I wasn’t going to look through the box. I was going grocery shopping, I took a cursory glance and didn’t see anything. Part of me, though, wished I had taken a closer look, so on the way home from the store I stopped and dug through it in earnest while D looked on patiently. Perseverance rewarded me with not one, but two books! Whenever I feel bored with my neighborhood, I just have to remember that finding novels on the street, free for the taking, is pretty marvelous.
The Master of St. Petersburg, by J.M. Coetzee
“In the fall of 1869 Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, lately a resident of Germany, is summoned back to St. Petersburg by the sudden death of his stepson, Pavel. Half crazed with grief, stricken by epileptic seizures, and erotically obsessed with his stepson’s landlady, Dostoevsky is nevertheless intent on unraveling the enigma of Pavel’s life. Was the boy a suicide or a murder victim? Did he love his stepfather or despise him? Was he a disciple of the revolutionary Nechaev, who even now is somewhere in St. Petersburg pursuing a dream of apocalyptic violence? As he follows his stepson’s ghost—and becomes enmeshed in the same demonic conspiracies that claimed the boy—Dostoevsky emerges as a figure of unfathomable contradictions: naïve and calculating, compassionate and cruel, pious and unspeakably perverse.”
I haven’t read any Dostoevsky…well, that isn’t necessarily true. I started reading Crime and Punishment but I think I got distracted by a shinier book cover. I like that my first real “exposure” to him could be through a fictitious book written about him. Dostoevsky as detective? Sounds good to me.
Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco
“Bored with their work, three Milanese editors cook up “the Plan,” a hoax that connects the medieval Knights Templar with other occult groups from ancient to modern times. This produces a map indicating the geographical point from which all the powers of the earth can be controlled—a point located in Paris, France, at Foucault’s Pendulum. But in a fateful turn the joke becomes all too real, and when occult groups, including Satanists, get wind of the Plan, they go so far as to kill one of the editors in their quest to gain control of the earth.”
(Both descriptions via Goodreads.)
The Name of the Rose has been on my to-read list for a while. I’ve heard that it’s a bit tough to get through, so I was hoping to whet my palette with a bit of Foucault before I dove into Eco in earnest. Neither one of these new finds seem like beach reads, but then again, I don’t spend much time at the beach anyway. Too much sunscreen required.