Blurbs on classic novels are kind of, well, superfluous. While the contemporary blurb is rightly suspect, we understand why it’s there. But on a classic, what are we trying to do? Convince readers to give a struggling author like Dostoyevsky a try? A blurb from Sigmund Freud of all people on my Penguin Classics copy of The Brothers Karamazov confused me, but it also made me wonder if Dostoyevsky has any other famous stans, and hoo boy does he. But you can see why some of them didn’t get asked for a blurb. In order of problematic-ness:
- Jonathan Franzen (not problematic despite his reputation). This actually makes a ton of sense if you’ve read Crossroads, which, like the Brothers K, is all about religion and lust and sensuality and guilt. Like Dostoyevsky, Franzen is planning at least one sequel; let’s hope that unlike Dostoyevsky, he’ll live to write them.
- Nicolas Cage (beloved with a few problematic tendencies). An inspiration for this read-along, in fact. It’s too bad that Nic is too old to play Mitya now!
- Hillary Clinton (??) This was just so random to me, and kept coming up in my search queries.
- Jordan Peterson (problematic and annoying). Content warning: Jordan Peterson, talking about The Brothers Karamazov, does eventually get to an interesting point about beliefs versus action.
- Stalin (problematic and evil). Apparently a lifelong book lover and prodigious annotator, but yeah, problematic doesn’t really cover it…
I couldn’t find the source, but I remember reading that Putin’s a fan too, so there’s that.
I’m not too concerned though. The Brothers Karamazov has been widely read since it was published 140 years ago, so it’s not that a lot of problematic people like it, it’s that a lot of people, period, like it, some of whom happen to be cringe, annoying and/or evil.
That said, I will need to come to terms with the fact that two of my personal all time favs appear on Peterson’s list of great books (Wuthering Heights and The Stone Angel).