Kelly's Reviews > Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
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's review
May 24, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, 19th-century, russians, grande-dames, mawwiageiswhatbringsustogethertoday, woundedsoulsandfragileflowers, grand-opera
Read in July, 2012

So, I have this ongoing etiquette problem. Though sometimes I think it is a matter of respect. Or maybe social awkwardness. I’d consult my Emily Post on the issue, but it’s a unique bookworm sort of problem. I don’t think Ms. Post got that deeply into the protocol of neurotic bibliophiles.

Anyway, the question is.. why do I unconsciously call an author by their first name sometimes? In some respects, I’ve had this conversation before in the context of gender. That is, are discussants more likely to assume a first name basis when conversing about women authors rather than male authors? If so, does this mean a sign of disrespect? What about when this happens as a discussion among women? Is this more or less problematic? It also, obviously, happens sometimes with two authors by the same name, or with an author that someone happens to know personally.

But my question doesn't just have to do with this situation. I'm more interested as to why readers feel the impulse to do this to start with. The answer I've come up with is maybe an obvious one, but its worth stating: the emotional bond that a good book can seem to create in a reader’s mind with that author. This emotional bond can resemble love or hatred, respect, anger or sadness or can even simply result from spending some time with a comedian who has told enough, “you know how when,” jokes that you recognize. But on some level you feel you understand where they’re coming from. But its hard to pinpoint when that happens. Usually, for me, I only see it when I write my review. Usually I self-consciously delete it later once I realize it. As if I think that I’m like someone who met a movie star in a fast food restaurant and then decided to gush to everyone about how we were destined to be BFFs because it turned out that we had ordered the same kind of fries. But it is always revealing of how much the novel got to me. Virginia Woolf is the ultimate example of this for me. My experience with Mrs. Dalloway was like breaking through a wall into a party I’d always been invited to with close friends. I had the same experience with Austen and the Brontes and Graham Greene and a few others.

I wasn’t expecting to add another to this collection with Tolstoy. I've read this before, but that time my impression of Tolstoy as an intimidating, distant Big Russian Author intact. This read was different. I believe that the translation work of Paevar and Volokhonsky deserves credit for that. My first read was with the Garnette translation. However, as the NYRB notes, Garnett morphed Tolstoy’s words into “graceful late-Victorian prose,” as she did to every other Russian author she translated. And unfortunately, it turns out that graceful late-Victorian prose reads rather… well.. like it sounds like it might. Intelligently done, but often intimidating and cold. Thus, despite the fact that her work may have made Tolstoy’s work “accessible” to a Victorian audience, her work did a disservice to Tolstoy for me. Because that Victorian sensibility… that’s not Tolstoy. At least, it is not the Tolstoy that Paevar and Volokhonsky showed me. I’m glad that I gave this book a second chance, because this time Tolstoy became Leo a couple times. If my self-consciousness reasserted itself immediately and he became Tolstoy again, that’s okay. I remember those Leo moments.

There are many things I loved about this novel. I think what got me most, however, is something that’s based in the process of its creation. As I understand it, writing this novel was a great struggle for Tolstoy. Originally, he meant this to be a straightforward morality tale. Anna was meant to be an ugly, vulgar old adulteress who represented Evil Womankind, and Karenin a model of sainted Christianity. But the longer the writing went on, the more this black and white purpose acquired shades of grey. Anna became beautiful, then sympathetic at the beginning, and then in the middle, and then all the way into the end. Karenin became clueless, hypocritical, desperate, and even “unmanly”. Vronsky no longer twisted his mustache, but became a man with a code who wanted very much to be allowed to keep that code and live a life. The morals became increasingly tangled until his original purpose became almost-yes, we’ll get there- unrecognizable. He found his way from rigid morality to what makes a tragedy a tragedy.

Tolstoy just can’t bring himself to judge these people. There are moments where he shows that he could have gone full on Oscar Wilde if he wanted to, but he takes it back. For every cutting remark, there’s an apologetic attempt to reach out and embrace everyone a few paragraphs later. There’s a wonderful quality of generosity that runs through the whole novel. Judge not, lest ye be judged. It seems to have slowly eaten away at original purpose until there wasn’t anyone I could bring myself to blame. Some of them I sympathized with from the beginning-Anna, Dolly, Levin- and some snuck up on me-Karenin, Kitty- and some-Vronsky, Oblonsky- took me awhile, but I got there. The book is set up as a dance where these seven people come together, go through the motions and then change partners again. How they come together, why, and what the two partners want from each other in that moment reveals everything about these two characters. As our two anchors who represent the two choices that you can come to resolve the existential crises of life, Levin and Anna get to meet everyone and everyone gets to reflect them back to themselves. Other characters experience them and make their own choices by evaluating their experience. Their resolutions represent the spectrum of other choices that you can make in between Ecstasy (starts as Anna, moves to Levin) and Death (which moves from Levin to Anna). The dance climaxes when Levin and Anna meet and the author finally allows himself to face the powerful woman he’s created and see what he thinks of her. What happens in the scene is beautiful and makes a lot of sense. I hated what he did it to it afterwards, which read like someone desperately afraid that they had revealed too much (we’ll get there), but it doesn’t negate what happens when we see that opposites are more alike than we’d like to think. Like that circle you always see done with fascism and communism-in-reality where despite whatever they may say, they are not the opposites that they claim.

You’ll notice that seven is an odd number. Someone is always going to be left on the outside, or being the third wheel to one of the pairs. Everyone has a turn with this. Anna starts it, then Levin continues it, then Kitty, then Karenin and full circle until we come back to Anna standing by herself once again. Through the odd man out, we get an exploration of how loneliness, rejection, and mistaken choices to reject others affect these characters. The two choices seem to be either that it will transform them, or that it will gradually harden the worst parts about them until they become an unbreakable diamond. Kitty’s time in Europe is perhaps the most through exploration of this phenomenon. Tolstoy allows her to break and reform and then reform again until she’s able to give herself permission to be herself again. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the space and time to do that. Levin gets to do it eventually. I’d even argue that Vronsky almost gets to that point time and time again. Anna is the diamond. Karenin shatters to pieces and then rebuilds himself into one again. Surprisingly, in the end, Karenin was the one who broke my heart.

He shows these peoples' attempts at understanding each other and failing again and again. It's revealing that he has this tendency have these characters look at each other just “seem to express” deep, extensive feelings with their eyes or with mundane trivialities. Characters frequently make assumptions that other people are mind-readers or that they are, and some even go so far as to tell them so. “I can tell that you think that I…” or “Her eyes told me that…” etc. It seems like he can’t think of a way that these people can be honest with each other and just say these things that they are dying to convey to each other, so they have to make all these assumptions. The ones who can communicate with each other are the ones who drive the novel- Anna, Levin, Kitty. Our author stand-in, Levin, is the most socially anxious being. He frequently doubts every word that comes out of his mouth, blushes and embarrasses himself with his boyish pride, and puts his foot in his mouth on about a million occasions. Anna and Karenin’s inability to speak to each other just the few words that would have stopped this whole thing on about chapter ten is a more serious version of this. Levin’s older brother and his almost love affair with Kitty’s friend and one wrong word spoken that changed their lives is a lightly amusing version. But all these little moments add up to a more thorough condemnation of social conventions than (view spoiler). Only Connect in eight hundred pages at full volume. Only a few people manage it, and usually not for long. He shows us why succeeding is a gift, not something that we can take for granted.

And as for the writing… Tolstoy gets away with so much that other authors can't. He tells rather than shows for at least half the novel, and that is a conservative estimate. He repeats himself constantly. He chooses isolated moments and lets them go on for fifty pages longer than anyone on earth needs. Levin and Kitty’s wedding ceremony takes six chapters in my version. A two day hunting trip takes twice that. Ultimately, his writing isn’t that quotable out of context, except for that famous bit about happy families. Why? I can’t tell you. But Woolf can:
"For it has come about, by the wise economy of our nature, that our modern spirit can almost dispense with language; the commonest expressions do, since no expressions do; the most ordinary conversation is often the most poetic... For which reasons we leave a great blank here, which must be taken to indicate that the space is filled to repletion.”

The commonest expressions thrown together in the right order and with the right kind of passion. That’s Tolstoy all over.

But I know we’re going to have to talk about that end. That is, what he does to Anna because he could not himself decide what he wanted her to be, and really what he wanted himself to be. Even his generosity failed him here. He chose to take Anna’s rebellion against her circumstances and grind it down until it became the scratchings of a selfish, spiteful cat. He went gloriously, full-tilt into a wall wrong, but it was wrong. It seemed like his original stern morality got the best of him. At first, I wanted to think that it was just a plot mechanics decision in the sense that Anna was the big outlier in the story and social structure, and the way he had written the people around her there was no way for anyone to move forward unless she herself changed. Whatever Anna’s story was about, it was not about how love conquers all because Tolstoy doesn’t believe that. That couldn’t be the end. She couldn’t go back to Karenin, because that would have been an even bigger betrayal. But in the end, I think that I'm wrong and it was just him feeling like he had to condemn her for her sins in the end. He couldn't let it be about what he said it was the whole novel because that was too dangerous.

And it wasn’t just Anna’s ending that I had an issue with. Levin’s, too. There are things to love about it, but it also (view spoiler) Lastly, I really did not like what he did with that scene where Anna and Levin meet and (view spoiler).

But still. I can mostly forgive Tolstoy for what he did to Anna and Levin and their complex struggles because of one thing: his joy. Even when his generosity of spirit uncharacteristically fails him with Anna, or when powerful intellect goes off the rails toward crazytown with Levin and his peasant-worship, he has this great ability to celebrate things great and small. This is most evident in the Levin sections where we get long odes to the harvest and to his love for Kitty. He gets perhaps the most genuinely sweet proposal scene I’ve ever read, and his depiction of sheer ecstasy after his success left me smiling for hours. And really, despite the all that earnest, existential angst and all the terror of death, the ultimate conclusion that I think Tolstoy wants me to walk away with from that last Levin chapter is Life. Even with the problems with it I mentioned above, its such a relief to see Levin finally just let himself rest that its difficult to hate it completely. And Levin isn’t the only one who gets to experience the joy. Kitty gets to be wrapped up on it. Oblonsky walks around with an apparently unshakeable foundation of it. Vronsky and Anna even get pieces of it sometimes, in their love for each other, in Vronsky’s love of horses and Anna’s for her children. One of Karenin’s problems is that he never sees the value in joy. Tolstoy complements this with a sly sense of humor that sneaks into the prose in between the other seven hundred and fifty pages of Seriously Considering the World. He’s got some great bits about his own misconceptions about marriage and the absurd things jealousy leads us to do. He pokes fun at men showing off their manliness to each other. He has some fun with mysticism, laughs about the ridiculousness of politics. He makes me laugh with the extremes to which he carries his insistence that we think about the feelings of everybody. Including the dog. Twice. I mean, could you be so insensitive as to forget how it inconveniences the dog when you’re disorganized getting out the door in the morning? You monsters!

In the end, it’s just all out there, you know? Awhile ago, I saw Jon Stewart give a speech in tribute to Springsteen. I forget the occasion, but I’ve always remembered one part of what he said, which is that Springsteen is great because whenever he is on stage, he doesn’t hold back. You know that when he walks out he’s going to be going all out, one hundred percent of the time, and when he’s done, he’s left it all on the field. But this isn’t in a reality show culture flash inappropriate body parts and explore the outer reaches of vulgarity kind of way. It’s just more the sense you have that he has worked through the problems that he presents to you as long and as hard as he can. He’s mustered up all the blood, sweat and tears that he has to present it to you, and there aren’t any bon mots he’s saving for the cocktail party later. This book is a book of statements, but it feels like a book of questions. Do you know any better?

Often, with Tolstoy, I think that a lot of us feel like we do. With rare exceptions, he deals with everything on earth as if it is the most serious thing alive. We know about “don’t worry, be happy.” He’s got a lot of anxiousness about his dealings with women, and some extremely silly ideas about Women in general. We can even feel that we know better about communism, idealization of manual labor or even just his ideas about cooperative farming. But still, he’s got those big questions about everything and he insists that they matter. He’s so wonderfully earnest from the beginning until the very end. He reminds me of David Foster Wallace, in that respect. That Consider the Lobster essay, with all that serious questioning and pain, thrown out to the readers of Gourmet. He feels like the inheritor of this fearsome intellect/earnest straightforwardness duality. Both these guys are really asking. This was a surprisingly vulnerable book in that way. For every opinion Tolstoy pronounced, he retracted two and asked four questions. That is the sort of mind I want to be around. Does this all come down to “but he means so well”? No. Maybe. A little bit. But his amazing writing ability, his sharp insight, and his ability to reason through as far as he could go are powerful enough that I will always let it go.

I’m excited for my next Tolstoy read. He rambled at me for eight hundred pages, and I can’t wait for eight hundred more. What’s up, War and Peace? As my favorite cartoon monkey said, “It is time.”
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Reading Progress

06/28/2012 page 35
4.0% "Impressions so far: Oblonsky: Tolstoy's Jack Aubrey in neighborhood dad khaki pants. Levin: Just Needs a Hug."
06/29/2012 page 100
12.0% "Anna Arkadyevna read and understood, but it was unpleasant for her to read, that is to follow the reflection of other peoples' lives. She wanted too much to live herself... When she read about how Lady Mary rode to hounds, surprising everyone with her courage, she wanted to do it herself. But there was nothing to do, and so, fingering the smooth knife with her small hands, she forced herself to read."
07/02/2012 page 232
28.0% "But, in the depths of his soul, the order he became and the more closely he got to know his brother, the more often it occurred to him that this ability to act for the common good, of which he felt himself completely deprived, was perhaps not a virtue but, on the contrary, a lack of something... a lack of life force, of that yearning which makes a man choose one out of all the countless paths of life presented to him"
07/05/2012 page 420
50.0% "Levin had noticed in arguments between intelligent people that after enormous efforts, the arguers would finally come to the awareness that what they had spent so long struggling to prove to each other had been known to them long before, from the beginning of the argument, but they loved different things and therefore did not want to name what they loved, so as not to be challenged." 49 comments
07/06/2012 page 470
56.0% "He felt that the realization of his desire had given him only a grain of the mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the eternal error people make in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires. At first, after he had united with her and put on civilian clothes, he felt the enchantment of freedom in general ...but not for long. He soon felt arise in his soul a desire for desires, an anguish." 7 comments
07/07/2012 page 620
74.0% ""And they all fall upon Anna. What for? Am I any better? I at least have a husband I love....and Anna did not love hers. How is she to blame then? She wants to live. God has put that into our souls. I might have done the same. I ought to have left my husband then.. I might have been loved and loved in a real way. Is it better now? He's necessary to me, and so I put up with him. Is that better?" -Dolly"
07/08/2012 page 700
84.0% "He knew it was impossible to forbid Vronsky to toy with painting.. as it was impossible to forbid a man to make a wax doll and kiss it. But if this man with the doll came and sat in front of a man in love and began to caress his doll the way the man in love caressed his beloved, the man in love would find it unpleasant. The painter experienced this unpleasant feeling at the sight of Vronsky's painting." 5 comments
02/07/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 51-76 of 76) (76 new)

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Kelly Oh I see, what you mean now! Oops misunderstood. I would also never break my reading habits. bookaholics unite! :)

message 52: by Joje (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joje Hear hear.
He talks of how it helps him think more and other such reasons for continuing. I don't remember health being a consideration in it, but being in HS then, I'd have thought weight was more his problem or being a Russian under the Czars or some other reason and dismissed that argument. Later on, like decades, my husband liked to make jokes about how his memory was worse since quitting. It's a saying in France that smoking is not good for memory, whereas Leo would not have agreed. It got him to sit down and ponder, after all, as if he needed an excuse. Maybe that's when he began to alter his attitude to Anna, the Ugly. A thought.
After such a thoughtful, personal, honest review, I will give your comment from the intro credence, by all means. To be honest, I don't remember which translation we used in my IB class, but the Saudi boy in the class loved the book, did a report even. A good memory. Students often made me like what I had only chosen for other reasons, like the thematic connection to one I really knew I could teach.
Now for funnies, that group also chose Jerome K Jerome's boating story, which you might get a kick out of. I am eternally grateful to them. That was a Pole in the class.

Kelly It definitely makes sense that Tolstoy would be the guy who would feel like he had to sit down and make excuses for why it was okay for him to have the Vice of smoking. I was raised Catholic, I get guilt. :)

I'm definitely not a Tolstoy expert by any means, but I appreciate the trust. If you ever run across the P&V version in a bookstore, the introduction is worth reading and it is in there, so you should check that out. It's interesting that you had a multicultural reading experience and it seemed to work out well- there are pretty universal themes in it though I guess!

Also you are approximately the fifteenth million person to recommend Jerome K. Jerome to me. One of these days I will have to listen and follow up on that! Thanks.

Harry Kane Great review. Hope War and Peace went well, he's much younger there.Especially likes the stuff abou the seven and his inability to really let go of his emotional armour, but, as you point out, he's already so autistically joyfull that were he able to completely let go, he wouldn't have written Karenina, but would have rather sat forever in one place with legs crossed.

Kelly Sorry, I never got the notification for this comment. I haven't read War and Peace yet, but I look forward to encountering the young Tolstoy! I agree that Tolstoy certainly had the potential to freeze himself with his own doubts- he did the same to his character stand in, Levin, but I think that his own great passions would always have moved him to get going again.

Sparrow This is a cool perspective on the story:

I don't think it is totally similar to either of our perspectives, but he agrees with you that Levin and Kitty aren't the worst ever. ;)

message 57: by Molly Jo (new) - added it

Molly Jo Absolutely fantastic review! I'm about a fifth of the way through and I'm completely hooked. I really wasn't expecting to like it as much as I do. I think I was intimidated by Tolstoy. Not anymore! It's been awhile since a book made me think and feel as much as this one is. I'm very jealous of your ability to put your thoughts down so well.

Jessica " Through the odd man out, we get an exploration of how loneliness, rejection, and mistaken choices to reject others affect these characters.


message 59: by Kelly (last edited Dec 30, 2012 02:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly Yeah, Tolstoy might be pouring out his feeeeelings a lot, but for all his protestations of innocence he's got enough craft to arrange things in a clever way so as to accent his point.

Thanks, and thanks Molly! GR notifications dislike me on this review. I hope you ended up enjoying the rest of your read.

Sparrow, sorry I didn't get that link. I agree. I think that our focus in the book was definitely not about whether it was a love story or not. I think it was more about this quote from later in the article: "Deciding what to think of Anna is one of the central challenges of “Anna Karenina.” Some readers, perhaps because they feel betrayed by Anna, end up questioning her character, or her judgment, or her motives.

I like that the author dug this point out of the novel: The only way to find those limits is to struggle against them, but gently, with the goal of finding and accepting them. You can’t think your way to the limits. You have to feel your way, learning through experience and suffering. And there is a risk in experimenting with what will and will not work in life, which is that it might not work. You might move to New York to pursue your dreams, and end up with no career to speak of. You might think you can wait to find the perfect spouse, but wait too long, and end up alone. You might think you can have that affair and still have the love of your spouse and children—but you may be mistaken about what’s possible, and lose everything.

That's a remarkably lucid, dispassionate way of looking at the passions that Tolstoy throws at us. Great article, thanks.

Sparrow Yes! I think both of those are really great points. I thought it was cool to see even a third, different perspective from ours.

Jessica ...deciding what to think of Anna..

I think Tolstoy himself doesn't like Anna. I mean, I think she obviously gives him moments of enjoyment, and even excitement, but the farther she gets from family-hood and mother-dom, the worse her life gets. That's a pretty clear judgement.

message 62: by Kelly (last edited Dec 31, 2012 08:23AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly It was such a well thought out piece, too. That guy can review for goodreads anytime! I'd vote for that!

I don't know if I would agree that Tolstoy doesn't like Anna. I would certainly agree that his ideal vision of happiness centers around home and hearth and the happiness that dometisicity brings, of which his construction of Ideal Womanhood is a big part. However, I would argue that Tolstoy is quite sympathetic to Anna, even up to and including that end part I hate. Tolstoy is always choosing, himself, between despair and abandonment to what he believes to be his lesser side and the better angels of his nature. I don't think it's a matter of liking and not liking but certainly choosing to have her walk the hardest path. And do so by choice because to do otherwise would be false to her nature. And Tolstoy's written extensively, both in AK and elsewhere (War and Peace, which I'm reading now, is a good example), about how he hates falseness more than anything. His heroes are always the people who are incapable of and/or despise deceiving anyone. Anna is the consequences of the extremity of that choice, but like I say, that classes her with the majority of his heroes, not his villains.

message 63: by Matt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt Bravo, Kelly! You nailed it once again. I swear, sometimes you write pretty muh exactly what I'd want to write if I only had the necessary guts/gumption/articulation...

You're dead on about the translation variation, too- I feel better and more justified in insistently suggesting the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation to everybody. Constance Garnett did the reading public a favor in her time, and that's all very nice, but P/V are lightning over the water.

Kelly I've never heard that expression but I love it! P&V are certainly fabulous. I'm deep into their translation of War and Peace and it's easy to see why its garnered all the accolades that it has. Vibrant, and it seems to get a lot of nuances of everyday conversation that seem particularly delicate. That's a hard thing to pull off and very important to Tolstoy's writing.

I feel like this means I am ragging on Garnett by comparison. I am not. Her skill with the language is clearly wonderful. P&V mention that everyone was "dependent" on her translations for a long time, so clearly her skill was far beyond what most others could equal. Her translation is not for me, but by that same token, it wasn't meant to be. It was for the educated classes of the nineteenth century and their expectations. Perhaps they would feel the same way about P&V as we do about Garnett.

Jessica She walks the hard path by choice - which brings her some pretty dire consequences. There is only one reward for her doing so: her love affair. And that goes sour pretty quickly.

I think Tolstoy empathizes rather than sympathizes with Anna. I think you're right about her staying true to her nature, which is a trait that Tolstoy values, but I don't think any of his characters (in AK, anyway) are all good or all bad. I don't think he hates any of them. Each of them have redeeming traits, and each have ugly ones. This is what makes them real, and I think is also a statement by Tolstoy - that everyone is human, everyone wavers, and everyone have the free will to make choices along the way, and everyone will make both good and bad choices.

But as Anna takes each step away from what Tolstoy values (motherhood, family life, spirituality) they are each met with a direct consequence....well, I do think he is making an overall judgement of her. That judgement is: Love is great and all, but 'all you need is love' is a fallacy. What we need is family, spirituality, fulfillment. Oh, yeah, and woman need to be mothers.

Kelly I would agree that empathy is probably the dominant emotion that Tolstoy employs towards Anna, rather than sympathy. It's a better word. He does his level best to stay in her head and hang in there when things get ugly, or to be more accurate, when he decides that things need to get ugly. Even at the point where we see her losing control a bit and loosing some bile, I don't think that she ever totally turns into an incomprehensible monster.

I agree that he doesn't hate anybody in the book. As I mentioned in my review, that's one of the things I most love about the book. He spends so much time with each of our main characters that we get qualifications, good sides, not-great traits, the lot. That's one of the advantages of the length, for sure.

I hadn't thought to put the steps of Anna's journey into a punishment sequence framework. That mostly makes sense to me, I guess. I would agree that she does experience more and more difficult situations as she goes on because of her choices to move away from what Tolstoy feels is Ideal Womanhood. But I think that he's less punishing her for not being Kitty, the domestic angel than he is for the reality of what you're saying about the fact that "all you need is love is a fallacy." I think that the reason that Anna ends up suffering is that this is true from a practical standpoint of life, rather than necessarily a moral, judgmental one (at least until the end, perhaps). I think some of the best parts of the book where when he focused on Vronsky and Anna just trying to fill up their days together. Yes, you can love someone, but part of what you ultimately probably love about them is the context that found them in and your own context when you meet them. You also love them as a part of your life, but that doesn't mean that they should absorb your every waking hour. You have to be a person to be in love, and being a person involves having activities, friends, experiences that are not just about "love". This, added to the fact that you just practically need society's approval to do a lot of things (and you're not going to get it in Anna's situation) means that you're just practically speaking shut up in your room a lot and that'll make anyone a little nuts.

I took it as more of a practical remark than necessarily a condemnation of her throwing everything away for love on moral principle. Sure, there's some of that at the end (I HATE what Levin ends up saying about his meeting with Anna, mostly to please Kitty, SO false). So I guess.. in the end I would ultimately agree with you that he's saying that we need other things, but not necessarily from a moral perspective.

Jessica Kelly wrote: " part of what you ultimately probably love about them is the context that found them in and your own context when you meet them. You also love them as a part of your life..."

So true.

Kelly Right? It complicates the picture of what you say you love when you love a person, for sure. Tolstoy's amazing.

message 69: by Sparrow (last edited Jan 01, 2013 10:48AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sparrow I have been thinking about that lately! And I will tell you why (or maybe I already told you this story, so sorry if I did):

I watched a TON of Dexter over the past few months, and then, one day, I was in this room with this Sheriff's Deputy. So, I was walking out of the room, and I smiled at him, and he smiled back at me with dead eyes, and I thought, "Oh, attractive!" Because he looked like a serial killer! And I am still inexplicably attracted to this deputy because of his serial killer look!

So, what I gleaned from that experience is this: the individual things we are attracted to in people is because we associate them with something good that we have previously experienced or that we imagine. Like, for me, the feeling of comfort I get in watching Dexter, I pass on to the serial killer deputy. Even though it makes no actual sense because intellectually, I know that I am attracted to him because he looks like a serial killer! And I think this is true in Anna K., too. She associates Vronsky with freedom, which to her is a good association, but really he turns out to be only a new captivity. Lesson: use your brain when you are attracted to someone, kids.

message 70: by Kelly (last edited Jan 02, 2013 08:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly Modern television shall be the ruin of us all!

I agree about this, though: She associates Vronsky with freedom, which to her is a good association, but really he turns out to be only a new captivity.

Tolstoy seems aware of this when he's writing her, even. Vronsky always turns up with symbols of freedom, particularly at the beginning- parties (limited sphere in which women have some power), dancing, horses, travel, exciting people who are the opposite of her Good But Dull husband. The part where she ends up getting to live "freely" in the country with Vronsky and he tries to build a life for them there and she destroys it anyway because she sees it as limiting is a pretty great example of this.

I have not watched Dexter. I take it I should?

Sparrow I agree!

I totally love Dexter. I think it is both a mind-blowing take on the superhero, and a really thoughtful critique of the death penalty and criminal justice system in general. Especially season 5 is just spectacular. But, it is definitely not for everybody. Gore doesn't bother me, but it definitely gets gory, so if that bothers you, it probably wouldn't be worth it.

message 72: by Kelly (last edited Jan 02, 2013 08:04AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly Well I'm not a fan of gratuitous, regular gore, so that's definitely not a point in its favor. But I can usually find a way to deal with it if the acting and themes are awesome enough. I am currently devouring all the Homeland episodes I can get my hands on, but that might be something to try after that.

Jessica Sparrow wrote: " the feeling of comfort I get in watching Dexter, I pass on to the serial killer deputy. Even though it makes no actual sense because intellectually, I know that I am attracted to him because he looks like a serial killer!..."

*giggle* Am I allowed to laugh at this story?

Sparrow I need to get my hands on some Homeland episodes! They have been difficult for me to find, though.

Jessica wrote: "*giggle* Am I allowed to laugh at this story?"

It is intended to laugh at. And I totally talked to him for a while today. *unhealthy swoon!*

message 75: by Kät (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kät So I wrote a rather short review on this and just said that I love Levin but that I can also feel like we are very alike and then I read this from you: 'He frequently doubts every word that comes out of his mouth, blushes and embarrasses himself with his boyish pride, and puts his foot in his mouth on about a million occasions' and I had to laugh because...yup, that's me/him haha!

Kelly :) It's always great to find a character you can connect with- in whatever way! Oh, Levin!

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