Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On Crime and Punishment and why Wikipedia should be outlawed

Crime and Punishment by Futago-Kawail
on Deviant Art
I have this love/hate relationship with Wikipedia. I use Wikipedia to look up small esoteric details all the time necessary both for my paid job (map making) and my unpaid job (writing), and in the process get lost in it, devouring information and following links until I'm dizzy. Part of me wishes they'd lighten up their rules a little when it comes to writing style. Yes, it's an encyclopedia, but wouldn't it be fun if you could have a version with a little voice? Or a comments section? A "Like" button? And couldn't they hide the "plot" section of their entries for fiction works under spoiler tags?

Because Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, has been forever ruined for me by Wikipedia. But to be honest, it's my fault.

One of my unofficial goals the past few year is reading at least one great classic a year. Last year I chose Crime and Punishment. I'd heard it was a story that would haunt you, a brave and terrifying journey into the mystery of the human nature. I've been wanting to read it for years but was a little daunted by it, too. I mean, with a title like that? I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but it would be oh, so worth it. Like Anna Karenina, oh my. 

I struggled all year to read it. The beginning is very, very bleak. I won't go into details because the last thing I want to do is scare people off, because I still deeply believe this is a great book and very worth reading. But for me, personally, the beginning was just too bleak.  So with 2013 nearing its end and me still only about 80 pages in, I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it.

So then I made a very grave mistake. I gave into temptation and read the Wikipedia summary of the plot. And then I cried. Because I realized what an AMAZING story this is (not to mention a stunning love story!!!), and I feel I robbed myself of the genuine discovery of it.  And thus I try to blame Wikipedia for putting the full plot out there to spoil any unsuspecting soul who happens upon it, but in reality of course I can only blame myself for giving into the temptation. 

Anybody have a recommendation for a classic for me to read this year? I promise I'll finish it this time around instead of letting Wikipedia spoil it for me! 


  1. i read Moby Dick and Tale of Two Cities last year. This year I've started Bleak House and I was thinking about reading a Russian classic, think I just figured out which one.

    Moody Writing

  2. I'm thinking you and Mood have a sadistic side. (But then I get bored if there isn't at least one explosion or one murder every twenty paragraphs.)

  3. Depends upon the kind of story you like to read. The thing about classic books is the style is much more wordy than modern stories Lots of narrative and description and it was the way the stories were written at that time. I've read so many and not just for the *classic* aspect but for the story or the history of the era.
    But I also read them years ago, lol!

    I liked David Balfour. novels by Stephenson, like Kidnapped.and Treasure Island.

    I liked Gwen Bristol and Elsweth Thane--she wrote a great series back in the 30's that told a story of a family that came to Colonial America and carried up through WWII. Another author I liked was Sir H. Rider Haggard. Victorian Adventure novels like King Solomon's Mines, She, People of the Mists, Wisdom's Daughter and I loved his Allan Quartermain stories. I also loved Rudyard Kipling and Jules Verne stories.

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

  4. As an English teacher I know there are way too many classics I have not read. Crime and Punishment is one I read back in my college days, and although embarrassed to say, I don't remember it well. This is what happened to many classics I encountered when I read them for a class.

  5. Brothers Karamozov is pretty stellar as far as the Russians go. How about Modernist era? EM Forster's A Passage to India, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Nathanael West's Miss Lonely Hearts, Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel. Willa Cather is exceptional also. I loved her final novel Sapphira and the Slave Girl especially (she's best known for O Pioneers and My Antonia).

  6. Classics... Umm... Well, anything by Elizabeth Gaskell, of course. I love my copy of Dante's INFERNO, because it's English on one page and Italian on the other. Treasure Island. Tarzan (though ERB can be SUPER racist in parts.)

    Also, how did I not know you were a mapmaker?! Holy cow!

  7. Have you read Wuthering Heights? Loved that book - a truly haunting love story. Another of my favorite classics is "To Kill a Mockingbird." I need to try and read some more classics, too. There are far too many I haven't read.

  8. My favorite classic is The Count of Monte Cristo - read it twice! I don't feel the need to read classics, even one a year, but I applaud your efforts to do so. My daughter has read many of the classics voluntarily and loved Grapes of Wrath. Good luck!

  9. Daniel Deronda has been on my to-read list forever, and is sitting on my bookshelf awaiting its turn! Sorry C&P was ruined for you. That is one excellent book.

  10. Ah! I felt the same way with the beginning of Crime and Punishment. Have you read any of his essays? I enjoyed the way those started more. Also, have you read Jane Eyre? I feel like your compassion and insight would be able to connect with Jane's character.

  11. My two favorite classics (as well as two of my favorite books of all time) are Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, and Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. The first is a quick read, the last one is much more dense, but so very, very worth it. If you haven't read Catch-22, I'd recommend that one for this year. It's almost overwhelmingly absurd, but not without reason. I'd say more, but I don't want to ruin it.

  12. Couldn't you go back and read it even though you know the plot just for the sake of getting the full ride?



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