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I endured the Dostoevsky about two decades ago, and my most distinct memory of it was when it created in me the absolute certainty that a novel such as that is why "Cliff" made "Notes". You have my undying sympathy. Bailing out will be perfectly understandable.

Just thought I'd mention this, but my first produced screenplay was a modern day adaptation of the first part of 'Notes of the Underground'. It's available on You Tube.

I enjoyed reading the novel, and to tell you the truth, it reminded me quite a lot of watching 'Taxi Driver'. You could really feel the vitriol.

After several attempts at different novels, I gave up on F. Dos. I don't remember exactly why I was bored beyond tears. But. I. Could. Not. Take. Any. More.

Got about halfway through Crime & Punishment. Had the book not been a gift, I doubt I'd have soldiered through that much of the novel.

Joseph Conrad disliked Dostoevsky. Huxley liked him--in comparison to academic psychologizing.

There was a tendency in the 19th century to pad out novels, either so that they could be serialized for a longer period, or so they'd make a nice 2-volume set. Maybe these factors were at work with Dostoevsky?

I wish there were some sort of Internet project to extract and post the "good parts" of novels in a database somewhere. These could be very short, to preserve witty quips for posterity. Even mediocre novels contain a few good lines--and yet they are bound for oblivion unless rescued online. Samplers would also allow people who give up on the full version to skim the work’s highlights.

Maybe Google Books or Amazon would fund a project like this, since they're digitizing the texts and would be in contact with their readers who download them. I.e., they could encourage readers to submit their favorite selections from these books. After a few years, editors could remove duplications and poor choices and offer a 'best of the selections" page in front of the raw-materials selections. These samplers would help trigger sales of obscure out-of-print but in-copyright digitized novels, so it would benefit publishers to allow and encourage such a project.

Maybe readers who demonstrate "a good eye" in the editors' opinion could be rewarded in some way.

PS: Here's a link to the Cliff's Notes version of TBK, where used copies can be bought for a penny:

http://www.amazon.com/Dostoevskys-Brothers-Karamazov-Cliffs-Notes/dp/0822002655/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237692686&sr=1-11

PPS: Huxley once proposed that essayists should write articles nominating the worst bores among the classics. (Huxley nominated Don Quixote, which I don't think is that bad.) This could be called the "No one ever wished it were longer" contest, after Samuel Johnson's comment on "Paradise Lost."

I like Roger's "Excerpts" idea, though I fear it may increase the minimal-reading, short-version trending of people too busy with texting inanities and carpal-tunneling their thumbs with endless video gaming to expand their concept of human existence.

If we're collecting excruciating novels, the same lit class also inflicted Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" on my Dostoevskyed thinkfield (for the uninflicted: it gets even worse after the "eyeball in the fish soup" scene early on, so if you've been feeling TOO cheerful lately...). The class redeemed itself by rewarding us with Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" & "...Gatsby", Huxley's "Brave New World", Richard Wright's "Black Boy", and Nabokov's "Lolita" (I've always admired Nabokov's tri-lingual skills: excerpt the early scene of the blood drop trickling down Quilty's cheek composed in the author's 3rd language [after Russian & French]). Hats off to Michael for giving Raskolinkov a go. "Karenina" will be a literary salve for your efforts.

the same lit class also inflicted Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"

I read that in high school and have to say I enjoyed it at the time, though I've never read it since.

The book I most hated in high school was Moby-Dick. Recently I tried reading it again, but gave up; I still found it unbearably boring.

I understand the impulse to introduce kids to great literature, but sometimes I wonder if more adults would read for pleasure if they weren't taught that reading is an onerous chore in their formative years.

I actually liked Dostoevsky. The Idiot is one of my favorite books.

I love the first paragraph of Moby Dick, but can't seem to stay conscious for the rest of it.

And I feel I ought to receive a Certificate of Completion from the country of SPAIN for finishing Don Quixote. I earned it.

Shaw pleaded with educationalists not to include his works in the syllabus, lest students come to hate them as much as Shakespeare!

We had a joke in Seminary that went something like this:
A professor assigned his students to write a paper on elephants. His American student submitted his paper entitled, Lifestyle of the Elephant: Bigger and Better. The English students paper was entitled, The Use of Elephants in Building the Colonies. The Russian student brought his paper in a suitcase entitled, Elephants first of three volumes.

Michael: agreed about Moby Dick-unfinishable. Same with Milton's "Paradise Lost": a purgatory in print. And PM Prescott's joke illustrates a Russian trait which seemingly extended to Russian motion pictures. A film class I took had us scrutinizing Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II", 6 hours of Gulag-like silent film melodrama. The recollection brings to mind a scene near the end of Coppola's "Apocalypse Now": "The horror...the HORROR". If you're ever forced to endure the docudrama, keep Amnesty International on speed dial;-)

It's off-topic, but a secular humanist, skeptic and atheist (and member of pseudoskeptical/rationalist organizations) has publised a book supporting dualism and the afterlife!

http://www.amazon.com/Atheist-Afterlife-afterlife-Reasonable-meeting/dp/1897435290/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237802296&sr=1-9

According to the author website: "The Atheist Afterlife describes a rational, non-religious afterlife that requires nothing more than physics. It demonstrates that an afterlife is possible based on reason, and supports the probability with an original and testable support for dualism– the proposition that our mind and body are separate.

An afterlife based on reason has profound implications. An afterlife that requires only physics requires no God; it makes the concept of God irrelevant and removes the ‘God of the Gaps’ completely. It enables us to prove that many religious conceptions of an afterlife are false, including the concepts of judgement, selectivity based on belief, and the existence of Heaven and Hell. It removes the concept of an afterlife from its religious associations so humanists and other rationalists can examine it on its own merit. And an original and testable support for dualism could resolve a philosophical debate that’s been going on for more than 2,000 years!

Entertaining and well-reasoned, The Atheist Afterlife is a significant contribution to philosophy and free thought"

http://www.modernphilosophy.com/books/aa_intro.html

The author seems to assume that only religious people believe in the afterlife. It's false, as most readers of this blog knows. Also atheists like Michael Roll has supported a rational case for the afterlife, and many spiritualists consider themselves believers in the afterlife due to rational motives, not due to faith.

And his idea that afterlife based on physics removes the need of God is, in my view, a non-sequitur (because the need of God is not dependent on a lack of scientific explanation to the afterlife. Also you can believe in God, and deny the afterlife... a la Antony Flew).

However, the author is a philosopher, so let's to be charitable and expect rigorous argumentation for his case.

For the record:

I predict the author will be a sort of new "Antony Flew" in the pseudoskeptical/atheist community: he'll probably be attacked due to his open support to "superstitions" like afterlife or dualism (a ghost in the machine). Randi, Dennett, Nickel, Shermer, Victor Stenger, Paul Edwards, Susan Blackmore and other professional pseudo-skeptics would never support dualism or the afterlife. Their entire pseudoskeptical career depends in debunking these ideas (and concede the afterlife would imply that they have been fooling themselves and misleading their readers for all these years).

So, let's see if my prediction is confirmed or not.

I've ordered the book, because I'm really very curious about the evidence or arguments that has lead the hard-atheist author to support the afterlife.

No Dostoevsky = No Apocalypse Now

It's a hard bargain.

No Dostoevsky = No Apocalypse Now

Wasn't Apocalypse Now inspired by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness?

"The Atheist Afterlife describes a rational, non-religious afterlife that requires nothing more than physics."

James Beichler's To Die For also presents an argument for the afterlife based on physics - in his case, the physics of a five-dimensional universe. It's very interesting, and I intend to blog on it soon. Not being a physicist, I can't say whether or not the theory holds up to scrutiny, but it is certainly thought-provoking.

Yes, Apocalypse Now it was inspired by Heart of darkness, but there could not have been a Kurtz with out a Raskolnikov first.

Crime and Punishment really paved the way for existential murderers.

Apocalypse Now was inspired by the Conrad story. Yup.

Like Kevin, I really like Roger’s “Excerpt” idea.

My favourite quote from Moby Dick is the one by Jean Luc in Star Trek: First Contact (the turning point when he finally sees that he is being a tad bull-headed trying to hold on to a ship clearly lost to the Borg):

“And he piled upon the whale's white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.“

Michael, perhaps before continuing with Dostoevsky, you might want to read two books by Harold C. Goddard: "Alphabet of the Imagination", a collection of literary essays, including one of Dostoevsky. Also, "The Meaning of Shakespeare", which is not only the most brilliant and fun read about Shakespeare, but also includes many great references to Dostoevsky that illuminate his great gifts.

In 1946 Harold C. Goddard retired from a lifetime of teaching English at Swarthmore College. In that year Swarthmore published a volume of essays honoring Dr. Goddard, including comments by those who had been his students. These letters show how a teacher can have a multiplier effect on the mental capacities of others. Here are some extracts from those letters.

Here is what a man who had him as a teach in 1942 wrote:

Was it Butler who said he never wrote anything until he felt he had to write it? Perhaps I am misquoting Butler, but this is the way I feel—I have to write you because I have a very important problem.

The one thing that impresses me most about the Modern Literature seminar is the way it has become part of my life. This is especially true of Chekhov and Dostoevsky. I find it impossible to close their books and forget about them. At present Dostoevsky haunts me almost every minute of my life. I find it impossible to forget him.

Of all the authors I have ever read he speaks most directly to me. He has made me re-evaluate my entire life. He is the one author who seems in harmony with the eternal values—the one author who knows the soul of man. In fact, I am trying to build my life around him.

This is a secret I have told to no one. You are the only person who knows it—you and Dostoevsky himself. Last night I read the chapters on the recollections and conversations of Father Zossima. I have never had any passage affect me like this. You once told us in seminar to stop reading Crime and Punishment if we found it unbearable—strange to say I found these chapters about Father Zossima almost unbearable. Of course they aroused no feeling of horror; but they were so simple, yet so beautiful, that I found I was too "choked up" with emotions to continue reading. While reading them I was keenly conscious of how much I had failed in my life to live up to what the old monk said; I was conscious of the poverty of my spiritual life and of all my failures. It was this feeling of guilt that was almost unbearable.

Yet, with it, there was a feeling of joy and exaltation. It was as if I had an insight into the soul of man, with all its power and love and nobility. This feeling of intense faith and joyousness was almost unbearable. It was a strange "double feeling" of guilt and exaltation, of humility and triumph, and I will always regard that double feeling as one of the most sacred moments of my life.

I said in the first paragraph that I have a problem, and you are probably impatient to hear it by now.

As I said before, I am trying to realize Dostoevsky's ideals in my life. Coupled with this is the fact that I am going into the army soon, and, within a year, will be killing. This seems a pretty poor way to live up to Dostoevsky's ideals. How can I believe in the chapter "Of prayer, of Love" and especially "Can a man judge his fellow creatures" and still go to murder Germans and Japanese? "Kiss the earth and love it with an unceasing, consuming love. Love all men, love everything"—I want to know if you regard me as a hypocrite, I value your opinion on this matter more than anyone else. Perhaps I am unfair to you in troubling you with this problem of mine. If you think I am, I will understand if you do not answer it.

Another man wrote who had took a course in 1936:

Dr. Goddard: . . . I want to let you know just how I feel about this course. I can say in all sincerity that I have gained more of real, true value from this course than I have from any other since I have been here. I know that many of these books would have passed unnoticed by me if I had not taken the course. And I know, further, that even if I had read them at some time, I never could have received as much by that reading as you have made possible.

I think that The Brothers Karamazov is one of the finest things I have or ever will have read. And only with the help of your guiding hand was I able to understand it in its true sense! These are the things that to me mean more than anything else in the world. Appreciation, worth, values, friends, and such are the basic things. It is such things that cause one to hesitate at some time before it's too late, and realize that there are other things beside money and wealth that count!

It is from such things that we are able to derive true pleasure and satisfaction. And it is this course that has given me this pleasure and satisfaction!

you might want to read two books by Harold C. Goddard: "Alphabet of the Imagination", a collection of literary essays, including one of Dostoevsky. Also, "The Meaning of Shakespeare"

I have read The Meaning of Shakespeare and enjoyed it very much, though I disagree with many of Goddard's interpretations.

Last night I read the chapters on the recollections and conversations of Father Zossima. I have never had any passage affect me like this.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that just yesterday I came to the fifty-page section on Zosima's life and teachings. I flipped through it, realized it didn't advance the plot, and said, "Oh hell, I'm not reading all this!" So I skipped over it entirely.

Yeah, I'm a philistine.

:-(

James Beichler's To Die For also presents an argument for the afterlife based on physics - in his case, the physics of a five-dimensional universe. It's very interesting, and I intend to blog on it soon. Not being a physicist, I can't say whether or not the theory holds up to scrutiny, but it is certainly thought-provoking

Thanks Michael for that reference, I hope to get a copy of it soon. And certainly, I'll expect your review or comment of it.

As an off-topic comment, but relevant to a previous discussion about surveys and atheism in U.S (do you remember it Michael H?, :)) I came across this paper, whose abstract says:

Despite the declining salience of divisions among religious groups, the boundary between believers and nonbelievers in America remains strong. This article examines the limits of Americans' acceptance of atheists. Using new national survey data, it shows atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups. This distrust of atheists is driven by religious predictors, social location, and broader value orientations. It is rooted in moral and symbolic, rather than ethnic or material, grounds. We demonstrate that increasing acceptance of religious diversity does not extend to the nonreligious, and present a theoretical framework for understanding the role of religious belief in providing a moral basis for cultural membership and solidarity in an otherwise highly diverse society

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/asoca/asr/2006/00000071/00000002/art00003

It's clear that being an atheist in US is a hard social experience (and probably an existential one too, given their belief in the non-existence of a spiritual dimension, and the permanent and absolute extinction of the "self" after death).

However, one would expect that being considered social "outcasts" (an expression that I read of an atheist to define himself) would promote in them the humilty, tolerance and empathy needed to be part of a large, democratic and pluralistic society.

But the reality is that atheists, at least their public promotors/propagandists, try to monopolize the society with an elitist, arrogant, angry and agressive rhetoric, probably reinforcing their social rejection, at least in U.S.

Thus, they aren't only "innocent victims" of the prejudices or bigotry of a large Christian U.S. society (prejudices or bigotry that probably exist in some), but they're actively reinforcing, with their behaviour, rhetoric and hostile philosophy, their own rejection and outcast.

But let's to return to The Brothers Boringmyassov...

However, one would expect that being considered social "outcasts" (an expression that I read of an atheist to define himself) would promote in them the humilty, tolerance and empathy needed to be part of a large, democratic and pluralistic society.

I'm not surprised at all that those who identify themselves as atheist are bereft of these attributes. After all, the acceptance of a purely materialist metaphysics leads one to accept that human beings are the absolute pinnacle of intelligent life. Unmitigated adoration of one's own intellect does not lend itself to humility, tolerance and empathy - it instead reinforces what we see: arrogance, intolerance and self-indulgence.

What I find sort of amusing is that the materialists are partially right in their monistic position that matter is all that exists. What they fail to understand is that matter is spirit - and that it is possible to see that only when the one doing the looking learns to diminish the tendency to identify the self with the particular bit of the matter they find themselves occupying. Even more amusing is that in order to do so they need to find some humility first.

In other words, it is the qualities of humility, tolerance and compassion that lead to the genuine understanding of the nature of reality - it’s not the understanding that leads to the qualities. I do find it hopeful that more of the religiously inclined appear to be discovering these qualities.

Not all do, though. There’s little that strikes me as more arrogant, intolerant and self-indulgent than someone choosing to damn the citizens of Dover, PA to hell, or to stroll into a busy market in order to detonate an explosive vest, or bomb an abortion clinic, or fly an airplane into a skyscraper.

But ZC and I digress – back to Dostoevsky. I’ve never read any of his other works, but I do recall being favorably impressed with “Notes from Underground”. It’s been so long I recall absolutely nothing besides a favorable impression. That’s a pretty short book, though, and I don’t recall a great deal of pointless meandering.

RE: Your review of "21 days into the afterlife."

Dear Mr.Prescott
Your positive review induced me to download the pdf.
There was only one place that I disagreed with your view: Day 13 and the reference to Catherine and Dr.Weiss.
I am unable to believe that reincarnating 86 times(and counting) to this world (seen as one of the hells of the universe by R.Kipling) is compatible with the concept of a compassionate god. It seems much more congruent with the old testament god, or one of the greek or sumerian gods.( the story of Sisyphus comes to mind ?)
I would definitely prefer oblivion (as occurs each night in sleep); but, given a god such as the one suggested above I doubt whether that option would be made available to me!
I feel that the reference to the book of Dr.Weiss,"Many Lives, Many Masters"( however many people he has helped in this world, completely destroys any positive feelings towards the existence of life after death.
The following "ditty" by R.Kipling seems appropriate:

Oh God, forasmuch as without Thee
We are not enabled to doubt Thee
So grant us Thy Grace
We may teach every race
That Thy children know nothing about Thee

(quoted in
R,Kipling to R.Haggard:The record of a friendship.
ed. Morton Cohen.p.134.)

There was only one place that I disagreed with your view: Day 13 and the reference to Catherine and Dr.Weiss.

I don't necessarily accept the validity of past-life memories produced by hypnotic regression. In some cases, memories of this kind have been clearly traced to novels, movies, etc. that the patient remembered subconsciously. Hypnotized people have a known tendency to confabulate - i.e., to make things up in order to please the hypnotist. On the other hand, some regression cases are difficult to debunk.

As for having 86 lives ... it's conceivable that there's such a thing as a "group soul," and that the 86 lives are lived by different members of this collective entity, who then share their memories. In that case, each group member would have only one life to suffer through! (See Michael Tymn's post on this subject.)

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