Click here and scroll down to review the story to date.
Thanks to all who have read along so far. As always, your comments — including, but not limited to, negative comments — would be very welcome.
Is the story bogging down at any point? Is the action or setting ever confusing? Are there any trite rhymes? Any syntactic absurdities, prosodic infelicities, or lapses of characterization?
And is there anything that ‘works’ especially well?
He scans the space: a table (smallish),
A sofa (tall), and chairs (a few) —
All cheap and old, yet bright with polish,
Immaculate; the floor gleams, too.
(‘Lizavéta’s work’, he thinks; ‘that’s certain.’)
Here hangs a small icon… A curtain
Hangs there, in lieu of bedroom doors;
Beyond it stands a chest of drawers,
He knows — though he has yet to enter
The shadow of that shrouded cell….
… His hostess pipes up sternly: ‘Well?’
‘I’d like to pawn…’ he says; presents her
A pocket watch (worn silver-plate).
‘Good sir, your payment’s two days late:
‘Your other pledge is past redemption.’
‘I know, Alyóna, ma’am — my ring….
Please give me just a month’s extension.’
‘I’ll do as I please with that thing.’
‘Well…. How much for this watch? It’s silver.’
‘Not even worth the work to pilfer
A piece of trash like that, my friend.’
‘It was my father’s…. If you’ll lend
Four roubles, ma’am, I will redeem it.’
‘I see. Before, I was too nice —
I lent you more than that ring’s price.
As for this watch, now, take or leave it:
A rouble and a half.’ ‘You might —’
‘One and a half, good sir.’ ‘…….. All right.’
She takes her keys out of her pocket;
She takes his watch behind the shroud.
He strains his ears; hears her unlock it —
The top drawer, scraping high and loud….
While he had been discreetly peering
At her (right pocket’s) steely keyring,
One key’d looked larger than the rest:
(‘Not for a drawer…. A trunk? A chest?
… But this is all so nauseating!’)
‘You owe me thirty-five, all told.’
(She’s back!) ‘Here’s one-fifteen; I’ll hold
The watch.’ He stands there, hesitating —
Then speaks: ‘In one more day… or two
… I might… have another pledge… for you…
‘… A cigarette case… silver… fancy!’
‘All right. We’ll talk about it then.
Good night.’ ‘Your sister! Any chance she
Might sort of… sometimes… wander in?’
‘What do you want with Lizaveta?’
‘Oh, nothing, ma’am.’ ‘You want to meet her?’
‘No no, madame, I just… Good-bye.’
He turns, and goes — and starts to cry:
‘Oh God! Can I –? Can I imagine?
How could –? Is my mind capable –?
My heart, so hateful? Horrible!
A month! A month, bent to this passion –!’
His self-disgust is oceans wide….
He sinks, and chokes — and steps outside.
The evening sun continues bleeding
Its dying light upon the host
Of Petersburg, while, all unheeding,
Our Rodya passes like a ghost
Among them, heart and mind encumbered:
He reels, colliding like a drunkard
Along the boulevard, until
His feet and thoughts at last are still:
Up from a dingy basement tavern,
Two tipsy, cursing men emerge;
Raskolnikov now has the urge
To go spelunk that urban cavern.
A sticky table; frosty beer;
A gulp. His thoughts begin to clear!
‘No need to worry any longer,’
He says — and smiles! — with rising cheer.
‘A simple side-effect of hunger;
Just takes a little bread and beer!’
Smiles all around! Lighthearted, hearty,
He beams at one departing party
(Four men; a girl; accordion),
Grins at a fat Siberian.
Above the pale cucumber salads,
Black bread, and kippers past their peak
— Which emanate an evil reek —
Drone mediocre drinking ballads.
An ex-official sits aloof —
Alone, but for his eighty-proof.
Click here to catch up on the story.
If you’ll excuse the interruption,
Dear reader — Something in the way
Of a digression on the Russian
For ‘crime’: It’s ‘prestuplénie’,
Which (in more literal translation)
Means (to a close approximation)
Transgression, or ‘a step across’ —
Concision’s gain, nuance’s loss.
(I claim no special erudition;
I’m just repeating what I’ve read,
But this is what I think it said
In Norton’s Critical Edition.)
We here conclude our brief aside
And rejoin Rodya in mid-stride.
He’s in. His hostess glowers sharply —
Sharp little eyes, sharp little nose:
A tiny, desiccated harpy,
Of sixty years, one would suppose.
Her head is bare; her hair is sallow,
Just touched with grey, smeared thick with tallow.
Her neck is yellow, long, and thin —
Much like the leg of some old hen.
Upon her shoulders hangs a mangy
Old capelet cut from yellowed fur,
For even summer’s cold to her.
She coughs, regarding Rodya strangely.
(‘Does she suspect –? Of course, I must
Act all-correct… establish trust…
‘… show some respect — That’s always prudent!’),
He thinks, and makes a little bow.
‘Raskolnikov, madame — a student.
I came last month…. I’ve come back now.’
‘I know, good sir.’ She’s brusque and hurried.
(‘Was she this way before? I’m worried….
Her piercing eyes… her voice’s edge….’)
‘I’m here about — about a pledge!’
She glares, then points — still coughing, groaning,
‘In there, good sir.’ And so he goes
Into a faded room that glows
With ruby hues before the gloaming…
Stained scarlet by a long, late ray….
(‘The sun will blaze like this — that day!’)
In honor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs, whose feast-day was 14 February, here are the latest stanzas in my ongoing project of adapting Crime and Punishment to the sonnet-stanza form of Eugene Onegin. It’s been thirteen-and-a-half months since the last update, but, plot-wise, things are, I daresay, on the verge of getting real.
Click here to read the previous stanzas.
I welcome your comments, whether effusive or abusive.
The stairs he climbs are dark and narrow.
‘Still dark… still safe…. That’s good… but think!
Just now, I’m frozen to the marrow!
How, then, will I feel… on the brink
Of –?’ Rodya all but crashes into
A pair of porters — two old men who
Are lugging down the furniture
From someone’s flat… Fourth floor! He’s sure
It’s from the old crone’s only neighbor.
‘That German clerk is clearing out
… So no one else will be about
If I…. That’s good! Then why belabor
The point? It’s time. I’m doing well….’
He’s at the door. He rings the bell —
And flinches from its tinny tinkling:
Its feeble chime seems to recall
Some distant, half-remembered inkling.
‘That certain sound…? It’s nothing! All
These flats have bells like that! … I know this!
Why did I cringe? It goes to show this
Is still too soon; I’m still too weak
… For now!’ The hinges groan and creak:
A little gap; a glimpse; the glitter
Of wary eyes that peek, then spy
The porters and the clerk nearby.
The hag seems reassured a bit: Her
Apartment door now opens wide —
And now, our Rodya steps inside.
…and raise you St. Francis De Sales over at Paris Review Daily:
In fact, hell has a way of rearing its infernal head at awkward moments throughout the Devout Life, perhaps as in life itself. Here’s a bit from “Balls, and Other Lawful But Dangerous Amusements,” which doesn’t mean what you think it does:
“Balls and similar gatherings are wont to attract all that is bad and vicious; all the quarrels, envyings, slanders, and indiscreet tendencies of a place will be found collected in the ballroom. While people’s bodily pores are opened by the exercise of dancing, the heart’s pores will be also opened by excitement … while you were dancing, souls were groaning in hell by reason of sins committed when similarly occupied, or in consequence thereof.”
Buzzkill, Francis! Not all his advice is so starchy, though. In “We Must Attend to the Business of Life Carefully, But Without Eagerness or Over-Anxiety,” he writes, “Imitate a little child, whom one sees holding tight with one hand to its father, while with the other it gathers strawberries or blackberries from the wayside hedge.” (I do this literally all the time—can’t recommend it highly enough.)
Still, if Francis has really been watching over the Fourth Estate for these many centuries, one imagines he’s pretty disappointed with the profession. After all, journalists and writers are not known for their piety, to put it mildly. Saving Calvinists from perdition no longer moves us to dip our pens.
“Buzzkill, Francis!” is my new “Settle down, Francis.” I do feel a bit sorry for the writer, however – in his rush to smirk, he’s overlooked Francis’s perceptive genius: quarrels, envyings, slanders and indiscreet tendencies on the dance floor form the basis for a great many of today’s more popular poems, the kind that show up on the radio.
Quarrels? Check 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”
When my joint get to pumping in the club, it’s on
I wink my eye at your chick, if she smiles, she gone
If the roof on fire, man, just let it burn
If you talkin’ about money, homie I ain’t concerned
I’mma tell you what Banks told me Cuz, go ahead, switch the style up
If they hate then let them hate and watch the money pile up
Or we can go upside your head with a bottle of bub’
Envyings? The list is endless, since the club seems to be as much about establishing status as anything else, but let’s take this very basic example from Will i. Am’s “Scream & Shout”
Everybody in the club
All eyes on us
All eyes on us
All eyes on us
Slanders? Back to 50 Cent and “Get Out Da Club”
Bitch you think you high class you ain’t worth a third of a nigga
Ya man is gangsta but we ain’t never heard of the nigga
And hoo boy, indiscreet tendencies. I’m gonna use this bit from Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor,” since it actually mentions sweat, and Francis mentioned the open pores brought on by dancing…
That badonka donk is like a trunk full of bass on an old school Chevy
Seven tray donkey donk
All I need is some vodka and some coke
And watch, she going to get donkey konged
Baby if you’re ready for things to get heavy
I get on the floor and act a fool if you let me
Don’t believe me just bet me
My name isn’t Keith but I see why you Sweat me
L.A. Miami New York
Say no more get on the floor
The poor devil also seems to misunderstand what it means for a saint to be the patron of this or that profession. Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I always thought it had more to do with the excellent execution of the work than the piety of the worker. As long as we still dip our pens in the service of truth, I’m pretty sure Francis has to be pleased.
As an attached-lober, Mark Twain used literature and writing to overcome his debilitating propensity for violence and anti-social behavior.
A nod to Kierkegaard and Walker Percy: existentialist tomfoolery, political satire, literary homage, word mongering, a year-round summer reading club, Dylanesque music bits, apocalyptic marianism, poetry, fiction, meta-porn, a prisoner work-release program.
Cosmos the in Lost
Everything that Rises
Good Country People
By Way of Beauty
Charlotte was Both
I Have to Sit Down
From Empty Hands
All Manner of Thing
Gerasene Writers Conference
The Ironic Catholic
Catholic and Enjoying It
Catholic Radio International
Is My Phylactery Showing?
Babes in Babylon
Fort o' Tude
En pocas palabras
William Wilson, Guitarist Extraordinaire
Signposts in a Strange Land
Mr. Bones' Garden