We had a fancy time at Urban Vines Wine Bistro with wine and cheese plates and bruschetta and flatbread and goat cheese paninis. They have a nice, light-strung patio complete with fireplace for sometime when the heat isn't deadly. We sat out there for hours anyway, and it was fine with a little breeze.
It wasn't really that bad. Granted, all of us hated the second part (Megan's copy didn't even have it), but the farcical spectacle of the first section makes the book move along. Our hero--Chichikov--is on the hunt for dead souls--serfs who have died since the last government census. Chichikov's complicated get-rich scheme takes us on a journey across the Russian landscape and into the homes of various ridiculous personages whom Chichikov has to butter up.
Gogol's novel serves as a satire on the Russian gentry and bureaucracy of the mid 1800s. He makes Chichikov an antihero, subverting storytelling conventions at that time in Russian literature. Also, when he inserts the author's voice into the novel, Gogol almost comes off as an old-school Kurt Vonnegut (à la Breakfast of Champions) except Gogol then feels the need to undermine his wit with an earnest message.
In passing, I may say that in business matters fat men always prove superior to their leaner brethren.
Certain persons in the world exist, not as personalities in themselves, but as spots or specks on the personalities of others. Always they are to be seen sitting in the same place, and holding their heads at exactly the same angle, so that one comes within an ace of mistaking them for furniture.
"I tell you straight that I would not eat such nastiness, even had I made it myself. Sugar a frog as much as you like, but never shall it pass MY lips. Nor would I swallow an oyster, for I know only too well what an oyster may resemble."
Behold, it was Manilov! At once the friends became folded in a strenuous embrace, and remained so locked for fully five minutes. Indeed, the kisses exchanged were to vigorous that both suffered from toothache for the greater portion of the day.