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  1. So from what I have read so far, and it is very little, Dostoevsky's novels are so rich and so interested in matters relating to faith, that we should probably have a thread on him. I'm disappointed with myself that I didn't start this earlier, because a year or so ago I read a really really good essay discussing his writing and now I can't remember where it is. It had to do with how he discussed religious faith, doubt and agnosticism in ways that philosophers had discussed for more than a century before, but how, because Dostoevsky portrayed the same questions in the art form of masterly story-telling, he gave them more power than any philosophy text ever could have. I was reminded of this by another recent fascinating essay that I just came across that discusses Dostoevsky's take on narcissism and anxiety as compared to our modern forms of both currently exhibited in the social media that we use - Tweets from underground: How Dostoyevsky anticipated social media: Much discussion and criticism has already been devoted to the elevation of personal trivialities by the likes of Twitter, Instagram, and other self-published and self-promoting media; certainly, the immense variety of resources available—and used—for documenting daily life suggests for every social media user an epic as narcissistic as that of which Golyadkin is the “hero.” But the element of paranoia is just as important as that of conceit. We are warned that everything we put online could destroy our careers and relationships; that Google and Amazon read our emails, and so does the NSA. And in a social context, we are constantly visible—at least potentially so—to an entire network of friends and acquaintances, which gives every offhand comment the potential weight and reach of a manifesto. It’s as if we are standing in the center of a roomful of people, but we don’t know where they’re looking, and we can’t help but feel, both excitedly and uneasily, that they may well be looking at us. Paranoid narcissism—the mixed desires and fears of being watched by unknown others—thus defines virtual society, giving rise to numerous related anxieties such as the sense of exposed insignificance and the fear of missing out. And with its self-consciously self-involved hero, who happens to suffer from all of these woes, The Double describes—and aptly explains—the experiential anxieties of modern social media ... Enter the double: the curated profile, the version of you that bears all your identifying information—name, clothes, job, appearance, place of birth—but whose social grace is impeccable, whose interests are noble and fascinating, whose biography is impressive yet humbly presented, whose comments are edited for maximum wit. Bound link by link to your real-world self with the ponderous chain of your Google results, trapped by your search and browser history in a fully customized cage, you cannot escape or erase your identity but must find a way to improve it. The avatars of social media—Facebook profiles, Twitter handles, and the like—embrace that burdensome mass of personal data and build on it, creating a version of self that is, if not quite an alter ego, at least an elaborately inflated one. Golyadkin’s double, who appears out of the shadows as he tries to outrun his embarrassment, is like this: physically and biographically indistinguishable from Golyadkin, but more confident, more charming, and more popular above all. Think of it as a deftly cropped, Photoshopped reflection: the image of yourself you always wanted to see. You have the same face, but every angle gets your good side ... But just as Golyadkin is haunted by the notion that “a good man tries to live honestly … and never has a double,” you can’t help but feel the smallest pang of guilty jealousy each time your digital double makes a friend. You are uncomfortably conscious of the fact that your created, curated self is not really you—you’ve played up a few things, kept a few others hidden, put on a mask for your digital friends ... And so Golyadkin’s double, far from soothing his paranoia, exacerbates it. For one thing, he seems determined to embarrass Golyadkin in public; his practical jokes of mistaken identity range from taking credit for Golyadkin’s work to forcing him to pay (and take gluttonous credit) for eleven pies eaten by the double at a restaurant. Online, this is the problem of indiscriminating likes, unfortunate photo tags, ill-advised emotional status updates—things that make you look vindictive, or obsessive, or sloppy, when really it was only a bad camera angle, or a poorly punctuated bit of sarcasm, or an unfortunate YouTube wormhole at three in the morning. But the profile, the double, purports to represent you, and how can you prove that it’s lying? On the other hand, the double seems to leave you out of its more enjoyable adventures. In Dostoevsky’s novel, the ability of the socially confident double to ingratiate himself with his coworkers is both enviable and mystifying to Golyadkin, who expresses textbook FOMO in his desire “to know, too, what he keeps whispering to every one—what plots he is hatching with all these people, and what secrets they are talking about? … If only I could…get on with them a little too…” ... So, whenever anyone runs across something good on Dostoevsky, post it here. In the meantime, who here has read most of his novels? Who here still needs to? How would you rank what you've read? What's your favorite? Has anyone, by any chance, read Joseph Frank's five volume biography? Dostoevsky's basic bibliography seems to run as follows: Poor Folk (1846) The Double: A Petersburg Poem (1846) Netochka Nezvanova (1849) Uncle’s Dream (1859) The Village of Stepanchikovo (1859) Humiliated and Insulted (1861) The House of the Dead (1862) Winter Notes on Summer Impressions (1863) Notes from Underground (1864) Crime and Punishment (1866) The Gambler (1867) The Idiot (1869) The Eternal Husband (1870) Demons (1872) A Writer’s Diary (1873) The Adolescent (1875) The Brothers Karamazov (1880) Personally, I am currently remedying a large hole in my literary education and am a day or two away from finishing up Crime and Punishment. The further I read, the more shocked I am that it took me this long to get around to it.
  2. I've never ready anything by him, but I feel the need to add him to my must-read list. Any fans here? Any recommendations for a first read? Favorite novels of his? Maybe I should begin with The Moviegoer. Seems somehow appropriate.
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