I just read the Wikipedia page of Dead Souls and probably pulled a muscle in my side whilst sneezing. I will only continue with one of these two facets of the past half hour, so I apologise for misleading you. There will be no subplot today.
“Of all Gogol’s creations, Chichikov stands out as the incarnation of poshlost. His psychological leitmotiv is complacency, and his geometrical expression roundness. He is the golden mean,” says Wikipedia, and probably lots of other knowledgeable text books and critics and things.
There I was thinking nothing of Gogol’s repeated reference to Chichikov’s ‘geometric expression,’ where I should have been making an analogy between that (his physique) and his character. Although the hint was dropped many a time, this book almost entirely ridicules literary devices and plot progression; it is beautifully written, yet absurd, and all at the same time it ceremoniously tips its cap to the Western canon. I feel tricked for ignoring it.
There is a brilliant radio play version with Michael Palin and Mark Heap, which you can find here. It must be heard. It’s a must-hear. With a nod to the zaniness that Gogol loved so much, the narrator of the radio play turns out to be following our protagonist around, much to his annoyance. But how else would he have learned of his every involvement in the story? This is never addressed in the novel, but it likely would have made the book ten times longer thanks to the author’s incessant love of incessant digressions, which make up the bulk of the entertainment. And happily involving the narrator with the characters takes him down a peg or two in the reader’s estimation – in the book, he is the only character that you actually find yourself liking in any way, but thanks to the decrepitude of the characters this only leaves you more suspicious of him as a he without sin.
Perhaps I watch too much television, but I do tend to find myself unconsciously looking for nice characters in film and books – noble and heroic acts, sensitivity, kindness, etc. In Dead Souls, you will find none, but instead are presented with all of yourself that you tend to hide: if we were animals, these activities would be concealed on our underbellies. But, being humans, perhaps between the rump cheeks would be a more discrete location.
On a completely different note, I write mostly listening to music or with a certain vision in my head. It would be great to put this down on paper, mashed together as accidental stew. I have mentioned this essay before, but please do take the hint and read it now that I’ve linked to it twice. Here. You can find out what it is by clicking, you lazy fugger. It’s a good example of what I have in mind, but it’s still pretty disjointed. Nice font though, Will. A while ago I flicked through Marcel Cobussen’s dissertation in deconstructionism in music, which is as interesting as it is beautifully presented. Click on the interactive dissertation for the best bits.