Thursday, May 12, 2016

Slacking

My impulse toward self-improvement, never very strong, has been waning at present.  I got myself a copy of the Federalist Papers and sat down to read it, but I realized that what I really wanted was not to read it, but to have read it.  In short, I wished to have ti transferred to my brain without having spent any time with it.

Instead, I did what I always do when I don't want to edify myself:  I re-read Anna Karenina, one of my favorite books.  Every time I read it, I find more in it.  I see it differently.  In my youth, Anna seemed like a tragic heroine, but now  I am more inclined to side with the cuckolded husband.  I direct your attention to the part where Anna has just given birth to a baby girl fathered by Vronsky.  Everyone is weeping and lamenting at the top of their voices.--Are all Russians opera fans?--at the tragedy of it all, but everyone behaves in a surprisingly modern manner.  She is allowed to choose her own fate, and both Vronsky and Karenin are  supportive.

Imagine what Dickens would do with a scene like that!  Anna and the child would have been thrown out in the snow in a New York minute, and there is plenty of snow in Tsarist Russia.  Or at the very least, exiled to Australia.

Instead, Anna and Vronsky set up housekeeping together.  Everyone in their world snubs her, but not him.  He even offers to marry her, but she refuses to get a divorce--oh these Russian women!  More tragic weeping and wailing from all hands, eventually resulting in her suicide, under the wheels of the same train she arrived on.

Meanwhile, she takes little interest in baby Anna, nor does Vronsky.  She laments losing her son by Karenin, whom she is not allowed to see.  What is up with Anna? She's a tragic heroine, that's what.

I won't even get into the subsidiary characters, like Pierre and Kitty.  And Darya, Anna's brother's wife, very sympathetic and real.  Stiva, the philandering husband and lazy bureacrat.

Luckily, I don't mind reading long books, and Tolstoy apparently enjoyed writing them.

Anyway, I love this stuff.  All the characters are so real.

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