…. Come, anything!”

“Thank God; I was afraid the same thing as yesterday was beginning again,” said Pulcheria Alexandrovna, crossing herself.



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt ten)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

“Good heavens, I had not expected to find him in the least like this, Dmitri Prokofitch!”

“Naturally,” answered Razumihin. “I have no mother, but my uncle comes every year and almost every time he can scarcely recognize me, even in appearance, though he is a clever man; and your three years’ separation means a great deal. What am I to tell you? I have known Rodion for a year and a half; he is morose, gloomy, proud and haughty, and of late – and perhaps for a long time before – he has been suspicious and fanciful. He has a noble nature and a kind heart. He does not like showing his feelings and would rather do a cruel thing than open his heart freely. Sometimes, though, he is not at all morbid, but simply cold and inhumanly callous; it’s as though he were alternating between two characters. Sometimes he is fearfully reserved! He says he is so busy that everything is a hindrance, and yet he lies in bed doing nothing. He doesn’t jeer at things, not because he hasn’t the wit, but as though he hadn’t time to waste on such trifles. He never listens to what is said to him. He is never interested in what interests other people at any given moment. He thinks very highly of himself and perhaps he is right. Well, what more? I think your arrival will have a most beneficial influence upon him.”

“God grant it may,” cried Pulcheria Alexandrovna, distressed by Razumihin’s account of her Rodya.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt nine)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

He had spoken the truth, moreover, when he blurted out in his drunken talk on the stairs that Praskovya Pavlovna, Raskolnikov’s eccentric landlady, would be jealous of Pulcheria Alexandrovna as well as of Avdotya Romanovna on his account. Although Pulcheria Alexandrovna was forty-three, her face still retained traces of her former beauty; she looked much younger than her age, indeed, which is almost always the case with women who retain serenity of spirit, sensitiveness and pure sincere warmth of heart to old age. We may add in parenthesis that to preserve all this is the only means of retaining beauty to old age. Her hair had begun to grow grey and thin, there had long been little crow’s foot wrinkles round her eyes, her cheeks were hollow and sunken from anxiety and grief, and yet it was a handsome face. She was Dounia over again, twenty years older, but without projecting underlip. Pulcheria Alexandrovna was emotional, but not sentimental, timid and yielding, but only to a certain point. She could give way and accept a great deal even of what was contrary to her convictions, but there was a certain barrier fixed by honesty, principle and the deepest convictions which nothing would induce her to cross.

Exactly twenty minutes after Razumihin’s departure, there came two subdued but hurried knocks at the door: he had come back.



Monday, May 12, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt eight)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

“Your mamma,” began Luzhin.

“Hm!” Razumihin cleared his throat loudly. Luzhin looked at him inquiringly.

“That’s all right, go on.”

Luzhin shrugged his shoulders.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt seven)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

It happened at ten o’clock in the morning. On fine days the sun shone into the room at that hour, throwing a streak of light on the right wall and the corner near the door. Nastasya was standing beside him with another person, a complete stranger, who was looking at him very inquisitively. He was a young man with a beard, wearing a full, short-waisted coat, and looked like a messenger. The landlady was peeping in at the half-opened door. Raskolnikov sat up.

“Who is this, Nastasya?” he asked, pointing to the young man.

“I say, he’s himself again!” she said.

“He is himself,” echoed the man.

Concluding that he had returned to his senses, the landlady closed the door and disappeared. She was always shy and dreaded conversations or discussions. She was a woman of forty, not at all bad-looking, fat and buxom, with black eyes and eyebrows, good-natured from fatness and laziness, and absurdly bashful.



Saturday, May 10, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt six)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

The assistant glanced rapidly at him; the head clerk slightly shook his head.

“… So I tell you this, most respectable Luise Ivanova, and I tell it to you for the last time,” the assistant went on. “If there is a scandal in your honourable house once again, I will put you yourself in the lock-up, as it is called in polite society. Do you hear? So a literary man, an author took five roubles for his coat-tail in an ‘honourable house’? A nice set, these authors!”

And he cast a contemptuous glance at Raskolnikov. “There was a scandal the other day in a restaurant, too. An author had eaten his dinner and would not pay; ‘I’ll write a satire on you,’ says he. And there was another of them on a steamer last week used the most disgraceful language to a respectable family of a civil councillor, his wife and daughter. And there was one of them turned out of a confectioner’s shop the other day. They are like that, authors, literary men, students, town-criers… Pfoo! You get along! I shall look in upon you myself one day. Then you had better be careful! Do you hear?”



Friday, May 9, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt five)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

The old woman was as always bareheaded. Her thin, light hair, streaked with grey, thickly smeared with grease, was plaited in a rat’s tail and fastened by a broken horn comb which stood out on the nape of her neck. As she was so short, the blow fell on the very top of her skull. She cried out, but very faintly, and suddenly sank all of a heap on the floor, raising her hands to her hand. In one hand she still held “the pledge.” Then he dealt her another and another blow with the blunt side and on the same spot. The blood gushed as from an overturned glass, the body fell back. He stepped back, let it fall, and at once bent over her face; she was dead. Her eyes seemed to be starting out of the sockets, the brow and the whole face were drawn and contorted convulsively.



Thursday, May 8, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt four)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

Raskolnikov was violently agitated. Of course, it was all ordinary youthful talk and thought, such as he had often heard before in different forms and on different themes. But why had he happened to hear such a discussion and such ideas at the very moment when his own brain was just conceiving… the very same ideas? And why, just at the moment when he had brought away the embryo of his idea from the old woman had he dropped at once upon a conversation about her? This coincidence always seemed strange to him. This trivial talk in a tavern had an immense influence on him in his later action; as though there had really been in it something preordained, some guiding hint….



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt three)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

With Razumihin he had got on, or, at least, he was more unreserved and communicative with him. Indeed it was impossible to be on any other terms with Razumihin. He was an exceptionally good-humoured and candid youth, good-natured to the point of simplicity, though both depth and dignity lay concealed under that simplicity. The better of his comrades understood this, and all were fond of him. He was extremely intelligent, though he was certainly rather a simpleton at times. He was of striking appearance – tall, thin, blackhaired and always badly shaved. He was sometimes uproarious and was reputed to be of great physical strength. One night, when out in a festive company, he had with one blow laid a gigantic policeman on his back. There was no limit to his drinking powers, but he could abstain from drink altogether; he sometimes went too far in his pranks; but he could do without pranks altogether. Another thing striking about Razumihin, no failure distressed him, and it seemed as though no unfavourable circumstances could crush him. He could lodge anywhere, and bear the extremes of cold and hunger. He was very poor, and kept himself entirely on what he could earn by work of one sort or another. He knew of no end of resources by which to earn money. He spent one whole winter without lighting his stove, and used to declare that he liked it better, because one slept more soundly in the cold. For the present he, too, had been obliged to give up the university, but it was only for a time, and he was working with all his might to save enough to return to his studies again. Raskolnikov had not been to see him for the last four months, and Razumihin did not even know his address. About two months before, they had met in the street, but Raskolnikov had turned away and even crossed to the other side that he might not be observed. And though Razumihin noticed him, he passed him by, as he did not want him to annoy him.



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt two)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

“It shall not be? But what are you going to do to prevent it? You’ll forbid it? And what right have you? What can you promise them on your side to give you such a right? Your whole life, your whole future, you will devote to them when you have finished your studies and obtained a post? Yes, we have heard all that before, and that’s all words, but now? Now something must be done, now, do you understand that? And what are you doing now? You are living upon them. They borrow on their hundred roubles pension. They borrow from the Svidrigaїlovs. How are you going to save them from Svidrigaїlovs, from Afanasy Ivanovitch Vahrushin, oh, future millionaire Zeus who would arrange their lives for them? In another ten years? In another ten years, mother will be blind with knitting shawls, maybe with weeping too. She will be worn to a shadow with fasting; and my sister? Imagine for a moment what may have become of your sister in ten years? What may happen to her during those ten years? Can you fancy?”

So he tortured himself, fretting himself with such questions, and finding a kind of enjoyment in it. And yet all these questions were not new ones suddenly confronting him, they were old familiar aches. It was long since they had first begun to grip and rend his heart. Long, long ago his present anguish had its first beginnings; it had waxed and gathered strength, it had matured and concentrated, until it had taken the form of a fearful, frenzied and fantastic question, which tortured his heart and mind, clamouring insistently for an answer. Now his mother’s letter had burst on him like a thunderclap. It was clear that he must not now suffer passively, worrying himself over unsolved questions, but that he must do something, do it at once, and do it quickly. Anyway he must decide on something, or else…



Monday, May 5, 2014

the last book I ever read (Fyodor Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment, excerpt one)

from Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevksy:

This was not because he was cowardly and abject, quite the contrary; but for some time past he had been in an overstrained irritable condition, verging on hypochondria. He had become so completely absorbed in himself, and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He had given up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire to do so. Nothing that any landlady could do had a real terror for him. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to her trivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack his brains for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie—no, rather than that, he would creep down the stairs like a cat and slip out unseen.

This evening, however, on coming out into the street, he became acutely aware of his fears.



Sunday, May 4, 2014

the last book I ever read (Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, excerpt sixteen)

from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:

“They never tell you about that part, about how long you might live with it,” Khassan continued. He held Ramzan’s limp fingers. Thirty-two and three-quarter years had passed since he had first felt those fingers and they had astonished him, delicate as sparrow feet and holding on to his thumb as if he were the sturdiest branch in the forest. “They never tell you about that part.”



Saturday, May 3, 2014

R.I.P. Mats Roden (Primitons, Jim Bob and the Leisure Suits, Sugar La-La's)

the last book I ever read (Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, excerpt fifteen)

from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:

“So this is the Tolstoy book?” She nodded to the chair where Hadji Murád lay. That, he hadn’t forgotten.

“Yes, the one he wrote about Chechnya.”

Pulling back a stray lock of hair, she drew a question mark around her ear. He handed her the book. She flipped to the last page.

“What are you doing? Don’t read the last page.”

“I always read the last page first,” she said, without looking up.

“”That ruins everything. The whole book is working toward the last page.”

Her lips pursed to a pebble. The paper cover bent in her grip, as if she were steadying her hands. The amphetamines? But she spoke in a flat, uninspired tone. “If it’s not an ending I think I’ll like, then I won’t read the book.” She handed it back to him.

“Are you serious?”

“He gets decapitated on the last page. That’s not an ending I want to read.”



Friday, May 2, 2014

the last book I ever read (Anthony Marra's A Constellaton of Vital Phenomena, excerpt fourteen)

from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:

Natasha called to Sonja, asking for pain relief. The young man was incoherent, addressing his mother in a jar of cotton swabs. Across the room, the surgical saw paused, but Sonja didn’t look up from the half-severed arm. “You’ll have to get it yourself,” she said calmly. Given her history with the drug, Natasha never prepared or administered the heroin. Dreams of bent spoon handles persisted, and five years clean she was still afraid a cigarette could reheat her cravings. But she peeled off the latex gloves and jogged to the canteen. Now wasn’t the time for caution, not with that boy on her hospital bed. In the cupboard, behind an armory of evaporated milk, she found it. It compacted in her grip, filling the corners of the plastic bag. Alu’s brother had claimed there wasn’t enough talc in the bag to powder a baby’s bottom. The Italian junk Sergey had shot into her had contained enough to service a nursery, and even that had laid electric lines where her veins had been. But this? Ninety-eight percent pure? She spat in the sink; she was salivating. You can control your reactions. You can control your reactions, she repeated. It took two minutes to cook. She only had to take one syringe to the trauma ward, but for the twenty-meter walk, when she was alone with it, she felt vastly outnumbered.