And then, of course, Dostoevsky is stuffed with added complex metaphysics:
Think about it. Rowan Williams on Dostoevsky could take longer to read than it did to write. Well, I hope I don’t have to read the entire works of Dostoevsky to pass go, but it’s been a few years, so I've loaded up the eBook Reader with some (free) prime juicy Dostoevsky. Then it’s down to my patent method for reading Rowan's more “clotted” stuff:
- He’s really a poet, therefore it's densely packed with images. Often the images, in themselves are simple but surprising. That’s half the fun. Like all forms of poetry you have to unpack it yourself. If you only ever do bleeding obvious level sudokus, I can reliably suggest Rowan is not the writer for you. But if you like a good puzzle and learning by discovery, it’s magical stuff. Ideas are often approached by the side entrance, not the front door. It’s usually better to take things a chapter at a time, slow down, switch off the speedreading circuits, and relax. Like a poem, go with the flow and see where it leads. Don’t analyse, or you lose the flow! Read the whole paragraph, then stop and think it through.
- The writing often works on more than one level simultaneously. The secret is to latch onto the level that’s caught your attention, follow it through consistently, then review the chapter. If you pick up another angle follow that through in its own terms. If you accidentally mix ’n match the levels, it gets like controlling SuperMario on several levels at once, and you go nuts by the end of the chapter. You are allowed to read the book more than once.
- It rarely works to try and read the book at one sitting. Pacing chapters between, say, one morning a month sessions works a treat. I did once read a Rowan book on why history matters on a plane in under 3 hours; but historiography is my thing, and that was a one off achievement I don’t ever expect to emulate again.