Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anna Karenina

This blog post contains spoilers about the literary work titled "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy. 

I have done it.

For the second time in my life, I have completed reading the novel Anna Karenina.

The first time I read the book, it was (evidently) an abridged version (which, had I known that, I'd have gone in search of the UNabridged version...) and it was for my senior year as an assignment of summer reading for my AP Lit class.

I trudged my way through it, using sticky notes to make a multitude of notes about imagery, prose, character development, tone...all of those technical writing things.
I hated the book. Hated. And more than anything, I hated the character named Anna Karenina. The first version I read ended with her suicide and it left such a bad taste in my mouth. I could not believe how immoral she was and her "woe is me" attitude about the situation she got herself into by making the choices that she did. However, at the time, I was also a pretentious, stuck up, goody-two-shoes perfectionist that tended to have pity for those that sinned. I knew I wasn't perfect, but I acted and judged like I was. So to see someone in a piece of literature that was so immoral and the steps she took to escape the mess she made for herself and those around her...I couldn't stomach it.

I talked it over with my teacher a little bit, and when she asked me certain questions that made me reflect on it in a (teeny, tiny bit) different way, the hated was toned down from volatile to disgusted, but I was still not sold on it. She very obviously saw why and where I was having trouble with it, and told me that when she was in college, she read the book Vanity Fair for an assignment and loathed it. She went back a decade later and re-read it and it became one of her favorite books of all time. At that point, I vowed to myself to try and read it again some day, though at the time I didn't expect to wait 10 years to do so.

Fast forward.....that's right, you guessed it...10 years. I had every intention of re-reading Anna Karenina before now, but with life and marriage and kids and moving (multiple times!), it just didn't happen. But a movie is coming out this holiday season based on the book (starring Kiera Knightley and Jude Law), and when I saw the preview, I thought it looked pretty accurate to what I remembered and a desire was ignited in me to finally take on reading the novel again.

It took me more than 2 months, but I have finally accomplished it! I don't hate it as much as I used to, but I'm fairly certain that it is not going to become my absolute favorite book. (I am, however, now curious about War and Peace and reading some of Dostoevsky's work...) I do like Tolstoy's style of being so thorough and detailed about the characters in the novel, even though some of them seem obsolete or pointless. They all have a role to play, and this snapshot of these characters in the 1800's so accurately depicts people and their personalities and choices that I see everywhere in today's world.

Now that I have experienced a little bit of life and am no longer the sheltered, over-protected girl I was in high school, I found the book was much easier to read (regardless of the 2 months it took me to get through over 900 pages) and far more relate-able than the first go around.

There are still things about Anna I can't stand. Like how she was so selfish and looking for an "out," which culminated in her suicide. Or the fact that she even gave in to the desires she did with Vronsky and cheated on and left her husband. The mind games she played with Vronsky, trying to get him to respond to her a certain way after the "honeymoon phase" wore off. I just really did not like her at all. (Granted, I knew this time going into it that she was going to take her own life, and I did really try to see things from her perspective, but the moment she was unfaithful to her husband, it was all downhill for me. I may have looked for more redeeming qualities or instances I could relate to, or had more hope for her recovery had I not known of her coming demise.)

However, I did appreciate the book far more than I did before. I was able to see Kitty and Levin in a way I would never have understood before, and the juxtaposition of the relationships screamed at me. (I can't believe I missed such an obvious thing 10 years ago!) And I found seeing the way that Levin felt hopeless and how he handled it, searching for and finding a spiritual answer to his troubles and that his relationship was built on trust and logic and love absolutely moving. Even more so when it's compared to Anna's hopelessness that spirals from the beginning, with a brief reprieve in the middle, and she turns to fleshly desires and a relationship based on the physical and her answer for those things.

I am definitely not sorry that I re-read it, and I may read it again, once I have some more life experience to my name. My view of her may change yet. But for now, I'm glad to have made it through the entire book!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mow ze Lawn!

So there's this joke I heard quite a bit growing up....

"How do the French say 'cut the grass'?"

The answer is, obviously, "mow ze lawn"...it's not one I particularly found funny, but maybe that was because I've had a deep love for France and the French language and culture for as long as I can remember. Anyway, it's significance today, is this:

Today, for the first time in my life, I cut the grass.

Why have I never done it in my almost-30 years of life? For two very good reasons...1) I grew up with an older brother. It was always his job. When I moved out, I didn't have to worry about a yard to care for. It wasn't until after I was married and living in Italy that we had any yardwork to be done, and I had a husband to take care of it. ;) And when he was deployed, a guy from his squadron took care of it for me. And 2) I have allergies. Pretty severe allergies. I took my allergy medicine about 15-20 minutes before going outside to give it time to get in my system and head off as much as I could to start with. And according to The Instigator, who also reacts to grass, it doesn't happen while being the person mowing. At least for him. Evidently that wasn't the case for me. I came inside, itchy all over, eyes watering, sneezing, and feeling puffy and swollen. Thankfully, a shower (and closed windows!) helped a lot.

It took me an hour to get it done, and it's anything but perfect, but the point is...I did it! It's one of those moments rare in many adult lives, being able to be proud of having accomplished something so trivial for the first time. Naturally, being me, I went online and researched "how to mow a lawn" and "how to start a mower" and watched a couple of videos. (Yes, yes, I know...I'm a freak...) ;) Elphie even mentioned that if I were to die under mysterious circumstances, police searching my computer would get a surprise from my google history...I have looked up many "how-to's"...lol

It took me about an hour to mow, and it looks nowhere near perfect, but the yard is pretty large, it is anything but even or flat, and parts of it had sprouted up to about 10-12" in height! On top of all that, due to living in a not-Colorado climate, there is this thing called "dew" and "condensation" that we get overnight, and this crazy-tall grass was not completely dry. For a first attempt, I don't think I did too bad...

So here it is. Our front yard, mowed by yours truly!

Has anyone else had moments like this, that most people learned such a basic skill long ago, but you feel proud of the accomplishment and feel like a glowing child saying "Look what I did!"?

(Also, I know it's been a month since I last blogged...I will try to get into the habit of blogging more often!...again...LOL)