"Christian Encounters Series." I took great pleasure in this interesting and captivating biography of Fyodor, and I heartily recommend it! This book helped me understand the man better and gave me resources to dig deeper if I want. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get to know Fyodor! learning about life through the lives of others. Their experiences, their trials, their adventures become our schools, our chapels, our playground, Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church through prose as accessible and concise as it is personal and engaging is such a wonderful gift! Reading this book challenged me to pray for more geniuses and hard workers who will penetrate our culture with master pieces in music, the arts, inventions, all to the glory of God! Reading was a little bit choppy and sometimes tangential, but held my attention, because of the man he was writing about.
August 4, 2012
Leithart more philosophical than biographical
Fyodor Dostoyevsky by Peter Leithart
In ways Leithart's biography of Dostoyevsky is what I think a good biography ought to be. Leithart is conversant with Dostoyevsky's writings, letters, and his other biographers. This book is carefully documented. The footnotes at times become laborious, yet make a great case for historical reliability. Whether I theologically and morally agree or disagree (and often I did disagree), this was Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
However, on the whole I cannot recommend this book. I found it to be focused on ideas like socialism, nihilism, and Pushkin the "omni-human" poet, rather than strictly a biography of Dostoyevsky's life. The ideas were too large for a book of this size, and too many mundane details were omitted. At one point I thought I could assign this to my ninth grade daughter, who will read "Crime and Punishment" next year. Then I became increasingly troubled by the rampant adultery portrayed. One particularly vivid scene is without any footnotes, leading me to believe it is a product of Leithart's imagination. I understand its role as a literary device, but the scene is offensive.
I would love a carefully crafted, straight forward, explanatory, true to life biography of Dostoyevsky. I would love one that would lend genuine insight into the literary master, and an understanding of his theology and how it was lived out in his life. This is not that book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Booksneeze.com. All views are my own.
April 13, 2012
Could have been better...
I must say that I knew very little about Dostoevsky the man - and after reading this biography, maybe that was a good thing. His books are powerful, acclaimed as classics (and rightly so). His influence on Russian culture and literature is undeniable. His life, however, was less admirable than his work.
Dostoevsky was a Christian, at least in one sense. He affirmed that Christ should be the center of life for all men, but I am not sure how Biblical his Christology actually was - and the book doesn't really address that. It does state that Dostoevsky was apparently a part of the Orthodox church, so we can make a few deductions based on that information.
Plagued with bad health for much of his life, Dostoevsky had some vices which were suprising to me for some reason: gambling, drinking, anger, and women. He had at least one very obvious mistress while his first wife was dying. But if there were one, there could also be others not so obvious. He wasted much of the little money he had on gambling. And he was quick to have fits of anger and shouting when conversing.
My review, however, is not about Dostoevsky's life - but about this book. And I must say that the book had some vices as well. To begin with, there were at least four curse words used in the book. This was totally unnecessary. And, I might add, it was offensive to the (supposed) target audience of Christian readers. There was also a scene that was far too sensual in nature - and it, also, was unnecessary. That scene added absolutely nothing to my understanding of Dostoevsky's life. The last negative point I will make about the book was the lack of continuity. The book darts back and forth between different times in Dostoevsky's life, and it was not easy to remember which time frame fit where.
Now for the positive notes. I really appreciated the book being written as an almost fictionalization of Dostoevsky's life. It made it much more interesting than the mere recitation of facts and dates. It also must have been very difficult to write an accurate biography in this way, so my respect goes to Mr. Leithart for his effort. He accomplished this task by basing many of the conversations in the book on actual writings of the people involved in the dialogue, and he footnotes them well.
Because of the "fictionalized" nature of the book, it was difficult to know which parts were absolutely true and which were made up. However, the book did spark my interest in the life of Dostoevsky, and I will read his writings with a new appreciation for the man behind them.
In all, I will give this book 3 out of 5 stars.
I received this book free from the publishers in exchange for my honest review.
March 6, 2012
As a book reviewer for Book Sneeze (Thomas Nelson Publishers) I recently read Fyodor Dostoevsky by Peter Leithart. For most of my life IÃ¢ÂÂve been aware of DostoevskyÃ¢ÂÂs reputation as an author of great classics such as The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment, so I was excited to read about the man behind the reputation. I am a little uncertain, after reading this book, whether my admiration has been dampened by Mr. DostoevskyÃ¢ÂÂs actual personality, or by the authorÃ¢ÂÂs ability to portray that personality. The Fyodor I see in this biography seems to be a very self-centered and shallow person who occasionally looks outside of himself to care about others. He is shown to be a very driven individual, which I can well believe he was. His passionate nature was an asset as he strove, through his writings, to right the wrongs of the society he lived in, but it was a detriment where it concerned his personal relationships.
The most memorable moment in the book, for me, was when Dostoevsky lost his little daughter. As a new grandmother of a little girl of about the same age, the description of his grieving process was very touching.
My reaction to this book is mixed. I believe DostoevskyÃ¢ÂÂs life could have been portrayed in a more interesting manner than Peter Leithart has shown it. Though he has caused me to wonder whether I would find DostoevskyÃ¢ÂÂs novels interesting, I still plan to read the copy of The Brothers Karamazov that sits on my bookshelf. Perhaps I will find DostoevskyÃ¢ÂÂs style more captivating than Mr. LeithartÃ¢ÂÂs.
February 25, 2012