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Demons

We are going to Uncle Vanya's.

This books is considered Doy's purgatory in between crime and pun's hell and Brother K's salvation. He predicts and foreshadows Russia's revolution. It is a response to a current, unjust, political murder. He satirizes and takes a literary crap on Turgenev. Throughout the novel Doy is trying to spit in the face of nilhism. Virginia Woolf said reading Doy is like being consumed in a kind of whirling, seething pool. Hemingway said, concerning Doy, "How can someone write so badly but make the reader feel so deeply?" Henry James thought Doy's writing was garbage. Kafka considered Doy one of his closest, most intimate friends. Almost every great writer pays some kind of homage to Doy. Enjoy the book.

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  • john m.

    Great pictures of everyday life in Russia. The one of the kids running through water spray reminds me of running through open fire hydrants in the Bronx when I was a kid, and what kids still do today all over NY. The videos were a good example of the renowned generosity of Russians, and especially their reverence and care of elderly. Any generality about any nationality is obviously going to have holes and exceptions. A country that has had to face invaders disunion as often as Russia has is naturally going to look to a strong government to protect. It is a tendency, one of many, not the only defining statement about Russians.

    June 7, 2014

  • john m.

    Russians worship strong men, Ivan The Terrible, Peter The Great, Catherine The Great, Lenin, Stalin, Putin, along with a lot of other nationalities.

    June 4, 2014

    • NL

      Not all Russians worship strong men, Stalin, Putin, etc., but unfortunately too many do.

      June 4, 2014

    • NL

      Here's a video that shows a side of Russians that has nothing to do with worshiping Stalin, Putin, etc: http://blog.petflow.c...­. And here is a collection of photos of Soviet life (a few of them have some "worship" but most don't: http://fishki.net/124...­.

      June 7, 2014

  • B M.

    Great book,.i hope we have follow-up discussion in future that will focus on details and specifics of book.

    1 · June 5, 2014

  • john m.

    Also remember Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, story of Bolshevik leaders who confessed to ridiculous crimes during Stalin's purges. Koestler's idea was that this was their last best service to the party. They had no life or thought outside the party and their devotion to it. Dostoyevsky saw that weakness in the characters in this book. They have surrendered their personalities, their wills, their self autonomy to their leader and cause. It was a brilliant insight on his part into the psyche of many of the Communist leaders, and communists around the world. There is testimony from American communists showing the same surrender to the party in the 30s and 40s. Read Howard Fast's memoirs Red (?), and he claims to have been an independent minded person.

    1 · June 4, 2014

  • Jack

    In response to Richard and Elizabeth: I didn't want to be too much of a discussion tsar during the first meeting...telling people that tangents or side-topics are off limits...but during future discussions I will be more restrictive on preventing the conversation from wandering...especially to current events or personal topics. I wanted the first meeting to lean towards openness and comfort concerning whatever someone had to contribute, rather than be a directed and controlled setting where people would feel apprehensive on whether they should or should not speak...but if regular attendance continues I'm sure we'll get better at having more focused discussions. That being said, staying "on-topic" is a two-way street...and we shouldn't continue asking "off-topic" questions if we don't want an "off-topic" discussion. Looking forward to the next meeting.

    3 · June 4, 2014

    • B M.

      Another club I belong to emails suggested discussion questions and criticism a few days before the meet. Also encourages members to choose a particularly beautiful or insightful passage to read aloud.

      1 · June 4, 2014

  • john m.

    I justy dug out an old book "Dostoevsky: The Making of a Novelist by Ernst J Simmons. PP[masked] he discusses the Confession, the violation of little girl, its suppression by D's editor, and its apparent place in D's plans. It is of primary importance in understanding Stavrogin's character, its omission has led to the mystery about S's character, and D's failure to include it in later editions may indicate that he preferred S to be an enigma as more compatible with D's artistic intention. The confession seems to have been the turning point in S's development. He had the choice between good and evil. His failure to publish the confession is a sign of his spiritual bankruptcy and his ultimate destruction. Hope this helps.

    3 · June 3, 2014

    • Elizabeth B.

      Yes, that is very helpful. Thanks for the additional info. S. continues to be an enigma to me, and I also find it hard to understand why so many characters in the book love and adore him. Aside from good looks, what is his irresistible appeal?

      June 3, 2014

  • Donna Marie R.

    The meeting was a good introduction to me as a new reader of Russian novels.

    June 3, 2014

  • john m.

    It is interesting there are two versions of the confession. The translation we are using repeats the first version, which you quote here. In the later version quoted in the MacAndrew translation (which I had read) , the confession, stops before the quotation about her feeling rapture and says two additional sheets of the confession are missing. MacAndrew says the expanded expurgated version makes explicit what happened. That second also says the girl is in her twelfth year. People in this book always seem to horrified by stuff that seems trivial, e.g. a kiss of a juvenile, that I was not surprised to read that Tikhon was horrified. I think you are probably right that in the original version he had sex. Maybe Dostoevsky changed his mind in the second version, maybe he did not want to be too explicit, maybe he was hinting that leaving the girl alone was the greater crime. I don't know. I will read the Pavear version of the confession through but suspect it will remain a mystery

    June 3, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    I just finished reading Stavrogin's confession from "At Tikhon's," which is in the Appendix. It is not absolutely explicit, but I think he clearly had sex with the young girl, Maryosha. (She is first described as being about 14; later he refers to "a helpless 10-year-old." Worse yet.) After she kisses him back, he says, "I almost got up and left ... out of pity. But I overcame the sudden sensation of fear and stayed. When it was all over, ...." I suspect it was probably this that made the editor suppress this chapter. Personally, I think his worse crime might well have been his waiting around when he had the idea that she might be killing herself and doing nothing to stop her. But apparently that was not how they saw it then. Tikhon says "'But of course there is not and cannot be any greater and more terrible crime than your act with the maiden.'" Clearly, it was not just a kiss. Your thoughts?

    June 3, 2014

  • BobM

    Excellent discussion.

    June 3, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    It was good, but I wish we had focused more on the book.

    1 · June 2, 2014

  • Richard

    Excellent as long as we stayed on topic.

    2 · June 2, 2014

  • Jack

    Since the poll ended in a tie...2 votes vs. 2 votes...I've decided to have the meeting at Uncle Vanya's...6:30pm tomorrow....located at 315 West 54th street...between 9th and 8th ave. I called and made the reservation for 20 people because I'm not sure how many people are definitely attending this meeting. I chose Uncle Vanya's for a couple of reasons
    -We don't have to worry about a rain venue or finding each other at the monument
    -The more active members in this conversation chose Uncle Vanya (Elizabeth B, Sunjoy, etc.)
    -Donna Marie Reale's allergies
    -I'll be hungry then
    -If we meet there monthly, perhaps we can eventually get big dinner deals
    -Again, the place is named after a Chekov play...let's pay homage

    Since I'm a waiter, I can't help but suggest for everyone to bring cash in small denominations so we don't have to worry about splitting the check 13 ways and making it complicated for the wait staff. And no randomly grabbing other peoples' noses during dinner.

    June 1, 2014

    • john m.

      I agree.

      June 2, 2014

    • Sunjoy

      We can ask the staff if they could accommodate separate checks. Most restaurants are experienced with this these days.

      June 2, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    On their website it says live music every night starting at 7. I'm not happy about that. Do you think we could request they start later, if it is scheduled for Monday?

    May 30, 2014

    • Jack

      There will be no music there Monday night.

      1 · June 1, 2014

    • Elizabeth B.

      Glad to hear that.

      June 2, 2014

  • B M.

    Entire seminars can be devoted to Demons. I also am halfway through. This is also our first meeting where it would be productive to establish how we want to operate. So, I am suggesting we spend two sessions on demons. First to discuss overall impressions, key ideas and Dostoyevsky. Second, more in depth analysis guided by discussion/study questions. I don't suggest to do this all the time, but this is a 800 page book in my edition

    2 · May 30, 2014

    • Sunjoy

      I agree. There can be a good discussion even without reading the whole book. A book per meeting sounds right and the way most book meetups are organized.

      May 30, 2014

    • Elizabeth B.

      I also am only about halfway through and like the idea of having two sessions on Demons. We could follow B. More's suggestion, or simply focus more on the first half on Monday, and more on the rest next time. There is so much to discuss!

      May 30, 2014

  • john m.

    I agree two sessions would be suitable for this long book.

    May 30, 2014

  • Donna Marie R.

    I appreciate B. More's comments. I'm sorry that I haven't been able to get very far in the book. But I want to come. 'agree about having a few sessions on the book.

    May 30, 2014

  • B M.

    Will there be live music on Monday night at vanya's? Some nights are quiet, some not.

    May 30, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    If you click on More, you'll get the poll.
    Since 6:30 is supper time, I voted for Uncle Vanya.

    May 29, 2014

  • Sunjoy

    Am up for meeting at U Vanya

    May 29, 2014

  • john m.

    I don't see the poll. I am up for either place. Would we be ordering dinners at Uncle Vanya's? Always happy to try a new restaurant.

    May 29, 2014

  • Jack

    I just went to the Uncle Vanya Cafe. It seemed like a very nice, reasonably priced place. The man there, Max, said he could accommodate 30 or 40 people...despite the place looking small to me...I'm guessing of the 50 people who signed up for this reading group...15-20 will come. So please everyone vote on the poll (if you don't see the poll....just post here)...to decide if we are going there or central park.

    1 · May 29, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    The area around the Maine monument is often very crowded. So will Jack have a sign or wear something distinctive so we can find him? Did we ever decide if we are going into the park or staying on that plaza? I'm assuming the weather will be OK. Or people may prefer to go to Uncle Vanya's. I guess we can decide on Monday when we're all together.
    Looking forward to it.

    May 29, 2014

    • Jack

      I will stand on the edge of the monument while holding the book above my head and yelling, "Pyotr Stepanovich! You bastard!" I just submitted a poll though for whether or not we are going to Uncle Vanya cafe. Vote there.

      May 29, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    I just started reading Demons, and I'm afraid I may not be able to finish it by June 2. I hope no one will be outraged. I promise not to complain about any "spoilers." I'll try to get as close as possible to the end. I do like it. But it's not a fast read.

    May 18, 2014

    • Jack

      No problem Elizabeth, as long as you're ok with spoilers. I'm trudging through it now myself, but I think people will still benefit/gain from the discussion even if they don't finish...as the book is so complex and deep...we could talk for 2 hours simply about Stephan's bio and his relationship with varvara...and I think Doy's style is such that if you just read 200 pages..you get a good sense of what's he trying to do and the kind of world he's creating...finishing it just wraps up the plot...but who knows, I haven't finished it yet, so, incidentally, devil take the analysis, I could be wrong, I'm not precisely sure, but that's my personal opinion. (that previous sentence was my poor attempt at Doy's style).

      May 19, 2014

  • Donna Marie R.

    I'll be glad to meet everyone at Columbus Circle. 'not super keen on sitting on the grass. 'sorry to say, my allergies would kick up. But sitting on a bench would be okay, I think. 'looking forward to the meeting. 'will get the book.

    May 4, 2014

    • Jack

      If your allergies are kicking up on June 2 we can stay near the USS Maine Monument...there are cafe tables, chairs, and the surface of the ground is sand.

      May 18, 2014

  • Jack

    I just stopped by Uncle Vanya's while walking down the 9th ave street fair. They were closed (Sunday hours 2pm-10pm), but I left a message on their answering machine. The space looks small and they have live music at 7pm (I usually work until 6 so I can't change the 6:30 start time), but I will still talk to the owner/manager about hosting our group and possible deals/plans. I like the idea (a restaurant named after a Chekov play seems like an ideal environment for a russian reading group) and I will keep everyone posted, but for now let's keep the meeting place Columbus circle (USS Maine monument), with the lincoln center public space as a back-up place for a rainy day (another good idea B More).

    1 · May 18, 2014

  • john m.

    Northeast corner sounds good to me. Once we are there we may then decide to go to someplace like Uncle Vanya's as someone else suggested. For now I am all for settling on one place, rather than getting into a multi partied debate like those found in Demons and other Russian novels.

    May 17, 2014

  • B M.

    How about meeting at the northeast part of Columbus circle at the merchant's gate entrance to Central Park by the uss Maine monument? Can't miss it, and there are benches around there to wait on.

    Rain date alternative is the Lincoln center public space a few blocks up.

    May 17, 2014

  • B M.

    Uncle vanya cafe on 54th and 9th is pleasant, reasonably priced. Check out their Facebook and website.

    May 17, 2014

  • john m.

    OK. Without being a nudge where in the Circle? I am looking forward to these reading (have started Demons) and discussions.

    May 5, 2014

    • Elizabeth B.

      You're not being a nudge. Columbus Circle is quite huge. We do need a specific spot to meet.

      May 6, 2014

  • john m.

    I am not sure where we are meeting now. Is it Citibank Atrium, or Columbus Circle?

    May 4, 2014

    • Jack

      Columbus Circle

      May 5, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    I like the idea of meeting at Columbus Circle and sitting in the Park, weather-permitting. If the weather is bad, we could get some food in Whole Foods and sit there, or if too crowded, there's the Rubenstein Atrium on Broadway near 62 St. (part of Lincoln Center).
    Now I'll have to find the book and reread it!

    May 3, 2014

  • john m.

    we could meet in a public atrium, bring sandwiches in here or get something to eat nearby..there is an atrium in the building on 42nd and pershing square, directly opposite grand central station entrance..on the west side of park ave..i believe the number is 220 park ave south. it is usually almost empty on the weekends. i could check it out sunday. citibank atrium at 53 and lexi is very popular, maybe noisy.

    May 2, 2014

    • Jack

      Good idea. If it's a rainy day, we'll use the citi bank atrium.

      May 3, 2014

  • Elizabeth B.

    I'm confused. Is Demons the name of a novel?
    Also, Isn't the Russian Tea Room a rather pricey place to meet?

    May 2, 2014

    • Elizabeth B.

      Thanks for explaining. I read The Possessed many years ago-- did not know it's also called Demons. Aside from the Tea Room being pricey, the relatively late meeting time is not good for me. I'm sorry I will miss the discussion of this book. I hope to join you another time.

      May 3, 2014

    • Jack

      We're not meeting in the tea room anymore and the time has changed to 6:30

      May 3, 2014

  • Will L.

    If this is Dostoyevsky, I think the usual English title is "The Devils".
    (When I saw the mail "Can you make Demons?", I thought it was from one of my occultist associates.)

    May 3, 2014

    • Jack

      Haha. There's been a long argument over the proper title of the book. We can discuss this in the reading group. But I chose Demons becasue the translation I'm reading, the most recent, "critically acclaimed" translation by pevear and volokhonsky argue strongly for Demons. Also, a Russian woman I work with studied Dostoevsky in college in Russia and told me that Demons was the proper title. Also, Doystoyevsky quotes the bible before he begins the story, and the bible blurb contains the word Demons. Hope to talk to you soon. -Jack

      May 3, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I thought it was so exciting to meet at the Russ. Tea room.

    May 2, 2014

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