January 7, 2009

The Russians


I've been reading a lot of fiction rhetorics (or whatever you want to call those books on writing) lately. And Tolstoy (or Tolstoi, depending on how clever you want to look, I guess) keeps showing up in the texts. More so than that other Russian Dostoevsky.

Now, I haven't read anything by Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, nor do I own any of their book (somehow). Though I surely consider delving into them quite often because they are mentioned constantly as influential to the great authors, and supposedly have written some of the best books ever.

My question is, to those who have read and cherish these books, what is the appeal? Is it because objectively, on their own literary merit (not the mystique built up around them or the expectation that you should like them) that they truly are works of genius? What makes them have a lasting brilliance that translates today?

Let me know, seriously. Because I'm intimidated by those thick tomes, I have just enough of that annoying contrarian hipster in me not to like these books on the grounds that everyone else likes them, plus, I'm wildly prejudiced to contemporary literary writers, particularly American, because I find them much more relatable (not giving a damn what that Nobel secretary said). So very old, high doted upon Russian novels that look to be one billion pages have a lot against them for me...but I don't want to be shutting myself out of a literary goldmine because of my own ignorance and fear.

I'm willing to read them, and would want to, if I just knew for sure that they are really worthwhile and not just listed in these writing books because that's what you're supposed to do.

viva el mustache

1 comment:

The Mighty Flynn said...

I really enjoyed reading Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground as an undergrad. It's pretty short, and it's quite modern. It helped me see what an influential writer the big D was.