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

  • Literary Mix Tape #2 image of tag icon

    As I watch her now, three hundred and ninety-three pounds and gaining by the day, her frame so vast she has not been able to pull it upright in more than two months or to fit through any doorway without first having to take the door off its hinges, her breath so stormy it makes […]

    October 6, 2006

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  • Literary Squabbles image of tag icon

    Salman Rushdie lashed out at John Updike in a recent interview from The Guardian: “I don’t subscribe to the very predominantly English admiration of Updike. If you take away Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest, and some of the short stories, there’s a lot of … slightly … garbage. Think of The Coup! The […]

    October 5, 2006

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  • Literary Mix Tape #1 image of tag icon

    This is the first installment of a new feature on BookFox. From time to time I’ll select a chunk of prose from several writers along a particular theme and post it on the site. The goals of this project are the same as the musical mix tape – to introduce my readers to new voices, […]

    October 4, 2006

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  • Janet Fitch’s Sophomore Effort image of tag icon

    Janet Fitch is a very nice woman, although she’s a bit too particular about her tastes in literature (It’s one thing to dislike E.L. Doctorow, it’s another to insist he can’t write a sentence). On the sentence level, however, we find a key distinction between her bestselling White Oleander and her newest book Paint it […]

    October 3, 2006

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  • 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 […]

    September 22, 2006

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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 […]

    September 19, 2006

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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 […]

    September 8, 2006

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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 […]

    September 4, 2006

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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 […]

    August 28, 2006

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