I have Anna Karenina on my bookshelf. I bought it used. I have not opened it yet. I really want to, but I’m letting it go to waste because of fear. Sad, huh?
Then last night my professor referred to a quote from it that I recognized because it was famous, but I was angry I didn’t know the context and I couldn’t appreciate the joke.
Chekhov used to say that if a prisoner was not a philosopher who could get along equally well in all possible circumstances (or let us put it this way: who could retire into himself) then he could not but wish to escape and he ought to wish to.
He could not but wish to! That was the imperative of a free soul.
—Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956
And it’s about the Supreme Court! How could I not love it? Oh, Slate, I take back what I said about you losing credibility in your quest for all things faddish and popular.
“That scolding tone, those deliciously overwrought metaphors: It’s Catholic-school headmistress meets Vladimir Nabokov, and it’s the lively, unapologetically stylish Scalia that avid court-watchers know and love.”
Pnin is going very quickly—I restarted it last night. So far I find the character Pnin incontrovertibly endearing.
“Some people—and I am one of them—hate happy ends. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam. The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically. Had I been reading about this mild old man, instead of writing about him, I would have preferred him to discover, upon his arrival to Cremona, that his lecture was not this Friday but the next. Actually, however, he not only arrived safely but was in time for dinner…”
I was actually thinking about this (granted, common) literary and life experience earlier yesterday. My life seems to be going very well now—ocassionally it’s even so well… so well orchestrated that I become suspicious. Summer 1999 was a very good time for me when I actually started to believe in luck. But also when things are going well in real life I begin to just wait for the tragedy. I know at some point the avalanche will drop, this time it will, and then it doesn’t. Even when things are going well it is still a reminder that you do not have control over your own life. I think I am in a time right now that I am open to reading stories and leading a life where the obvious good ending can actually happen and seem believable. I know Pnin can’t be happy, but this time I want him to be. I don’t want to be realistic.
I love Pnin’s Scotty.
I bought a bunch of books Sunday at the used book store including Pnin and Anna Karenina. Going to get started soon.
Also the DC film festival is going on right now, and last night we went to see Netto, a German film. Very funny. I’d heard about German country music but never actually heard it. As a Southerner, it’s funny to think of anyone inflicting country music upon their own culture willingly. I mean, I know every George Strait song from the 1980s, but I wish I didn’t.
I tried Nabokov, pretty interesting:
Does this count? Nabokov is kinda Russian. But I guess the book is American. Okay, well, I am counting it anyway just so I can have some progress on this goal.
Dang, DG book club members, stop bringing in books I want to read so that I will read heavy Russian literature instead!