12 Winters Blog

“The Double” in retrospect and Men of Winter status update

Posted in September 2010 by Ted Morrissey on September 12, 2010

I had some quality Amtrak time this weekend and was able to finish Dostoevsky’s long story, or novella, “The Double” (1846; trans. George Bird). I enjoyed it very much. Ronald Hengley, the editor of Great Short Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky (Perennial Classic, 1968), writes in his introduction that the story’s main character, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, is a reflection of Dostoevsky’s self-image:

These [i.e., Golyadkin and the protagonist of “White Nights” (1848)] despised, feeble, usually poverty-stricken personages are all introspective in inspiration and may be considered as self-portraits of the author as seen in the distorting mirror of his imagination — portraits, that is, of the Dostoevsky who was the butt of his fellow cadets in the army engineering school where he received his main education, and who later provoked the sneers of Turgenev and other members of his literary set in St. Petersburg shortly after receiving notoriety with the publication of his first fiction. (viii)

Hingley goes on to say that Dostoevsky “resented . . . almost everyone he knew,” but that “he also appears to have courted [. . . humiliating] experiences with a certain masochistic gusto.” In my reading of “The Double,” I see the tenacity of one’s individual personality. Mr. Golyadkin (whose name means something like “poor fellow” in Russian, according to the translator) resolves time and again to cut all ties with his double, “Golyadkin junior,” a duplicitous, mean-spirited fellow who seems bent on Golyadkin’s professional and personal destruction, but the original Golyadkin continues to seek out his double or to place himself in situations where his encountering his double is all but inevitable. I see this as one’s inability to totally rid oneself of the darker (or at least less attractive) sides of one’s personality. We may be able to stray from our true selves for a time, but we must always return, even if it’s against our own will.

I’m looking forward to other stories in the collection, but for now I’ve turned my attention to a contemporary novel, Adam Braver‘s Crows over the Wheatfield (2006). I’m about forty pages into it, and I no doubt will be blogging further about it in the future. I’m a great fan of Braver’s first novel, Mr. Lincoln’s Wars (2003), a book I have taught in a couple of different college courses; and readers around the world have been becoming fans of Braver’s newest novel, November 22, 1963, as it’s been translated into several languages, including French and Japanese. As I said, more on Crows to follow.

While I’m at it, a quick nod to Vaudezilla’s production of Rollin’ Outta Here Naked: A Big Lebowski Burlesque. I was in Chicago over the weekend and took in the show at the Greenhouse Theater Center. It was . . . bizarre — but great fun, especially for Big Lebowski fans (who aren’t plagued by cultural timidity). Frankly, it’s the sort of thing one doesn’t have an opportunity to see much (or at all) around Springfield.

On the Men of Winter front, I’ve been exchanging emails the last few days with the graphic artist, Julie McAnary, who’s designing the cover for my novel, and we’re just about there, so hopefully it will be ready for an unveiling very soon. I anticipate some page proofs soon as well, as the publisher, Punkin House Press, is planning a release this fall.

I continue to look for a journal to publish “Melvill in the Marquesas,” the first chapter of my novella Weeping with an Ancient God, and I continue work on my novel-in-progress, informally titled the Authoress, though I’m 99.9% certain of the formal title now. I’m nearing the 300-ms.-page mark and feeling very good about the story.

tedmorrissey.com

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