He got up and sat on the edge of the bedstead with his back to the window. “It’s better not to sleep at all,” he decided. There was a cold damp draught from the window, however; without getting up he drew the blanket over him and wrapped himself in it. He was not thinking of anything and did not want to think. But one image rose after another, incoherent scraps of thought without beginning or end passed through his mind. He sank into drowsiness. Perhaps the cold, or the dampness, or the dark, or the wind that howled under the window and tossed the trees roused a sort of persistent craving for the fantastic. He kept dwelling on images of flowers, he fancied a charming flower garden, a bright, warm, almost hot day, a holiday—Trinity day. A fine, sumptuous country cottage in the English taste overgrown with fragrant flowers, with flower beds going round the house; the porch, wreathed in climbers, was surrounded with beds of roses. A light, cool staircase, carpeted with rich rugs, was decorated with rare plants in china pots. He noticed particularly in the windows nosegays of tender, white, heavily fragrant narcissus bending over their bright, green, thick long stalks. He was reluctant to move away from them, but he went up the stairs and came into a large, high drawing-room and again everywhere—at the windows, the doors on to the balcony, and on the balcony itself—were flowers. The floors were strewn with freshly-cut fragrant hay, the windows were open, a fresh, cool, light air came into the room. The birds were chirruping under the window, and in the middle of the room, on a table covered with a white satin shroud, stood a coffin. The coffin was covered with white silk and edged with a thick white frill; wreaths of flowers surrounded it on all sides. Among the flowers lay a girl in a white muslin dress, with her arms crossed and pressed on her bosom, as though carved out of marble. But her loose fair hair was wet; there was a wreath of roses on her head. The stern and already rigid profile of her face looked as though chiselled of marble too, and the smile on her pale lips was full of an immense unchildish misery and sorrowful appeal. Svidrigaïlov knew that girl; there was no holy image, no burning candle beside the coffin; no sound of prayers: the girl had drowned herself. She was only fourteen, but her heart was broken. And she had destroyed herself, crushed by an insult that had appalled and amazed that childish soul, had smirched that angel purity with unmerited disgrace and torn from her a last scream of despair, unheeded and brutally disregarded, on a dark night in the cold and wet while the wind howled

The Blog

  • Edward P. Jones: Live in L.A. image of tag icon

    Last night, I saw Edward P. Jones at an ALOUD event across from the Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. For a man who grew up poor in Washington D.C. with a mother who couldn’t read or write, and yet won literary acclaim later in life, including a MacArthur fellowship and the 2004 Pulitzer Prize […]

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  • The Reign of Michel Houellebecq image of tag icon

    It’s been four months since the French writer Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel, The Possibility of an Island, was released in English, and eight years since his first novel Whatever appeared on the scene. In that time he’s managed to make quite a bad boy image for himself, primarily by the excoriating insults in his novels […]

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  • Milan Kundera: The Curtain image of tag icon

    Milan Kundera’s new treatise on the novel – The Curtain – is being published in English in February 2007. Don’t miss this. Because not only is Kundera a master of the novel himself (Unbearable Lightness of Being, of course, but what about the Joke and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting?), but his analysis of […]

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  • Gilead image of tag icon

    I found Marilynne Robinson through an essay she wrote in Harper’s critiquing evangelical religion. It was so dead-on I just had to read her second novel, Gilead. She pulled off a lovely voice, from a man at death’s door writing letters to his son, and also managing to have quite a few theological rumorings and […]

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  • The Man Who Told Oprah She Chose “Shmaltzy, One-Dimension Books” image of tag icon

    This September, Jonathan Frazen breaks new ground with a memoir: The Discomfort Zone. I’d like some more fiction from him, but perhaps since much of his fiction (especially The Corrections) came from personal experience, there really isn’t that much of a difference in terms of themes. I’ve read excerpts from the new non-fiction, most notably […]

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  • The Silence of Gunter Grass image of tag icon

    The New York Sun published a two-part open letter to Gunter Grass in response to his recent admission that he was a part of the Waffen SS during World War II. The open letter is heartwrenching; never have I read a letter so full of choken tears and resentment. Daniel Johnson, the author of the […]

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  • The 2006 Man Booker Prize image of tag icon

    The Longlist (19 books) is out for the Man Booker Prize, and boy do I want David Mitchell to win (he’s given a 6 to 1 chance by betting companies!). Peter Carey’s won it twice already, so honestly – that’s enough. And besides, he’s often overrated (sorry Carey fans). Even though Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is […]

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  • Harper’s Serialization of J. Robert Lennon image of tag icon

    It’s been fifty years since Harper’s Magazine published a serial novel, and an abridged version of J. Robert Lennon’s novel Happyland has won the honor. Although Harper’s has fiction in every issue, at least a single short story, it seems serialization gives more weight to fiction, a weight desparately needed after most magazines have relegated […]

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  • Pynchon Update image of tag icon

    The new Pynchon book, Against the Day, comes out December 5th. And not to mix metaphors, but it’s Russian-Novel/Ayn-Rand sized, weighing in at the sumo-like bulk of 1040 pages. The description of the book – which he wrote himself – betrays his idiosyncraticities: With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is […]

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