Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall): Why is this book so long? Seriously. About halfway through I checked out the plot summary on Wikipedia and I was surprised to discover I was following along fairly well. But that doesn’t explain why it takes so much text to tell this story. Basically, this guy kills an unpleasant pawnbroker and her sister, guy’s mother and sister visit because sister is supposed to marry some shady dude, guy’s best friend falls in love with sister, random drunk dude dies, random drunk dude’s daughter befriends guy, and meanwhile an obnoxiously chatty detective is investigating the deaths of the unpleasant pawnbroker and her sister. (I can’t count the number of times I said, “Shut up, Porfiry!”) Oh yeah, and there’s angst. Lots and lots of angst. Don’t worry about the names – I had a terrible time keeping track of who was who because everybody had at least three names and all of them were so complicated they immediately fell out of my head the first fifty or so times I encountered them. I still can’t remember most of them well enough to say them aloud. The story is told mostly in dialogue, almost enough to be a play, so I’m surprised there haven’t been more recent film adaptations. Anyway, this is a decently interesting story – full of intrigue and suspense, with a sweet ending – except that at times I wondered if the author was paid by the word. For example, he described the letter guy got from shady dude, then guy confronts shady dude about the letter and recounts his reaction to said letter, then later guy recounts his confrontation with shady dude about the letter to others. And this is hardly an isolated incident: several scenes are described in their entirety multiple times. I guess it’s good if you weren’t paying enough attention, but dude! Hire an editor!

(Yes, I am well aware that I am going to Literary Hell for telling Dostoevsky to hire an editor. Dickens and Austen could use one too.)

(My toes are getting warm.)

Also posted on BookCrossing.

  1. Well, in support of Dickens, for some of his works he was paid by installments. I’d *never* edit and *always* get off on tangents not crucial to the plot to make the story longer if that were the case. Maybe these guys were the NaNoWriMo Writers of their times? Or maybe they suffered from the James Cameron/George Lucas problem where people were too scared to tell them they need to edit their stuff before it goes out to the masses?

    But, yeah. I read this book as a senior in high school and loved it (I remember having a post-it note with the character names to keep Raskolnikov apart from Razumikhin, etc.). Oh, what beautiful, wonderful angst! But I can’t remember much more than angst and the main points (not even as many main points as you mentioned above). Set-up. Murder. Guilt. Curiosity. Guilt. Angst. Angst. Angst. The End. What you say about a film version is interesting–it would be pretty easy to modernize/update it as well as it deals with a lot of psychological and universal elements. I want to see a show-down between Raskolnikov and the main character from Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

    • I actually originally had a sentence about feeling like I was reading somebody’s NaNovel but ended up deleting it. :)

      Man, I love “The Tell-Tale Heart”! It’s marvelous. The narrator and Raskolnikov could have a crazy-off!

    • Both stories should be well into public domain by now (even with insanely long US copyright law). Maybe you could start on a film treatment, and give it to Sine Fine Films to produce…

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