Am I Hoodwinked?

I won’t deny for a moment that I am as impressionable as the next person but that does not mean my opinions are bound to be wildly off the mark and worthless. In any event, I do think that Nikolai Gogol is a better writer than Mary Higgins Clark or James Patterson, and that his classic DEAD SOULS goes a long way toward proving my point.

I do not know who SidSidney Gendinney is but I seem to have intercepted mail meant for him. It reads, in part, Dear SidSidney Gendinney ,

This month, NYRB Classics is pleased to present a new translation of Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls. This masterpiece of Russian literature, equal parts comedy and compassion, is now available at 30% off for a limited time.

Dead Souls
By Nikolai Gogol
Translated from the Russian and with an introduction
by Donald Rayfield

Dead Souls is one of the great novels of Russian literature and its main character, the anti-hero Chichikov, is one of the great fictional figures to come out of any culture. The cunning con man appears in a small Russian town to buy title to serfs who, though dead, still count as property on paper. Different townspeople display different reactions to his strange schemes (though all comprise a wonderfully colorful cast of characters) in a portrait of Russian life that also serves as a biting satire of a society as corrupt as it is cynical and silly.

I am not too crazy about recommending books, however good they probably are, because one does get inundated with recommendations and it is impossible to keep up. I try to make exceptions for certain persons, (they know who they are), so, on this occasion, I make an exception for myself. If you are a high school graduate, you really should take at least a good peek at this book. In the vulgar terminology, it is a good read.

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  1. No, I don’t wonder why a professor would moonlight as a tour guide. I had a professor When I was at Brooklyn College who sold ice cream on the beach at Coney Island. That cured me of occupational wonderment. I know him still and he seems to me to be a person of absolute normalcy.

    For corroboration of your view, consider the Scandinavians, who have the same weather and same problem. For “a good but sorrowful read” take a look at Sigrid Undset’s KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER. I mean, take a look when you have a spare decade or so. A great book, worth 10 years out of your life.

  2. But the Scandinavians (and the Finns, who are really a type of Hungarians) are much more optimistic.. Who can explain it? Wise men give you answers but–well, you know.

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