Anna Karenina is going really well. Really.

24 Oct

So… Obviously we were a little ambitious with our timeline.

Penny “I read the introduction, and I’m not ashamed” 

Progress: Characteristically ahead of schedule.

Liked: I am enjoying reading AK as a study of the ordinary (thanks, Introduction, for telling me why I should appreciate this novel because otherwise I might still be around page 20*). But, in all honesty, it doesn’t surprise me that I picked up this book and put it right back down about five times before we struck on this idea of making each other read it. AK is… rather mundane. How Tolstoy manages to make betrayal of friends and conducting an affaire under your husband’s nose seem banal, I’m not quite sure, but sometimes (most times) this book is a serious yawnfest. HOWEVER, I’m kinda enjoying it because the characters are so ordinary? It makes me feel better that these nineteenth century Russian aristocrats with their furs and their weird naming conventions and their sleighs worry about the same things I worry about wearing plastic and making up my own nicknames and driving my bluetooth-enabled car.

Disliked: For all AK has been touted as one of the greatest novels ever written, I’m rather disappointed in the prose (though not in Tolstoy’s snark – dude’s got something against fishing).

Observation (or, things I wish I hadn’t noticed because now I’m annoyed): Vronsky has nice, solid teeth (3-5 mentions and counting). Karenin has a round hat that does unfortunate things for his already large ears (must go back and count, but trust me: Anna really hates her husband’s ears).

Favorite Quote/Idea: “When he [Levin] saw it all, he was overcome by a momentary doubt of the possibility of setting up that new life he had dreamed of on the way. All these traces of his life seemed to seize hold of him and say to him: ‘No, you won’t escape us and be different, you’ll be the same as you were…’” (93). OR (same idea) “At once, as if putting his feet into old slippers, he [Vronsky] stepped back into his former gay and pleasant world” (114).

*Can we have a mini-discussion sometime about the tendency of reading canonical literature to resemble your parents telling you to eat your peas and carrots? Because really, why should I need to read the introduction in order to appreciate a great work of literature. Shouldn’t it stand alone?

Polly “The trailer for the movie looks really compelling.”

Progress: I actually finished this monster in one sitting! Penny remarked on how remarkable my feat of speedreading was, and what can I say? I’m a pro! Then I woke up and texted Penny about the funny dream I had where I read all of Anna Karenina in one sitting.

Imma be honest witchu. I’m on page 16 because my life has been pretty crazy and my me-time priorities lie with 30 Rock. But I’ll get there! I shouldn’t be working late tonight, so I’ll get there!

Circe “HA.”

Calli “This book makes me never want to be a fly on the wall. EVER. AGAIN.”

Progress: Five chapters into Part 3 and still waiting for it to get better than Part 2.

Liked: The idea of what Mr. T set out to do. Like Penny said, this book exposes the ordinariness of life. And when I say “expose,” I mean the idea is buck naked in the Russian cold. (And, yes, I did consult the web to find out if the phrase is “buck naked” or “butt naked.” Turns out the internet doesn’t know either.) As a young woman in my twenties who is becoming increasingly disenchanted with adult life (I feel like all I do is work, eat, sleep, and run), this novel’s “study of the ordinary” speaks to me…very, very loudly.

Also, Vronsky’s bald spot?!?!?!?! Made me giggle.

Disliked: I admit to being an introvert. That means in social situations, I don’t want to have my own conversations. I want to eavesdrop on yours. At least, I did until I started AK. I’m convinced that this book is so god-awful long because Mr. T insists on giving you the play-by-play of each character’s life and everything he or she is thinking. And here’s where Whitman’s assertion of “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes” applies to me. The opportunity to be inside peoples’ heads – to hear the conversations they have with themselves and with others – appeals to my introvertedness. But I want to have to work for it – to “unpack it” as my English professors would say. But, just as I am on the verge of boredom, I encounter lines like this one: “[Vronsky] felt that his heart was throbbing, and that he, too, like the mare, longed to move, to bite; it was both dreadful and delicious” (197). When I unpacked that line, I decided that Vronsky had the potential to go all Mr. Fifty-Shades-of-Grey on Anna Karenina. Oh wait…that happened at least 100 pages ago.

Observation: The descriptions of Vronsky’s mare might as well be of Anna. Both of them are aristocratic, so to speak, and communicate with their eyes. Not to mention that Vronsky is intently focused on riding both of them.

Favorite Quote: “Some mathematician has said that enjoyment lies in the search for truth, not in the finding it” (175). So THAT’s why this book is so darn long.

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