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

  • Rallying the Supporters of Independent Bookstores image of tag icon

    The Elegant Variation has new information on the efforts going on to save Dutton’s Bookstore in LA (I wrote about it back in January). To sign the petition, click here for the PDF, or email Diane.caughey@gmail.com with your Name, Address, Phone, Email, and what (if any) way you can help.

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  • Interview with Tara Ison image of tag icon

    I recently interviewed author Tara Ison, who just published her second novel, The List. We talked about the experience of writing The List in comparison to A Child Out of Alcatraz (her first novel), her relationship to Los Angeles, and partying on the roof of the Holiday Inn. BookFox: The two main characters in “The […]

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  • Update on Festival of Books image of tag icon

    The full list of authors slated for the Festival of Books is up on the LA Times website now. In addition to the authors I mentioned in the previous post (scroll down), here are some additional highlights: Chris Abani Gary Shteyngart Deborah Eisenberg Steve Erickson Aimee Bender Percival Everett Tara Ison Judith Freeman Janet Fitch […]

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  • Tournament of Books image of tag icon

    So I’ve been following the Tournament of Books with glee, and I just had to link to the judge’s essay on Richard Ford’s Lay of the Land VS Upamanyu Chatterjee’s English, August. It’s hilarious. And I’m loving the comments from the peanut gallery at the bottom, although I still wanted Absurdistan to win over Half […]

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  • Garrison Keillor image of tag icon

    Garrison Keillor is in some hot water over comments he made about homosexuals in an article on Slate. Then Dan Savage takes him to task in an overwrought, hyper-sensational article entitled, Fuck Garrison Keillor (via Pinkys Paperhaus). I’m going to have to side with Keillor on this one. Dan Savage, at least in this article, […]

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  • Festival of Books image of tag icon

    I’m gearing up for the LA Times Festival of Books, even though it’s still a month and a half away. Through a series of posts on this blog during that last weekend in April, I’ll be covering news, readings, reactions, buzz, landmark literary happenings, and anything else you’d like to know. If you’re going, stop […]

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  • Tooth and Claw image of tag icon

      T.C. Boyle is a remarkably entertaining writer, and I don’t mean that pejoratively at all – no nasty connotations like only entertaining, or entertaining to the detriment of style or plot. No, he just writes stories that are word/plot candy, and I stay up late gorging myself on them. Last night I was reading […]

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  • Daniel Alarcon Live image of tag icon

    The reading by Daniel Alarcon last night at Skylight Books in Los Angeles had what every reading should have: sponsorship by Dewars. Yes, that’s right, the folks who make whiskey. They made mixed drinks with ginger beer and the packed house drank enough to make listening easy but not so much to make listening difficult. […]

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  • Best New Novelists image of tag icon

      For the second time (first in 1996), Granta has named the Best of Young American Novelists (all of them under 35). Some choices are predictable (Jonathan Safran Foer and Gary Shteyngart), but there are a number I haven’t read but now want to. There’s been buzz in the blogosphere about Daniel Alarcon’s Lost City […]

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