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

  • 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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  • Pynchon Mania image of tag icon

    Ed has verified (with multiple unnamed and secret sources, because he’s the literary version of a John Le Carre character) that Thomas Pynchon is publishing a new book in December. Let’s hope it’s not another Vineland. By the way, if you’re new to Pynchon, here’s the first three books you should read (in this order): […]

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  • Product Placement image of tag icon

    As if we aren’t inundated with enough advertisements – even at the beach, the dry drone of a bi-plane is followed by a banner – now comes product placements in novels (LA Times Article). Brands of lipstick, brands of cola, brands of T-shirts. Despite the poverty that attends the writing profession, I simply can’t swallow […]

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  • Black Clock image of tag icon

    Edition Five of Black Clock is out, and despite the journal being relatively new, it’s commanding some well-known voices (David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Lethem, Rick Moody, Aimee Bender). The editor and creator of the journal, Steve Erickson, talked at the LA Times book fair in a panel on LA Fiction (hosted by Janet Fitch), and […]

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  • Jonathan Safran Foer image of tag icon

    Went to a reading at Duttons in Santa Monica last night to hear Jonathan Safran Foer. I didn’t expect him to be so nice, so calm and so soft-spoken. It would have been convenient if he had been a prick, since then I could have hated him (him, his books and all his accolades) but […]

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