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Swann's Way
Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis
Norman Rush
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Roberto Bolaño, Laura Healy
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The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
James Wood
The Death of Ivan Ilych - Aylmer Maude, Leo Tolstoy

A mini-review not intended for the easily offended (i.e., there’s a dirty part)

But first, Constance Garnett. Is it possible that this woman was the best and worst thing to happen to all Russian public domain titles? She seems to have translated everything Russian that was in print at the time of her demise. Given that her translations are, likely, the stuff much academic criticism is based on, one has to wonder what could have been. There is a vague sort of missed opportunity that hovers over this text—something that suggests these stories have survived her translation. Just a thought.

Now, the filthy part:

But first, suppose just for a second that you could do a reading from this novella to the audience of your choice. Further suppose, given your (my) peculiar sense of humor, said audience of choice was … oh, say a bar in San Francisco … or, say a smaller audience, say, oh, I don’t know, say Rick Santorum. Now what would you glean from the text to read in the Bay City bar or to Mr. Morality? Need some prodding? (not a pun) Well, for my money, hands down, it would have to be from the scene where Ivan finds a kind of comfort in the humble, peasant servant, Gerasim:

Ivan Ilych made Gerasim sit and hold his legs, and began to talk to him. And, strange to say, he fancied he felt better while Gerasim had hold of his legs.

From that time forward Ivan Ilych would sometimes call Gerasim, and get him to hold his legs on his shoulders, and he liked talking with him.

At this point, you’d have to tell the bar full of gigglers that No, Ivan was not a bottom, and that they’d missed the point entirely. And one would have to hope that Santorum did not santorum his pants. You’d have to clear up quickly (not clean up quickly, no more bad Santorum jokes), whatever it meant to the good senator. Instead, the quote would serve best as a jumping off point for a discussion on how Ivan was f***ed (insert F-verb of your choice) by life.