Thursday, November 30, 2006

So Scobie and Helen kiss. And an affair begins. And then we cut to what I'm assuming is a month or two into the affair, when some of the shine has worn off, and the two lovers are... well, they're not exactly bickering. But Helen reminds Scobie of his wife, Louise, which isn't that great for Scobie. It is - as my friend Mike might say - a bit of a "weenie shrinker."

But there's a cold reality to this predicament. Scobie is married. Not only that, he's Catholic, which means he'll never be able to spiritually divorce Louise for Helen. And despite his lacadazical efforts to got to Mass, things like faith are important to Scobie. So a fight erupts, words are tossed back and forth like bombs, and Scobie leaves Helen for the time being. He later writes her a letter, professing his love for her, telling her that he'll always be there for her while he's alive.

That last part is important. Greene seems to be dropping lots of pretty heavy clues as to how this is going to turn out. The book pretty much opens with Scobie investigating a suicide, and now this. I probably just gave the whole thing away.

Anyway, something that's a little astonishing is that Scobie and Helen are flying under the radar in all of this. No one in the entire colony seems to know what's going on with them. When Scobie finishes the aforementioned letter, he goes to Helen's with it, slips it under her door. It's evidence. It's a physical declaration of his love for Helen. Since this is Greene, you know nothing good is going to come of it.

And nothing does. Scobie meets Helen at a party, and finds out she never got the letter. Not only that, but Louise is coming back from South Africa. She misses Scobie, basically. So our man is up a creek. To top it off, Helen's house boy got to the letter before she did and brought it to Yusef, the Syrian from whom Scobie took the loan to send Louise to South Africa. Now the blackmail begins.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I don't think the French chippy is actually French. I don't know why I thought she was French, but whatever. It doesn't have much bearing on the story. This is Graham Greene we're talking about here. A woman's involved, so there's going to be infidelity, and some tragedy (unless it's The Third Man, then it's just tragedy). I just wanted to clear that up before the holiday. I haven't read much more into The Heart of the Matter, so this isn't an update for that.

I promise to get back to Brothers soon. I'm going away for Thanksgiving, and I have a long bus ride ahead of me, so I'll kill some time with it then. And I'm going to start marking up the pages with notes and whatnot. My fear of marking up a nice book has put me off doing that, but it will make these blogs easier, so I'm going to do it.

If I don't see you before then, have a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I have not read any of The Brothers Karamozov this week. I hope to get to it sometime soon. What's happened is that I've been working on a project, which requires my attention on the train when I'm heading home. Well, it actually doesn't require my time then, but that's when I like to work on this project. If you want to know more, check out my Night Nurse blog. It should be over on the side there.

Anyway, I have been reading something else, though, Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter. I actually really like Greene's work, and I got into him after seeing The Third Man, which is a great pic for Orson Welles. The Heart of the Matter is refreshing in a lot of ways, not least because it's pretty straight forward, and it's pretty tight, at least compared to Brothers. The difference, of course, is that Greene wasn't serializing this, whereas Dostoyevsky was.

Heart is about a cop named Scobie who works in Sierra Leone for the Brits (he is a Brit) during WWII. His wife, Louise, is something of a whiner who doesn't like SL. She wants to move to South Africa. Scobie, not having a lot of money, borrows from a local Syrian merchant since the bank won't give him the cash. Once his wife is gone, he meets a young French woman who literally washes up on shore after a boat sinks. That's about as far as I've gotten in the book, and even though I didn't know what was going to happen until I read the description on, I have been caught up in it.

I read somewhere that Heart is a fairly personal book for Greene, though I can't imagine it being any more personal than The Quiet American or The End of the Engagement (both great books, by the way). They all deal with the same things, adultery, longing, love, loss, and so on. In the case of Heart, it seems Greene stacked the deck a little in Scobie's favor, since Louise is rather unattractive as a character. Whatever happens next - and it's not hard to guess since the French chippy arrived - I figure it'll be pretty good.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I'm another 10 pages into this book, and there is some action. That's not to say there are horse chases, gun- or fist-fights. No, the kind of action I'm talking about is about 10 people standing around and talking! Whoo hoo!

Now that I'm past the introduction stage, Dostoyevsky has father Fyodor go with middle son Ivan to the local monestary (that's what it is as far as I can tell) where youngest Alexey is staying. He's there to ostensibly meet with the Elder, Zosima, so Zosima can mediate between Fyodor and eldest son Dimitri over inheritance issues. Dimitri, however, is late to the meeting. Along for the ride as well are two men, who are listed at the front of the book.

That's one thing about Russian novels: The bigger ones have character lists at the start. That's so you can keep up, though in this case it doesn't help because there is no information other than names and nicknames (and it seems everyone has at least 1,000 of those).

The two guys arePyotr Fomich Kalganov and Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov. My first thought on meeting these guys was what's the deal with all the Pyotrs? But the second thought was who the hell are these people and why are they here? Ten pages later, I'm still guessing. Then again, not a lot can happen in those pages when all people do is talk about themseves.

Anyway, Zosima comes out to meet with this group, and he's got with him two men, Alexey and some other altar boy, whose name we never learn. They are taken into an inner sanctum, and a discussion about belief begins. It seems this Miusov guy is a believer. Goes to church, probably tithes, the whole deal. Fyodor Pavlovich, on the other hand, is pretty much an athiest and a fool.

Zosima has a nice little speech for Fyodor, about trust. He says: "A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he dos not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love, and having no love, he gives himself up to passions and coarse pleasures..."

And so on.

Zosima is basically calling Fyodor out here. And it's interesting, because it seems that Dostoyevsky is calling himself out. Dostoyevsky was a gambler, and at times while reading this passage, I got hte feeling he was talking about himself, or to himself. Either way, from what I've gleaned about him, it doesn't seem like he deserves it. And maybe I'm reading it wrong.