The Double - 2015 Reading Challenge
This is going to be a quick one, just so you're warned from the beginning. That's for a few reasons. In case you missed it, I'm doing #NaNoWriMo this year, which means I'm writing like crazy and already short on time. Today, for instance, I've already written a freelance article and more than 2000 words of my next novel, and now I'm writing this book review. So there are a lot of words being slung around in my brain. Let's hope no one gets hurt. The other reason this is short is that I really was sort of meh about this book. Here's a tricky thing about being an avid reader and a writer who actually studied writing at a university: you respect the classics, but you have to secretly admit that you don't always love them. After all, who decides what's a classic? When someone has decided that something is a classic, does that mean you're somehow literarily obligated to love it?
I hope not. Because I really didn't like Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Double. Although, I have to say, having watched the trailer for the movie with Jesse Eisenberg, I do kind of want to see that.
I KNOW, I KNOW. That probably makes me a bad book nerd. Consider my wrist slapped.
But seriously, what's the point of writing these reviews if I'm not going to be honest? Granted, The Double was short, so it had that going for it. And despite fulfilling my a book more than 100 years old category, it was surprisingly easy to read, and it had a generally interesting premise.
A bumbling, socially awkward man working for the Russian government suddenly finds himself working with a man who looks exactly like him. The stranger is everything the real Golyadkin is not -- charming, brash, bold, confident -- and it seems that he is doing everything he can to intrude on Golyadkin's life and possibly even replace him in it.
After a series of embarrassing, career-damaging events, Golyadkin finds himself going mad -- and nobody around him really seems to care.
It's an interesting concept, but it wasn't that exciting to read. Maybe it's because I've been reading so much contemporary fiction lately that it was difficult for me to swallow. There was nothing inherently wrong with the book, it was just that I couldn't really enjoy it. The language was a little stuffy and Golyadkin's obvious madness was uncomfortable to read after a while.
Still, for me at least, it's always worth it to read an old book like this. It shows how much fiction has evolved over the decades -- or in this case, more than 150 years. The fact that what I love to do, to write books, has existed for so long, and that so many people continue to read this man's book more than a century later, is a supremely cool feeling.
Yes, definitely, read new books. Support living authors. But every once in a while, dip your toes into some old work -- especially if you're an experienced reader. You won't love every classic you pick up, just like you don't love every book you pick up that was written in the past few years. But who knows? You may get lucky and find something you love, a treasure that's been sitting on a shelf waiting for you for more than 100 years. It didn't happen for me this time around, but there's always next time.
Feature image: Flickr / Nana B Agyei / 2013