Book Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Come wintertime, I start to crave Russia. Not Russian food or vodka or anything like that. More like stuff that puts me in a Russia mood. So I listen to a lot of Havalina “Russian Lullabyes”. I want to hear a lot of instrument piano. I stick “Russian Ark” in the DVD player. This month, I had an unbearable craving to read Tolstoy. So I downloaded Anna Karenina.

For all intents, I loved this book because of how showed a very fascinating portrait of two people on a train wreck (pun intended) to ruin, and not just them, but all those who are affected by them. I sort of knew what would happened in the ending because it was spoiled for me in another book I read. But I wanted to know exactly how Anna reached that point of no returned, and Tolstoy did an excellent job of getting inside her head. Vronsky came across to me as a immature brat, and I couldn’t really see why Anna would go for him in the first place. Watching her abandoning her son for him was sad. Watching their relationship cross from love to boredom to petty jealousy, especially when it was obvious that Anna could no longer move freely in her social circles as Vronsky could, was probably the saddest thing of all.

I wish I didn’t read it on a PDA though, because while the parts dealing with Anna and Vronksy were interesting, I had to slog through huge long sections of people disussing philosophy and social commentary. Levin’s character was the greatest offender–personally, I thought him to  to be an idiot. If I was more into Russian history, I think I’d be more interested in Levin’s philosophying questions. But man, it was dull. Dull, dull dull. And unfortunately, because I was reading it on a PDA, I couldn’t really flip through the pages easily.

The other reason that made the story hard to read was the fact that Tolstoy uses third person POV unlimited for everyone. If there’s a character in the scene, they’ll have some thought of what’s going on. It’s a pain to not only hear what Levin and Stepan Oblonsky is thinking (BTW, Oblonsky is a cheerful blockhead), but we also get to hear what their waiter is thinking too. Heck, when Levin goes hunting (and there were pages and pages of that, let me tell you), we even get input from the stupid dog.

The ony thing that redeems Levin for me is Kitty. In fact, Kitty was the only character that I felt any real sympathy for. Interesting, to see the contrast between the relationship between Anna and Vronsky deteriorate while the relationship between Kitty and Levin grow. I don’t know exactly why Kitty went for Levin. My favorite scene was when Kitty gets hit on by a houseguest (while she is pregnant, even), and Levin typically blows up. Not only does Kitty calms him down, they both wind up discussing it late into the night. No fighting. No snapping arguments. Genunine discussion. And that’s the basis of a good marriage.

I plan to watch the movie and the miniseries after this, so I could get a good idea of the storyline without all the philosophizing and the debating. I don’t know how to rate it. When the story stuck to the plot, it was wonderful, but when it got bogged down by Tolstoy’s ideas (and I know it was Tolstoy’s ideology), it really slowed the story down. I give Anna Karenina 2-1/2 vodkas out of 5, and I have to wonder, if this story took place in today’s culture, would it end the same way?

Starting 2011 the right way: FAIL

In December, I decided to knit myself some fingerless gloves.  I have grown enough in my knitting skills that I wanted challenge–or I got sick of knitting scarves. Take your pick. I didn’t want any fancy cabling or patterns, because I figured knitting gloves would be challenging in itself in that I would use double-pointed needles, something I’ve never tried before. but I was eager and more importantly, my hands got freaking cold in the evening, so why not do something constructive.

Thus, I scoured online for the most basic, easiest to do pattern I could find. Then I got my equipment. Double pointed needles, a stitch holder, and yarn. And I started my knitting project.

On January 3rd, I finished the glove. I looked at it. I put it on. Then I took it off and completely ripped it apart.

On January 3, I also got my bottom left back molar pulled out. It’s been on a slow decline for the past few years now. I had a deep pocket that affected the root of that tooth, and the dentist told me there was really nothing they can do but slow the deterioration of that tooth. It was basically a ticking bomb, and it went off right around New Year’s Day.

Two weeks ago, I got my latest rejection from Writers of the Future. For the first time, though, I didn’t make the Honorable Mention list. I had always made the list. Always.

So. FAIL.

Except, I expected that to fail. In looking at the story, I knew it might not pass because I’m starting to get a feel for what WOTF is looking for. The rejection verified that. So I know not to send mundane SF to them.

It’s like the fingerless glove. I had no clue what I was doing when I started it. I picked black yarn, which is hard to see if you screw up. I made a lot of false starts when I realized my method of knitting (knitting into the back) couldn’t work on such small needles. And I didn’t read the directions right, putting my stitches on only one stitch holder instead of two, which meant the finger holes wound up going places they shouldn’t go (I wish I had some way to knit interdimensional vortices.) So after I ripped apart the glove, I started over again, not repeating the same mistakes.

I finished the second glove a couple of weeks ago. And this time, it looks like a glove.

Bottom line: learn from FAILs.

Not all of this year has been FAIL. In the writing realm, I’ve been shockingly busy. I got a poem coming out on Every Day Poets on February 20. I’ve also been working on some non-fiction works that I’ll be announcing soon. 

As for the tooth, well, it’s gone. There’s a gaping hole where it used to be. And I got figure out what to do with it, and how am I going to pay for it.

Reckon I better get to work on Willow.