Saturday, July 8

Dr. Zhivago

For a summer that started so well in terms of reading, Dr. Zhivago was the piece that threw me off my stride. Before Boris Pasternak's most famous work, I was tearing through my personal library, knocking down The Once and Future King and The Picture of Dorian Gray, enjoying them, reflecting and moving on. Then I try the first new novel of the summer and flounder. The work schedule got more intense, and my readings grew spotty. After two weeks of this, I thought Screw it and pounded the last half of the book down over two days. No doubt this affected my enjoyment of the novel, but I still insist upon regaling and edifying you all with my thoughts on it.

On a very shallow level (a sandbar at low tide would be a reasonable approximation of the depth), I would like to express my distaste for Russian names. I simply find it impossible to follow which character is which and who is doing what to whom at any given moment what with the interchangeable and frequent uses of their last name alone, first two names, childhood name or the name used by their lover. Gah!

Beyond that little quibble created by a lack of cultural exposure, the heart of Dr. Zhivago, what made it worth reading for me, was ideas, centering around the most important developments that arose from the New Testament and revolution. Sure, there was some beautiful imagery, and I really ought to try it again sometime, albeit at a more leisurely pace, because I'm positive I overlooked more than a few things, but the ideas ruled for me. Without them, I would have found finishing the novel all the more difficult because the other elements didn't appeal to me enough, especially the character of Yurii Andreievich Zhivago. I really wanted to like him for all he did and put up with, but the way he treated woman drove me batty. Perhaps, my personal sense of the romantic and appropriate execution of erotic love is one that doesn't gel with that presented in Dr. Zhivago.

In that way, it resembled my experience with Crime and Punishment. After the crime, the only thing that kept me reading were Raskolnikov's conversations with Petrovich and the hope that other such discussions might arise. Could be I simply like my themes straightforward, sans the deep, continuing themes.

As a bit of an afterthought, I very much enjoyed the poems that followed the epilogue.

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