Live out your dreams!

“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.”
― Roman Payne

I love a good quote. It soothes me in times of distress, and temporarily provides much needed inspiration which I will one day act on. Something about seeing in words, feelings that I know intimately, does wonders for me even for a moment. So when I saw the quote above it stopped me in my tracks (of scrolling through Instagram). This is exactly what I needed to see.

The quote is apparently a famous one, and is from a book called The Wandress by Roman Payne. As always I was tempted to go buy the book where the quote came from but decided against it thanks to a review on Goodreads which stated “One good quote does not make a good book“. I was glad to see that as I have bought books off the strength of a quote only to find out the book did not live up to the hype.

I am full of dreams and imagination, and I have lived in this fantasy world for well over a decade. My dream life is full and fulfilling, and I am happy. Why have I not then made my real life as fulfilling? It is so easy to dream, but a herculean task to bring these dreams to fruition. For one, I don’t even know where to start. For years I have a postcard above my television with the words below.

She decided to start living the life she imagined.

It’s so hard though!

I also like this quote from the book. It resonates so deeply with me.

“Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling.”

I don’t need the world to make me a queen, but I do need to stop hiding in my room.

“One day, she’d find a way to live her life to the fullest. She was sure of it. She just had no idea how she would manage it.”

― Ilona Andrews, On the Edge

Little by little, brick by brick. I must give everything to make my life as beautiful as my dreams

Book Club: Crime and Punishment

“Your worst sin is that you have destroyed and betrayed yourself for nothing.”

I bought this book years ago, as part of my attempt to read all the classic novels. Like the rest of the classic novels I bought at the time, it gathered dust in my book basket while I enjoyed more modern works. A little while ago, I was perusing Instagram as I do, when I came across the quote above and it struck a chord with me. I saved the post, as I do with all the quotes that I like, and did not think much of it. Then I saw it a few more times, and one post in particular had not just the name of the author but also the book the quote came from. I thought to myself: “I think I have this book“, lo and behold I did. This was the motivation I needed to finally read the book, and I am glad I did.

Crime and Punishment is a classic novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky and was published in 1866. It follows the story of Rodion Raskolnikov, a poverty stricken law student seemingly in the throes of mental anguish. He lives in squalor, and cannot even afford that squalor as he is owing his landlady rent; he barely eats, has dropped out of university due to lack of funds and is all around despondent. Rather than do something useful with his life however, he is content to brood over his misfortune and obsess about the wrong ways to improve his circumstances. He decides the only way out is to rob and murder the local pawn-broker; an elderly woman who keeps money and valuables in her house. A letter from his mother and sister drives him over the edge and strengthens his resolve to carry out the crime. It is all downhill from there. The rest of the book follows his internal turmoil as he agonises over what he has done; he goes in and out of delirium, his mental and physical state deteriorating rapidly as the (excruciatingly slow) hands of the law close in on him.

“Man has it all in his hands, and it all slips through his fingers from sheer cowardice.”

The crime is obvious- the murder. The punishment appears not to be that which is handed by a court of law, but Raskolnikov’s crisis of conscience. By the time the law caught up with him, he had been so severely tormented and ruined by his conscience that the law was a mercy. By the the end of the book, I had completely forgotten that Raskolnikov was described as “exceptionally handsome and well built.” He just seemed ragged, haggard and unwashed.

“The man who has a conscience suffers whilst acknowledging his sin. That is his punishment.”

Though the book primarily focuses on Raskolnikov, there are other interesting stories which intersect with his own. Chief of this is the story of Marmeladov; a drunkard who has squandered his money and job to drink, leaving his sick wife- Katerina Ivanova- to deal with the household and children in complete penury. Her life causes her so much anguish and she never fails to speak about her early life of nobility. Of all the characters, I was most sympathetic to Katerina and her children, including her stepdaughter Sofya. So much suffering for no purpose. I was bored by Raskolnikov; I just wanted him to be arrested already! I had no sympathy for him and just found him lazy and pretentious. Same with Marmeladov, but I could have a bit of sympathy for him as alcoholism is a disease and he seemed to acknowledge his failings. However a man who is content to let his family live in filth, and have his daughter resort to degrading measures to provide is gutter trash. Marmeladov and Raskolnikov are similar to me in that they both wallow in their despair rather than seeking help, and this causes chaos for those around them.

Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.

One of my favourite scenes in the book is that of the reception hosted by Katerina Ivanonva; the drama, the chaos, the suspense! I want to watch the film/stage adaptation of the book just for that scene. Katerina’s life was so sad and I felt bad for her. The scene also revived the book in a way, as I was starting to get tired.

After reading the book, I went on to do research about it (of course) and found a few interesting things. One; Dostoevsky was working on another book called The Drunkards when he conceived the idea of Crime and Punishment. The Drunkards was about Marmeladov, which was then merged into Raskolnikov’s story as one book. I found this interesting as I had thought to myself while reading the book that Marmeladov’s story could stand on its own. At some point I was even annoyed by the back and forth. Truly, the way the stories were merged is genius. This makes me wonder if I can just combine the countless drafts I have in my laptop into one story instead.

Another thing is that the book was not initially written in full, but instead published in twelve monthly instalments in a Russian journal. The book is split into 6 parts (and an epilogue), and I wonder if this has anything to do with it, as I did not really see the point of the different parts. This must have been de rigueur back in those days, as HG Wells’ The Invisible man was also published in instalments in a journal.

Perhaps the most interesting of all was learning about Dostoevsky himself, and the case that supposedly inspired the novel. Thanks to Wikipedia and the notes in the novel, I found out that Dostoevsky was actually sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted just moments before the firing squad was to go off! How surreal. Wow. He then spent ten years in exile composed of 4 years in a Siberian prison and 6 years in military service. There are references to all of this in the book, and it is fair to say that he put a lot of his experiences into Raskolnikov. Dostoevsky was also very poor, and was often in debt much like Raskolnikov (and really like a lot of the artists of the time who have now achieved fame and success posthumously). He was also a gambler and lost a lot of his money that way (similar to Marmeladov’s alcoholism and Raskolnikov’s penchant for impulsively giving out money even though he was broke). He also had a daughter named Sofya but she died in infancy. Are we sure Dostoevsky didn’t actually murder an elderly woman? (does this still count as slander/libel? If so I include the word “Allegedly”.)

The book gives a good idea of life in 19th Century St. Petersburg, Russia. There is talk of serfs and poverty; of economic change and growing discontent; of political movements and suppression. St. Petersburg is presented as this dirty, shabby place, infested with crime and debauchery; this sentiment carries on throughout the book and seeps into the characters. There are references to “current events” which would have been the talk of the town back then e.g. the university lecturer arrested for forgery, and the policeman arrested for attempted murder. There is also a fair bit of philosophical babbling about life and justice and this and that which makes more sense after learning about Dostoevsky’s real life. I’ll admit that I skipped past some of it as I was quite desperate eager to get to the end of the story. I also rolled my eyes at Raskolnikov’s attempts to rationalise the murders by suggesting that some men can be above the law. Still, there were some interesting theories.

“We’re always thinking of eternity as an idea that cannot be understood, something immense. But why must it be? What if, instead of all this, you suddenly find just a little room there, something like a village bath-house, grimy, and spiders in every corner, and that’s all eternity is. Sometimes, you know, I can’t help feeling that that’s what it is.”

I am not all that familiar with Russian culture, and this may be the first Russian book I have read. I was therefore quite confused with the naming nomenclature in Russia. Most of the characters were introduced in one way, and then referred to by another name which left me so confused. For instance:

Rodion Raskolnikov (Rodya)
Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova (Dounia
Dmitry Prokofyich (Razumíkhin)
Pyotr Petrovich (Luzhin)
Sofya Semyonovna (Sonia)

It could very well be that these are known nicknames (I have heard that Russians called Natalia are often referred to as Natasha) but this drove me insane. I would be reading about Razumíkhin and then the name Dmitry Prokofyich would come up and I would think who on earth is this now??? I have also learnt that the author did not choose the names randomly and they are largely play on words which I guess would make sense to a native Russian speaker (born in the 1800s). I found this example online:

Raskolnikov is far from a random, raspy, sinister name. It comes from the Russian for ‘schism’, raskol, and its derivative raskolniki, which refers to a particular group of schismatics: namely, the Old Believers, who broke from the Russian Orthodox Church in the mid-seventeenth century.

The book is well deserving of its status as a classic; the writing is stunning in that way that makes me wonder if I will ever be able to conceive and deliver such work. Once I committed to read the book, I found that it was not as bad as I thought and was in fact easier to read than expected. Still, some parts dragged on and after an initial burst of energy, the final 100 pages took me over 2 weeks to finish. However, even in parts where I felt the story dragged, either from the age or style, I was still impressed by the writing. I read online that a few people thought the epilogue was anti-climatic and not befitting the book given the quality of its preceding pages. I can completely see where those people are coming from. For me however, the book was so intense that I was happy for the “come-down” in the epilogue. Could the book have done without it? Definitely. The final chapter ended with some ambiguity as to Raskolnikov’s fate and I guess there is some power in this ambiguity. This reminds me of Kafka’s The Trial. I do appreciate authors taking the time to tie up all loose ends but I can see how it may have cheapened the whole story. Personally I wanted to see Raskolnikov punished for his actions so I appreciated the epilogue but I was not satisfied by it. I’ll leave it at that.

This was an intense book in that so much time was spent in the heads of people. There was so much sadness and poverty. Did anyone really get a happy ending?

One thing about me? I love a good quote that I can relate to. It is one of my favourite things about reading; finding a quote that so beautifully articulates something I have felt, or that provides the motivation that I need. There were a few such quotes in the book:

“Don’t be overwise; fling yourself straight into life, without deliberation; don’t be afraid – the flood will bear you to the bank and set you safe on your feet again.”

Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!

Oh one last thing; Dostoevsky predicted Covid-19. Of course.

He had dreamed that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except a very few chosen ones. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these microbes were endowed with intelligence and will.

Book Club: The Invisible Man

“Alone– it is wonderful how little a man can do alone! To rob a little, to hurt a little, and there is the end.”

I finally deleted my Kindle Unlimited subscription because I was not reading enough to justify the monthly payment, and I realised there are lots of good books on Prime Reading which I can access for free (with my prime subscription). One of such books was The Invisible Man. I was familiar with the book before-or so I thought. Once I started reading it I realised while I had heard of the book before, it did not appear that I had actually read it. For one I thought the main character in the book was called David Copperfield. Clearly some confusion here.

The Invisible Man is a Science Fiction novel by H.G Wells published in 1897. It follows the story of a stranger who arrives at an inn in a little village in West Sussex. The man is completely covered from head to toe; his face is bandaged and his body wrapped up in thick clothes. The Stranger is irritable and bad natured; and tells his hosts that he is a scientist that needs to be left alone to carry out his work. The mysterious nature of this stranger rouses interest and suspicion and this sets off a series of events that result in chaos and destruction. The stranger is revealed to be a scientist who has unlocked the laws of physics and managed to make himself invisible. However the invisibility is not the bliss he envisioned and instead causes a lot of problems, which coupled with his own natural bad temper and non-existence moral compass, makes him quite a villain.

“I was invisible, and I was only just beginning to realise the extraordinary advantage my invisibility gave me. My head was already teeming with plans of all the wild and wonderful things I had now impunity to do.”

One thing that this book taught me is just how undesirable it would be to be invisible. Whenever we are faced with making a hypothetical choice from a list of superpowers I always give invisibility a thought, before eventually picking something else. It would be nice to be nothing and just move around and eavesdrop without being bothered. I always thought of invisibility in a more ghostly term, in which you are completely unseen to others and can move around with ease; maybe even get a flight without paying. I never considered that you would still be human, just not visible, so you can still get hurt, feel the elements, etc. Of course this science fiction book is not a true documentation of invisibility but I find this to be a more “realistic” portrayal.

“But you begin now to realise,” said the Invisible Man, “the full disadvantage of my condition. I had no shelter — no covering — to get clothing was to forego all my advantage, to make myself a strange and terrible thing. I was fasting; for to eat, to fill myself with unassimilated matter, would be to become grotesquely visible again.”

I found the book easy enough to read, despite being written in 1897. There were not a lot of obscure, archaic words that I had to look up. The most interesting thing was the use of the word “Ejaculate”. Although this is a perfectly normal word that means to “say something quickly and suddenly“, that is a dated meaning and Ejaculate is now more used to refer to semen. So it is always funny to me when I see the word used in its original fashion, usually in older books.

“He lit the dining room lamp, got out a cigar, and began pacing the room, ejaculating.”

Though this is categorised as a Science Fiction book, there was not much science fiction happening until towards the end when The Invisible Man goes on a lengthy spiel about how he managed to subvert the laws of physics and achieve his feat. I swiftly skipped past all the science parts about light and refraction and this and that. I left Physics in secondary school and I will not entertain it any more. The rest of the book was pleasant to read and I enjoyed the story. The book was not very long, and I was captivated enough by the tension and drama. I was quite frustrated at how Mr. Invisible managed to evade capture over and over again. How strong could he possibly be? Also, he is a clear example that book smart is not everything because he could have lived a good life if he was just willing to share his findings with the world.

When I started the book, I assumed I would be sympathetic to the plight of The Invisible Man (who at this point I still thought was called David Copperfield). By the end of it I wanted him dead, or at least hurt. He was so evil, selfish and unreasonable. I assumed he had accidentally made himself invisible and was now trying to find a cure, and his bouts of rage were due to his frustration. Nope. He was just a vile tyrant with zero regards for others. The idea of an invisible man is actually terrifying. This must be what Paranoid Schizophrenics are trying to tell us.

“The pain had passed. I thought I was killing myself and I did not care.”