Anna Karenina sits idly on the shelf. My yellow Hello Kitty bookmark rests between pages of an encounter between Count Vronksy and Anna. It’s a little bit past the first time any hint of romance between the two has been established and at this point I have to let it go for a bit. When things happen too fast in books it feels twice as nervewracking as when it does in real life. The heart beats too fast and the story becomes a blur because you find yourself caught in a bind…the Wimbledon guy called the court a ‘cauldron of emotions’ and I just had to use the line again because it’s so apt in the case of Tolstoy and his Anna.
They’re tragic characters often jokingly said to be characteristic of Russians. I have no clue whether this as true as I’m told I should believe but for the sake of setting it down, I have to say that reading Tolstoy or any Russian for that matter, is an exercise of preparing one’s self for the inevitable end. Tragic or not, things end and these Russians are good at endings, however masochistic it sounds, I’m looking forward to the end. Another thing I’ve noticed (which is actually the more pronounced reason for casting the book back on the shelves) is that the book was written from a man’s point of view. I don’t mean to stir up debate on differences between males and females but so far the story has some male qualities about it. It’s a clearly told account with soem room for emotion but mostly the way Tolstoy writes is with a clear head and keen eye for detail. He is direct and often funny at times in a way that would surprise me because often we’re told that gaps exist between generations. I’ve never believed that but at the same time I couldn’t prove my stand so I kept mum about it until I read this and it occured to me that human nature is preserved throughout time. The experiences remain the same and so do the realizations regardless of differing contexts. It’s refreshing to note that and it’s also one key defense in favor of reading the classics. They’re not classic just because white men chose them but because in most cases, the writing is truly flawless and evocative of emotions we might not have been aware of had they not provoked them.
But enough about that. My main beef against this reading for now is that after having read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice years ago, there’s a clear difference between the kind of attention men and women give when telling these kinds of stories. For some reason I never really knew how it would turn out for Austen’s Darcy and Elizabeth. You only find out at the very end and by then it feels like an achievement because you’ve gone through the gamut of human emotion and survived against the beatings of your own heart. In other words, you’re always on the edge of your seat and the dialogue between characters changes how you feel about them with each passing chapter. For Tolstoy, I guess the process is different. Here he spares little when it comes to giving a full description of his characters because he knows that to understand them we must know them inside and out. I appreicate this about the writing and the storytelling. Characters are never just the catchphrases we invent to recount their stories. Anna isn’t just an adulterer and there’s more to her than her charm (which often enough is attributed to all people who find themselves commiting adultery).
I could go on, really. I want to finish the book by this month but I have to keep it away for now. Papers are waiting to be written and I have barely three weeks to complete requirements. As if teaching weren’t stressfull enough, I don’t have topics yet. 😦 It feels almost like drowning. I’m also distracting myself with other books. Last night I visited the Northern Lights with Bill Bryson. He’s not my favorite tour guide because his sentences are a mouthful but I’m still happy to have gone with him. He’s honest at the very least and incredibly funny! There’s also A.J. Liebling who is currently taking me on a stroll through Paris except we’re eating and not walking–and for once a writer’s gone out and said it: The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite. YOU SEE, WORLD? I can be a smart, well-versed pig.
Bon appétit et à bientôt!