Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#2: Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

It took me 28 days, but I am happy to say that I finally made it through to the end of Crime and Punishment, the first selection in this year’s “Reading with Jacqs” project.

A bit of background before diving into my feelings about the book. Jacqs is my oldest niece who is a fellow book lover. While visiting on Christmas Day, we abruptly decided to read a book a month together. We’ll alternate who selects the book each month and at least six of the total selections will be classics. Somehow, I got chosen to make the first choice. Since both of us had adored reading The Brothers Karamazov and had a little extra time in the month of January, I decided on Crime and Punishment. What was I thinking?

Crime and Punishment is a tale of evil actions and their impact on the criminal as well as those surrounding him. Raskolnikov is struggling to feed himself in 19th century Russia. As a result of his hunger (or so he claims), Raskolnikov gruesomely murders an old pawn broker with an axe. When her young sister unexpectedly arrives on the scene, Raskolnikov kills her as well. The criminal searches the apartment and finds treasures that he ultimately hides beneath a boulder, taking none of it for his immediate gain. Much of the rest of the novel examines Raskolnikov’s apparent madness as his guilt eats away at him. His family members are kept at arm’s length. His friends are confused by his behavior. Raskolnikov convinces himself that he didn’t commit a crime since the old woman really didn’t deserve to live.

Hidden within the story are multiple references to death and resurrection. Crosses are found at the scene of the crime and reappear throughout the novel. The story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection features prominently into the novel’s moving center section. Raskolnikov is found ill in the hospital in the epilogue during Lent and Holy Week. His ultimate healing — a resurrection, of sorts — comes when the woman who loves him, Sonya, sacrifices herself by agreeing to wait for his release from prison in seven years. In many ways, Sonya becomes the Christ-figure in Crime and Punishment.

While I enjoyed the philosophical discussions and many religious references, I found the novel to be plodding and difficult to read. As Jacqs and I chatted online, she commented that she clearly understood how the book would have been successful as a serial. The reader needs to take breaks frequently to process the implications and recover from the extreme volume. The passage that I enjoyed the most while reading Crime and Punishment came at the end of the epilogue:  “But here begins a new account, the account of a man’s gradual renewal, the account of his gradual regeneration, his gradual transition from one world to another, his acquaintance with a new, hitherto completely unknown reality. It might make the subject of a new story — but our present story is ended.” Boy, was I glad to finish that one!

February’s selection was made by Jacqs — The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon — and arrived in the mail today. I’ve got a few days before I get to start that one, but I’m certainly hoping for a better experience than my time with Crime and Punishment. If you’d like to join in the conversation of February’s book, grab a copy and get to reading. You’ll be more than welcome!

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#1: Professional Piano Teaching (Jeanine M. Jacobson)

We are ending the third week of 2015 and I am just finishing my first book of the year. I definitely have to get some more reading in or things are not going to be pretty!

I chose to begin the year with Professional Piano Teaching: A Comprehensive Piano Pedagogy Textbook for Teaching Elementary-Level Students now that I have returned to the private teaching studio after a long absence. What I found is that I have good natural instincts as a teacher, but that there are always areas that can be improved. Jacobson’s book was extremely well written and organized in a manner that will make it a resource that I will return to over and over. I especially enjoyed the chapters devoted to teaching technique and musicality to beginning students. The practical tips offered in chapter 11, “The Business of Piano Teaching,” were helpful as I plan for studio growth in the future. All in all, the book challenged me to honestly evaluate my teaching and constantly pursue greater levels of excellence. It was definitely a good place to begin the new year.

For a more detailed analysis of Professional Piano Teaching, watch for the review appearing on my professional blog — Collaborations — on Thursday, January 29, 2015.

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