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

  • The Road of Cormac McCarthy image of tag icon

    So I just finished McCarthy’s The Road last night. I didn’t mean to finish it last night, I meant to start it, but by midnight I was convinced that it was good enough to lose sleep over. And the rest of the book certainly didn’t disappoint. Here’s a few bullet-pointed thoughts: The most common dialogue […]

    October 24, 2006

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  • Twilight of the Superheroes: Deborah Eisenberg image of tag icon

    In Deborah Eisenberg’s latest collection of short stories, Twilight of the Superheroes, the reader is always catching up. In more than half of the stories she starts by throwing you in the middle of a scene, sometimes by way of a line of dialogue, and introducing three or more characters in the first sentence or […]

    October 23, 2006

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  • Janet Fitch Reading in LA image of tag icon

    Despite that Paint it Black is a book with suicide at its center, the talk at the Los Angeles Central Library was refreshingly funny. Rachel Resnick kept it light by cracking jokes and by her repertoire of hyperbolic expressions (laughing face, shocked face, impressed face). Janet Fitch was composed, thoughtful, wearing a black leather skirt […]

    October 20, 2006

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  • (Not) The Best Christian Short Stories: Bret Lott, Editor image of tag icon

    I kind of liked some aspects of Bret Lott’s Jewel (the lyrical voice, the emotional connection to the characters), so when I saw he had edited a collection, I decided to give it a try. The title made me wonder if anyone was creating good literary works that dealt with transcendent themes, but Lott terrible […]

    October 17, 2006

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  • Joyce Carol Oates: Landfill image of tag icon

    So Joyce Carol Oates based her fictional story Landfill, published in the October 9th issue of the New Yorker, on the real-life death of a student attending The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). So what? Professors at TCNJ have flamebroiled her with charges that she felt no pain in reawakening the trauma of the family. […]

    October 16, 2006

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  • Mix Tape #3 image of tag icon

    On offering to help the blind man, the man who then stole his car, had not, at that precise moment, had any evil intention, quite the contrary, what he did was nothing more than to obey those feelings of generosity and altruism which, as everyone knows, are the two best traits of human nature and […]

    October 13, 2006

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  • Brits imitate NY Times image of tag icon

    The New York Times poll-cum-popularity-contest that elected Toni Morrison’s Beloved as the winner now has an copycat. The Brits couldn’t resist the allure of staging their own survey, and canvassed famous authors for their “best of” between 1980 and 2005. Here’s the Guardian article. Much as I think the contest misses the mark of nailing […]

    October 10, 2006

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  • Man Booker Prize image of tag icon

    Kiran Desai won the Man Booker Prize for her novel The Inheritance of Loss. She’s 35 – the youngest writer ever to win, but youngish-ness is what you have after eliminating David Mitchell and Peter Carey. The Indian-born writer’s mother, Anita Desai, had been shortlisted three times but failed to win. Now we’ve seen examples […]

    October 10, 2006

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  • Allen Ginsberg’s Martifice image of tag icon

    On November 1st, the 50th anniversary of Howl, De Capo Press is releasing poems and journals from Allen Ginsberg. If nothing else, they’ve chosen a provocative title: The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice. The title came from a notation on one of Ginsberg’s notebooks that combined the words Martyrdom and Artifice into Martifice. The book […]

    October 6, 2006

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