“I Am A Sick Man. I Am A Wicked Man.” Underground Man Hits Youtube

A review of Yale Rep’s production of Notes from Underground which sounds absolutely fascinating. If that crazy narcissistic character were alive today, he would most definitely have a Youtube channel, and I bet it would be quite popular.

From the review:

Let me confess that the Underground Man has been a close personal (and cautionary) friend of mine since I first encountered him as a teenager, and it would be impossible for any performance to match the portrait I have of him in my mind. Looking and acting like a hybrid of Peter Lorre and Peter Ustinov, Mr. [Bill] Camp is not quite my idea of the Underground Man. He is perhaps too extravagant of gesture and presence for someone who believes he is destined to invisibility.

But Mr. Camp is also one of the bravest, smartest and most physically intense actors in New York. With a voice that curls at the edges in contempt and a face that holds a far-reaching scale of ambivalence in one expression, he commands our attention through what is largely a sustained monologue. And in the scenes that trace his character’s encounter with a prostitute (the excellent Merritt Janson), he combines naturalistic and expressionist techniques to deliver a precise and painful anatomy of one man’s fully willed self-humiliation.

Fantastic! I am so busy right now. But I would love to get to see this. I read Notes from Underground this summer on the family vacation, and Siobhan and her boyfriend Ben had just read it together, so it was so fun to have them to talk to about it. It was fresh in their minds. Ben sent me the heads-up of this review. It sounds kind of brilliant, actually. I would love to see it.

Here is my post on the book itself.

And go check out the review.

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5 Responses to “I Am A Sick Man. I Am A Wicked Man.” Underground Man Hits Youtube

  1. Bruce Reid says:

    One of my favorite why-isn’t-he-a-household-name? actors, Henry Czerny, did a magnificent turn as the Underground Man in a 1995 film version. The movie itself is no great shakes, flat and drab, lacking any obsessive charge or scuzzy funk to convince you the visual blandness was a conscious (and logical) choice. But Czerny seizes the monologues–the film’s conceit is that we’re watching a video diary, interrupted with flashbacks–and treats each like a private battle with himself: furiously wringing this one’s neck till his knuckles are bone-white, batting another around like a cat’s toy, laying down brutal revelations with an indifference just studied enough you can see the horror and self-loathing peering out from the stoic mask. His little pauses and self-edits, scattered throughout, remind you that for all the seeming thoroughness of his soul searching, the Underground Man is still only another narrator, telling a story that can’t help but be less than the whole truth. Any omissions made less for your sake than for his own.

    Worth a look. Good luck on getting to the Yale production as well.

  2. sheila says:

    Bruce – My goodness, I haven’t even heard of it. I will most definitely check it out. The self-consciousness of that narrator, his self-loathing and contempt (for himself and others) seems so modern to me – it was MADE for movies, for the 20th century. He’s so exactly like so many bloggers and online personalities, living in a belljar with his own thoughts and opinions, and it seems like he is talking to us, when he is really talking to himself. I think it’s a perfect idea to make those monologues as a video diary – I don’t think I thought that to myself as I read it, but it makes perfect sense to me now. I just remember reading it and thinking: This is one of the most prescient things I’ve ever read. It predicts Salinger. It even predicts Dave Eggers. It’s amazing how far ahead of its time it is.

  3. Charles J. Sperling says:

    Dear Sheila:

    For a long time I’ve been meaning to send you a line, to say that discovering your site through the Self-Styled Siren’s link to your Patricia Neal tribute (a beautiful piece) was one of my happiest discoveries, but I haven’t found the couurage. This weekend, though, I saw *Notes from Underground* and this morning I saw your entry, so

    1) It’s always a pl;easure to see what you have to say, be it on authors, movies, music or history. (Think there’s something in the fact that Sylvia Plath has the same birthdday as Theodore Roosevelt? )

    2) *Notes from Underground* struck me as very powerful and very depressing — yet at the same time, as Dostoyevsky always does, very funny, with the sense that if Charles Dickens were Russian, he’d be a lot like him. (Dostoyevsky had Mr. Pickwick in mind when he wrote *The Idiot.*) Bill Camp, whom I’ve seen in Shakespeare and in Guare, gave me a strong sense of why Anton Chekhov would be writing*The Cherry Orchid* less than fifty years later and why there’s more than one work called “What Is There to Be Done?” Yet where he got me most was in the fact that he recognized the problem and knew it had to be resolved, and yet by his very actions (the scenes with Liza almost too painful to watch), seemed incapable of doing it himself. The *Times* review has a point about the facial expressions, but, to my mind, they worked, because they made me think of Malvolio when he believes that Olivia loves him in *Twelfth Night* and he is trying to be cheerful, difficult as it is for this Puritan…and of his vow at the end to be “revenged on the pack of you.” Shakespeare leaves with a Malv0lio who hasn’t done that…but the Underground Man does have his revenge, with the worst consequences of it falling on himself.

    In *A Moveable Feast,* Ernest Hemingway recalls discussing Dostoyevsky with Ezra Pound. Pound tells him that Dostoyevsky was “best with saints and shits.” This evening tended more towards the shitty side of humanity, but it did so very well. To reference another author, Gustave Flaubert, *Notes from Undergrojnd* struck me as Flaubert’s take on Emile Zola’s *Nana* — “a Colossus — a Colossus with dirty feet, perhaps, but a Colossus nonetheless.”

    Thank you for reading this, and thank you for writing what you have!

  4. sheila says:

    Charles – What a pleasure it is to read your comment! I hope it doesn’t take too much “courage” to comment here for the first time. It’s a pretty welcoming place, I hope! Anyway, love The Siren’s site and she always sends great people over. :)

    Thanks so much for all of your thoughts.

    I am so excited to hear your reaction to the play!! I was talking with my sister Siobhan and we were talking about maybe driving up to see it, since we are all kind of obsessed with that book. I live in the New York area so it’s an easy drive.

    I love your thoughts on Chekhov as well. I elaborated on some of those thoughts (indirectly) in my post about the book, how you can feel the coming storm in so much of this earlier Russian work. It’s all there already. What Is To Be Done indeed. The Revolution is on its way.

    I love the comparison with poor Malvolio. Dude can’t get a break with his yellow stockings and blue garters. I saw a production of that and the audience was literally falling out of its collective seats when he made his grand appearance in that get-up. It was a college production, all young actors, and this guy was tremendous! Just a hilarious buffoon, but God, so human: I mean, who wouldn’t put on yellow stockings if you thought the person you loved preferred yellow stockings?? Hilarious! But yes: you would not want to make an enemy of Malvolio. He could be quite dangerous.

    “Saints and shits”. I like that. Very true. You can see that so clearly in Brothers Karamazov – I’ve only read that book once. I’m almost afraid to read it again – my second reading might fall short! It was one of my dad’s favorites, though – he read it again and again, so I have been wanting to attempt it again.

    Thanks again for your reaction to the play. Awesome. I hope I get to see it.

    And please feel welcome here!

    I will now always think of Sylvia in the same breath with Teddy R. :)

  5. sheila says:

    Okay, I’m a dumbass. I realized it’s playing here in new York not up in New Haven. Trying to go either Wednesday or Thursday!

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