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Crime and War

From: John W.
Sent on: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 11:44 AM

Our recent discussion of Crime and Punishment was outstanding.  Our members obviously read the book closely and came well-prepared for serious analysis.

To prepare our discussion questions, I highlight numerous passages and make notes while I read through for the first time.  A few days before we meet, I then skim through the book another time to ensure that the whole story is fresh in my mind.  I also peruse essays and reviews to obtain background information on the writer, the historical context of the novel, other readers' opinions, etc. This preparation requires 5-10 extra hours per month, but it's worth my time, because it helps me to grasp the novel better.  I don't want to just "get through" a book - I want to understand it.

I'm also quite happy to spend these extra hours because our members are serious readers, and make these efforts worthwhile.  A good contrast to our recent discussion is what happened when I visited a Russian literature class at the University of Minnesota a year ago that was discussing Crime and Punishment. There were 25 or so students, and I sat in the back off to one side, where I could observe the students, all probably ages 19-23.  Many students were on Facebook, reading other Internet sites, or texting/reading texts on their phones.  Fewer than half were engaged at all in the class discussion. Our group discussion was far superior - maybe great literature is lost on the young.


Important Question: Our November meeting will be held on November 1.  Because December is so busy for most people, we skip meeting that month and schedule a longer book for January.  If we have our January meeting on the last Thursday (January 31, 2013), we could have up to 13 weeks to read a much longer than usual novel.

We have many great choices for a long novel.  How about reading War and Peace? Reading[masked] pages per week, about our typical reading pace, would allow us to finish this great book.  The actual language, especially in the superb Pevear/Volokhonsky translation, is not difficult to follow, certainly much easier than Faulkner or James Joyce.  As with all Russian novels, the hardest thing is keeping track of all the characters with their strange (to us) spellings.

I don't want to scare people off from our group.  But reviewers overwhelmingly regard War and Peace as profound and very readable, well within the grasp of serious readers like our members.  Anyone who reads that book in full can hold his/her nose in the air as an unquestionably serious reader!

We'll only schedule War and Peace if there are enough members willing to take up the challenge (our February, 2013 book will be much lighter fare).  For anyone willing to read War and Peace, please email me so I can get an exact count of interest.




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