blame it on Tolstoy.... okay, blame it on Facebook

I've shelved Anna Karenina for the moment.

That's right. Shelved it. Not sold it. Not buried it. Not thrown it into a campfire. Tolstoy and I need a break. He was keeping me from blogging about books, as I read such lovely, descriptive paragraphs as this:

This Mlle Varenka was not really past her first youth, but was, as it were, a being without youth: she might have been nineteen, she might have been thirty.... She was like a beautiful flower which, while still full of petals, is scentless and no longer blooming. Besides that, she also could not be attractive to men because she lacked what Kitty had in over-abundance -- the restrained fire of life and an awareness of her attractiveness. (p. 215)

I mean, really, what can I say about this? This is a 19th century man's description of a sickly woman. He is using the sickly woman to describe the young, bright woman. She really is just another ultimately meaningless character introduced to shed more light on the six million other characters already introduced.

Not that I'm frustrated.

I will return to Anna Karenina. However, I am starting to think summer is not the time to be exploring Tolstoy. I might have to copy my friend who reads Russian classics each winter (intelligent, not pretentious).

So I am reading a light-hearted book that tastes like summer. It tastes like strawberry rhubarb pie, really.

Alice Hoffman lives near Boston, and all her books exude New English attitude, taking the reader to little towns where the doors are surely painted bright colours and one can smell the sea in the air. In Hoffman's books, witches are real. So is fate and destiny. Romance and hot hot heat. These are not romantic novels -- although I imagine they are not widely read by men -- but rather cautionary tales.

I'm currently reading Practical Magic, a book completely unlike the movie it inspired. For one, all the characters are adults or on the cusp of adulthood. Second, it lacks the bright Disney-ish touch seen in the movie. (On the negative side, it also lacks a character anything like Stockard Channing's. And I just love Stockard Channing.)

Frankly, Hoffman's clear prose -- poetic in its omniscience but really very straightforward -- is a welcome break. And yes, it's easy stuff, very much bask-in-the-sunshine-with-a-glass-of-sangria-while-wearing-your-sunglasses stuff. There are really four main characters, two sets of sisters, and it is their relationships with each other that form the backbone of the story. A nice change of pace from having to remember the surname, pet name and royal name of at least 20 different people, not to mention their extra-marital and pre-marital entanglements....

Not to complain about a classic or anything.

1 comment:

Erin W. said...

I was a bit disappointed to hear you've abandoned Anna. While it has been ages since I read it, I remember enjoying it, though never kidding myself that it was anything but a soap opera. I think it helped that I was still a romantic, unjaded and unbitter youth, and found the whole ill-fated love entrancing. Like the same way every teenage girl, at least at some level, sighs inwardly in yearning at the thought of Romeo and Juliet. It also helped that my edition had a cheat sheet of the cast of characters at the back. Anyhow, hope you don't give up on it totally; Tolstoy is a fabulous writer, if a little verbose.