Sunday, November 6, 2011

Guest Post on Anna Karenina

This week we have a guest post on our current selection from group member The Dude Abides (follow him on Twitter at @thedudeabides).

The Men of Women

Anna Karenina has been a pleasant and quick read so far, and uniquely for this book I am on pace with the group schedule. I know we should be talking about Parts 5 or 6 at this point but I have been thinking about the early stages of the novel. Specifically about the men in love who seem to be thwarted by our friend Cupid.

Of course we can see similarities in Alexey (Mr. Karinina) and Levin whose hearts are stretched for the women they love. In the case of Alexey it is the love of Anna Karenina who he thought he once had is being wrested away by a younger man. With Levin it is the hope of love with Kitty for whom he has set his heart's song melody to her muse. In the case of both men they have fallen to the women who fall for others.

It is always interesting to see men in the roles of the broken hearted. I think Tolstoy showed some real emotional honesty and made me like these two for the truth of their lives.

Mr. Karenina

Alexy is a powerful, older, and one can say non-feeling man whom Anna despises. And we certainly can see the cliched narrative carried out between an older man and his younger bride: Tolstoy certainly makes this clear from Anna’s perspective, but I think we see a deeper understanding of Alexie’s love. It struck me that he treated her with respect even though there were rumors of her running about town with another man. He seemed composed and caring but one might get the impression he was uncaring and apathetic. Of course, his tone will change later in the book as his fate is almost certain in losing her love but I see an interesting time of trying to keep Anna in his heart and the struggle of his position in society and the stigma of a failed marriage. Early on, he pleads with Anna to think about her actions and we see in his mind he feels for her: Alexy Alexandrovitch, a man of great power in the world of politics, felt himself helpless in this. Like an ox with head bent, submissively he awaited the blow which he felt was lifted over him. Every time he began to think about it, he felt that he must try once more, that by kindness, tenderness, and persuasion there was still hope of saving her, of bringing her back to herself…..

As we can see Alexy is desperate to do anything to get Anna back but this too shall pass and his tone changes as his frustration grows.


Early on I made a comment about Levin by saying, “Poor Levin.” He seemed like he was truly in love with Kitty and that he made her happy, but of course, like anything in life, there is alway something better or richer or more attractive. Levin to me was the one for Kitty and I think she knew that but let the influence of others and her dreams get in the way. Later we find that these two cross paths again but Kitty's rejection of Levin was devastating to a man who, although prosaic, was good and loving.

So in Levin we see a genuine sweet and loving man who in the best intentions loves Kitty and yet she rejects him.

Two men not quite the same in power or social standing yet two men who have felt the wrath of the women they love. Tolstoy does a good job in representing the male point of view from a broken heart.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Our next nonfiction pick

Here are the options (as suggested by members and the Zeitgeist):

- Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford

- Capital, Vol. I, Karl Marx

- Nixonland, Rick Perlstein

- The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud

- The Better Angels of Our Nature, Stephen Pinker

- The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes

- Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas Hofstadter
I'll set up a voting system in the sidebar this week. In the meantime, let me know if there are other titles you'd like to add to the ballot.