Category Archives: Anna Karenina

And the gold for smartness goes to . . .

The Olympics are on.

I’m going to ignore all the political barbs, social commentary, and ugly sweaters. Instead, its time to focus on what I know: Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.

Whoa.  It felt good to write that sentence.  Isn’t this WEM Degree making you feel smarter by the minute?


Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment


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Some Dads

Happy Father’s Day Sancho, Christian, Gulliver, Mr. Bennett, Fagin, Mr. Brockelhurst, Arthur Dimmesdale, Ahab, Arthur Shelby, Charles Bovary, Marmeladov, Vronsky, Damon Wildeve, Gilbert Osmund, Pap Finn, and Tom Buchanan.

Thanks for not being my dad.

You see, he’s pretty awesome.  And you guys, well, let’s just say that you’re best left where you are:  inside the covers of a book.

Dad Dance


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Not to Bum You Out

I’m so tired of all these women dying.  I’ve nearly lost track of them, first it was Helen, then Emma, Alyona and Lizaveta, Anna, Eustacia, and now Lily. Why?  Why must we read so much tragedy?  Why the death?  What’s wrong with a happy ending once in a while?

Then I stumbled across this article in my facebook newsfeed.  Friends, it’s worth the read (it even mentions three of our authors.)  The subject is tragedy.  The context is Christian worship.  The backdrop is our life.

If you only click on one external link today, I encourage you to choose the one above.  You can even leave the arguments about worship behind, but I’d love to know what you think about the tragedy vs. entertainment question.

Is our WEM reading list reminding you that we live in the valley of the shadow of death?  Is it drawing you face to face with the world of iniquity from which we would rather shield our minds?  Are the authors and their sin-filled worlds making you cling firmly to the Author of creation?  Is the despair of the characters wakening a vision of the evil that surrounds us outside the pages of fiction?  Or, are the novels a source of pacification and escapism?  Are the classics entertaining?  Should the classics be entertaining?


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The Fastest 300 Years EVER!

Sancho and the donkey.  Christian.  Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.  Elizabeth and Darcy.  Oliver.   Bertha-in-the-attic.  Hester and Pearl.   Moby Dick.   Uncles and Madams.  Rascal.   Anna-Kitty-Levin-Vronsky-oviches.   The Heath.   Isabel.   Huckleberry.   The Journeys of Henry and Marlowe.   And now Lily, whose outcome, at least for me, is still uncertain.

While paging through the Well-Educated Mind list of fiction books, I realized that Don Quixote was published in 1605 and House of Mirth in 1905.   300 years!  I congratulate myself and you, fellow readers, on plowing through 300 years of literature.   May the crop be plentiful!  I suggest a glass of red wine and some good chocolate to celebrate.



Lily’s Russian Cousin

I mentioned in this week’s check-in that I was seeing a few similarities between
Lily Bart and Anna Karenina.

Chapter 2 Lily uses a paper knife to “cut the pages of a novel, tranquilly studying her prey through downcast lashes while she organized a method of attack.  It was with Anna K that we first learned about paper knives.

Later in the same chapter Lily does a little clever maneuvering on the train to get Percy Gryce’s attention. On several occasions Anna Karenina manipulated men with her attentive ear and lovely looks.  Sometimes she did it to get something she wanted and other times it seemed she did it for her own amusement.  Hmmm…There are times when Lily does the same thing.

In chapter 12 Lily steals the show at the Brys home.  The women are doing the artistic tableaux  Remember what she wears?

Her pale draperies, and the background of foliage against which she stood served only to relieve the long dryad-like curves that sept upward from her poised foot to her lifted arm.

Anna’s dress was black, but she also knew exactly what to wear to make herself shine.

Have you noticed other similarities between these two characters?

1 Comment

Posted by on May 4, 2013 in Anna Karenina, The House of Mirth


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I Thee Read

Another blogiversary, another year of reading bliss.

Blogiversary Two

For better, . . .

Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Crime and Punishment
Anna Karenina
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Red Badge of Courage

for worse, . . .

Madame Bovary
The Return of the Native
The Portrait of a Lady

for richer, . . .

Rodolphe Boulanger
Augustine St. Clare
Stepen Arkadyevitch Oblonsky
Lord Warburton

for poorer, . . .

Berthe Bovary
Sofya Marvelodov
Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikov

in sickness, . . .

Nikolai Demitrich Levin
Ekaterina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya
Ralph Touchett
Clym Yeobright

and in heath, . . .

Pansy Osmond
Huckleberry Finn

till death us do part . . .

Evangeline St Clare
Uncle Tom
Emma Bovary
Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov
Alyona Ivanovna
Lizaveta Ivanovna
Anna Karenina
Mrs. Yeobright
Eustacia Yeobright
Damon Wildeve
Daniel Touchett
Ralph Touchett
Pap Finn
Miss Watson

So who did you love and cherish most this past year?


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The eye(lids) have it.

Anna Karenina and Eustacia Vye don’t seem to have much in common.  There is that “grass is always greener” thing they have going.  Yes, yes… that “looking for love in all the wrong places” thing.  The desire for happiness that causes them to make poor decisions, but other than that…

Russian socialite.  Hater of the Heath.  Not much in common.

I did notice a similarity in their eyes.  Particularly their eyelids.  Did you notice it too?

Anna Karenina:

Kitty gazed at her in dismay as she went up.  Anna looked at her with drooping eyelids, and smiled, pressing her hand.  But, noticing that Kitty only responded to her smile by a look of despair and amazement, she turned away from her, and began gaily talking to the other lady.

Anna, taking her eyes off her friend’s face and dropping her eyelids (this was a new habit Dolly had not seen in her before), pondered, trying to penetrate the full significance of the words.

Eustacia Vye

Well it is what I call no water,” she said, blushing, and lifting her long-lashed eyelids as if to lift them were a work requiring consideration.

One touch on that mouth again!  there, and there, and there.  Your eyes seem heavy, Eustacia.”

So if the eyes are the windows to the soul, what are our leading ladies trying to hide?  Perhaps Eustacia tells us the answer:

“No, it is my general way of looking.  I think it arises from my feeling sometimes an agonizing pity for myself that I ever was born.”

Or maybe Dolly Oblonsky knows why Anna picked up this habit:

And she remembered that Anna drooped her eyelids just when the deeper questions of life were touched upon.  “Just as though she half-shut her eyes to her own life, so as not to see everything.” thought Dolly


PS.  Just out of curiosity, I used the kindle to check Madame Bovary for references to eyelids.

And, according to what she was saying, her voice was clear, sharp, or, on a sudden all languor, drawn out in modulations that ended almost in murmurs as she spoke to herself, now joyous, opening big naive eyes, then with her eyelids half-closed, her look full of boredom, her thoughts wandering.


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Christmas Is Coming

Readers are easy to shop for because they’re always happy to get a book.  But what if you want to validate their love of literature without adding to the addiction?  Here’s a list of some unique classic gifts that might appeal to us WEMers.  Feel free print it out and leave it in a conspicuous spot for the shoppers in your life.  Or not.

(If all went well, clicking on the picture should open a new window to the site where the item is available.)

Don Quixote

The question I want answered is do these earrings belong the beautiful Dulcinea of Don Quixote’s dreams, or the brawny girl of Sancho’s acquaintance?  Decide before wearing.

Pilgrim’s Progress

Because a Bunyan vest is better than Bunyan Shoes.

Gulliver’s Travels

The site says that the pages are still readable.  Never mind.  Do not buy this for me.

Pride and Prejudice

This is obviously a doll version of Darcy from the beginning of the novel.  You know, when he was really crochety, um I mean crotchety.

Oliver Twist

You could make up a batch of homemade gruel mix, put it in a mason jar, and add a festive bow, or you could give a Dickinsonian this lovely print of a giant gruel pot.

Jane Eyre

These hues of the moors are named “To the Stars,” “A Strange and Unearthly Thing,” and “Independent Will!” (Exclamation point the artists, not mine.)  Aside from the fact that I can’t imagine Jane Eyre for a moment considering her own appearance long enough to put on a coat of nail polish, they are kind of pretty, in a moody, murky way, of course.

Scarlet Letter

These days bearing a shirt with a scarlet A on it doesn’t denote you as an adulteress, although I think that meaning might be preferable.  So instead of clothing, the Scarlet Letter lover might appreciate this ignominious bracelet.

Moby Dick

The Herman Melville gift options seem endless, from “Call me Ishmael, maybe?” t-shirts to Captain Ahab Baby Swaddlers but this print is the item that really made my jaw drop.  It’s as striking and surprising as the novel itself.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Personally, I would much rather have a piece of Aunt Chloe’s pie.

Madame Bovary

What could be more fitting for Emma than a vanity mirror?

Crime and Punishment

There are hollow book safes available for nearly all of these classics, but this one for C&P has a certain, well, charm?  Although it doesn’t seem big enough to hide an axe.

Anna Karenina

If you can’t buy the gift you can always buy the pattern and knit it yourself this “adorable” and “cute” Anna Tea Cozy.  Also, shouldn’t it really be a samovar cozy?

The Return of the Native

And when in doubt, sending flowers is always a good idea.  Especially heather from the heath.  It’s much more beautiful than a furze faggot, and easier to carry.

Happy shopping and a Merry Christmas!  Oh, and don’t blame me if you get any of these things.


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A Beautiful Spectacle

Movies in the theater are still a novelty for me.  Growing up they were Forbidden (although I may or may not have seen a few anyway), with very young children it’s hard to get away, and now I just have a hard time spending that much money on a 2-hour experience!   So whenever I have the opportunity for a “cinematic experience,” I feel blown away.  The sound, the color, the movement – it all combines into what is normally a bit overwhelming.   This movie was no exception.

I’ll try to get a little deeper than just the visual experience.  Let’s start with the positives:

1.   I was impressed with the director’s unique and clever adaptions making it seem like the whole novel was a play…well, most of the novel, anyway…there were a few times they seem to have left this behind.   I had read about this in a review and was skeptical.  But it worked!

2.  The dancing!  Combined with the gorgeous costumes, it was truly a spectacle.   There was one dance in particular that I will call “The Swan Dance” that was particularly gorgeous and sexy.  I wonder if they made it up, or if there really was such a stylized dance of the time period.   Tune in later once I do my research.   Christine and her husband take dance lessons regularly.  I suggested they learn that one – she just laughed at my idea.  Wonder why?

3.  Oblonsky became the comic relief of the play.  It was nice to have this distraction from the rest of the drama.  I giggled at his antics, facial expressions, posing, and just general dandy-ness.

Now for the negatives:

1.  The under-emphasis on Levin’s spiritual journey.  I think this is very important to Tolstoy and to a correct understanding of the themes of the book.   The movie included many scenes with Levin and Kitty, but left out most of Levin’s angst and searching.

2. The (expected) shallowness of the characters as compared to the book.  This always disappoints me.  I KNOW that it is impossible to turn a 900+ page novel into a movie without leaving out much of the detail, but it still doesn’t stop me from wishing they could.  A mini-series would be better.  I was very glad I had read the book first – that way my brain could fill in all the gaps.

3. Levin’s general wimpy-ness.  He was my favorite character in the novel, and the choices made in the movie just didn’t agree with how I pictured him.   He looked pouty, childish, and indecisive most of the time.

All in all, I was entertained.  It didn’t seem like 130 minutes.    Time flew.   I think they met the challenge of turning Tolstoy’s classic novel into screen-fare relatively well.  I give it a B.   But don’t take your children.   The “R” rating was probably warranted.   (Although less for violence than for sexuality.  The worst violence was the peasant accident at the beginning, which looked rather fake to me.  And the sex wasn’t completely gratuitous.) Rent it when it comes out on video and enjoy the spectacle.  It’s a sparkly end to reading a very long, complex novel.


P.S.  Sorry for covering some ground already covered in previous movie posts.  Seems like we three think alike.


Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Anna Karenina, The Blog



My Favorite Things (and some biting dogs)

It’s Day 2 of our Anna Karenina movie review.  Don’t miss Christine’s Thumbs Up/Thumb’s Down from yesterday, and come back tomorrow for Jeannette’s AK dos and don’ts.  For today, this is where I stand.

[Please imagine here a lovely picture of Christine and Jeannette standing by the giant AK movie cutout sign-board thingy.  If you’re really imaginative you can see Jeannette pretending to kiss Vronsky.  Too bad the picture is trapped on my phone.]

Doorbells and Sleigh Bells and Schnitzel with Noodles:

1.The ‘choreography’ of the opening scene.  I have no idea how long it lasted – 15-20 minutes maybe longer?  But the entire spilling of the original plot moves like a giant ballet.  No, maybe an opera.  Strike that, a musical.  I felt as thought they would break into song at any moment.  Well, some of the characters walking by did sing a little tune I found myself humming today.  Oh, and the dancing!  The dancing!

2.  The actress that plays Kitty, and the adorable, memorable, romantic, yet real way she and Levin played out the initial game to confess their love.  She sold me on the relationship, on her youth, on her goodness, and on love.

3.  Vronsky.  As I read the book I had one opinion of Vronsky:  Jerk.  There was probably more to him in the novel, but I kept my jerk-colored glasses on and didn’t permit any depth of character.  As the movie progressed,  I began to feel some sympathy for him, don’t get me wrong, he was still a jerk who did a jerky thing, but I believed his devotion to Anna more in the film than I allowed myself to believe in the book.  Maybe his crooked baby blues just worked their magic on me, after all, it wasn’t in 3-D, so I didn’t wear any special lenses to view him this time around.

Dog Bites, Bee Stings, and General Bad Feelings:

1.  Dolly has a small role, and in her final scene she says something along the lines of, “I would have liked to do what you have done, Anna, but no one asked me.”  Boo.  Hiss.  I want the real Dolly Oblonsky back.

2.  In the end Levin tells Kitty he has discovered something, but they don’t even begin to let the watcher understand what it is.  If you’ve read the book, you’re fine.  If you have not, then it will be impossible for you to see the full contrast between the Anna and Levin storylines.

3.  There was just not enough agricultural and economic theory and debate.  Not enough of the travels to the health spas and Italian villas.  Not enough about Russian politics and the war on the Serbs.


Um, do people still use that phrase, or did I just flash us all back to the 1990’s?  I’m sorry, you see, I’m pretty easily pleased at the movies, I just like to be entertained, but I’m sure I can think of a third thing that I didn’t like.  Oh!  I’ve got it – Karenin’s little “going to bed” box.  Yuck.  Ick.  Blech.


Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Anna Karenina


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