Today in Tolstoy

23 Oct

Despite the daunting 900 pages and my last place position in all our hebdomadal check-ins, Anna Karenina is moving along quite easily.  What’s making it such a comfortable inclusion in my daily life?  Well, I think it’s the fact that Tolstoy puts plenty of little ‘daily life’ moments in the novel.

Sure, they add to the overall length, but it’s nothing compared to the chapters and chapters of agricultural and political banter we’ve endured.

The moments I’ve enjoyed are those little glimpses into 19th century Russian that remind me of 21st century Michigan:

  • I love a good bedtime routine, and after their little debate over Levin and Vronsky in Part One Chapter 15, Prince and Princess Shcherbatsky demonstrate a lovely one that reminds them that, despite their differences, reminds them both that they live as one flesh under the cross of Christ.

And making the sign of the cross over each other, husband and wife kissed and said good-night, both of them feeling, however, that they remained of their own opinion.

  • Remember when Dolly was nervously waiting for the arrival of her sister-in-law Anna?  First she pulls a button off her son’s jacket in order to keep him from playing with it while he was supposed to be doing his homework, then she continues to keep her ear perked for the bell, and yet misses it when Anna eventually rings.  These are the kinds of things that fill my day.
  • You’ve been to one of those parties, right?  The ones where is seems like conversation is all clogged up, awkward, absent, or inappropriate?  That’s how Princess Betsy’s was shaping up after the opera.  Two separate pods of people.  Uncomfortable gossip, painful silences.  It couldn’t have happened to a nicer hostess.
  • I admit that I have a bad habit of cracking my knuckles, despite the fact that I don’t enjoy listening or hearing others do it.  I did, however love the timing, placement, and humanity that it brought to the passage after Karenin decided how to approach Anna about her interactions with Vronsky.

“I must make the following points quite plain:  first . . . secondly . . . thirdly . . . fourthly, a reference to her own unhappiness.”  And interlacing his fingers, palms downwards, he stretched them and the joints cracked.  This trick – the bad habit of clasping his hands and cracking his fingers – always soothed him, and restored the mental balance so needful to him at this juncture.

Good goodnights, watched pots, pitiful parties, snap-crackle-pops:  some of my favorite everyday things.  Do you have any?

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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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