Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

July 26, 2007

Russian richness

I've been reading Anna Karenina. 771 pages of infidelity in painful detail. After writing this book, Leo Tolstoy fell into a very deep depression and I can see why, that is, if the themes of this book had anything to do with it. So much disillusionment with society. This is not a book I can devour as fast as possible. There's just too much of it and it moves too slowly. I don't think anyone could be patient enough to endure all of the torments in this book at once. And clearly that's not the point. You just have to stop and reflect often and take in all the subtleties. In general, this book has all the acute perception of social details of a Jane Austen novel, but written from a more masculine perspective and with a whole lot more politics, history, religion, and sociology in it. You know how when you're reading a book some of the details of an event are summarized or glazed over to move the plot along or because it would be too wordy to describe everything? Uh, Tolstoy's clearly not concerned about that. Nothing is summarized, everything is fully expounded, often from more than one point of view. Sometimes whole scenes are replayed from each character's perspective. It's very satisfying if you want to know what everyone's thinking. This book is trying my patience right now because I'm so used to happy endings or maybe just stories that aren't so durned long. Noone's life is going to end happily ever after in this book and so I suppose in that way it's realistic. At the same time, I feel like you can either get lost in the sins and vices in life or you can have faith 'in the nobility of humankind' as Billy put it lately. I think I can see the effects of not taking religion seriously in this book. With the moral underpinnings of life gone, chaos and the dark side become more predominant and nothing works. It's a lot more complicated than this in the book, but I will try not to be too Tolstoy-ish and will leave it at that.

Except to answer the question of why, exactly, I'm putting myself through this. I think that reading these classics helps me in my everyday life taking care of little ones that seems so physical and mindless sometimes, but really needs quite a bit of mental fuel to apply spiritual principles all day, every day, while feeding my need for continuing to grow at my own grown-up level of learning. In short, I have to stay ahead of my kids so I can show them what to do next. So I can't stop learning now! And I'm so happy to have 'met' Tolstoy and to start a mental conversation with his writing. I read that after writing this book, he recovered from his depression by finding and leading a very simple, spiritual life. That helps me understand how to frame the book in my mind. Like once he wrote down all the things that were wrong about his world, he could see them all with such painful clarity that he just couldn't take it anymore. He had to make a complete break with the past and find a new direction. Such drama.

This was going to be a list of things on my mind, but it seems to be a book report. The list will have to come later.

Posted by Bahiyyih at July 26, 2007 11:37 AM

I tried reading that book! I got a couple hundred pages in and threw in the towel. I couldn't do it. But I feel like it's one of those things where if you can do it there might be something really rewarding at the end of the journey.
I've also been reading some classics. I REALLY like Truman Capote. His short stories. I don't want to read In Cold Blood even though it's his masterpiece. I just don't want to be in that world. But the stories about his childhood, Christmas with members of his family, they're really great. And short!

Posted by: Husayn at July 26, 2007 10:28 PM

Thanks for the tip. I'm always looking for recomendations. This book is very engaging but I don't want to get sucked its world either because it's so deceitful/saddening. He's a real master though. So much is right from his heart seeing what people are really like, it seems to me. I've recently read a short classic you might like called "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway. It's also sad but it's a great story.

Posted by: Bahiyyih at July 27, 2007 01:44 AM