Sunday, February 05, 2006

Enabling (the good kind)

now reading: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

All right, so I still haven't exactly figured out why Tolstoy was a revolutionary and Dostoevsky wasn't, and it's been how long since Michael's comment? (I've been pretty crappy about posting to this blog.) But I offer you this:

1. Coretta Scott King and Betty Friedan have died. What icons! What amazing pillars of womanly strength! or strong womanhood! or something. What made them revolutionary?

2. This weekend I attended a workshop with Amnesty International Korea (I have joined the "foreigners chapter"). At one point we discussed "activism." I should say that they discussed, and I followed along through the help of my able interpreter, Eun Mi/Joanne, who is the leader of my foreigners' group and my new favorite friend. Anyway, it was hard for them to come up with an exact translation in Korean, so they were talking about the meaning of the word. It was summarized to me thus: "Not activity itself but the power to enable activity."

And so it is, I think, with the revolutionaries. I haven't actually bought into the Dostoevsky-wasn't-a-revolutionary thing, but I'm just putting that out there in general. And you know, Mr. T really did have a lot to say about Christianity and he never relegated women to some random 'other' status, that I can see. I would love to have beers with the guy.

Pierre is so random. He just crops up in the book every once in a while and we get to check in and see if he's feeling depressed, and if so what he will do about it: tie a policeman to a bear, or join the freemasons? In the mid-600s (pages) depression seems to set in thanks to his buddy Andrei falling in love with Natasha. Now, I had been relating to Natasha's and Andrei's strong pull toward each other, until I started getting a sense of foreboding and began delighting in Sonya and Nikolai's love instead. And sure enough, Natasha has gone and locked her eyes on yet another man, just when you thought Andrei was supposed to be her one and only. He still might be, for all I know, but she has sent the letter to his sister so she may have done herself in. I wanted to shout Girlfriend! ALWAYS reread your letter/e-mail and see if you really want to send it at this time! I, the passionate letter-writer, stand by that statement.

And now I'm on page 706 and Anatol and his friends are about to whisk her off into god-knows-what fate.

So, this is the thing about War and Peace. Or perhaps A, not THE thing. Tolstoy has brought these people into my life. I've been reading approximately 700 pages for approximately eight weeks and I do feel like I have spent that time getting to know these people. And you know, you can get to find out rather a lot about a person in eight weeks or so.

This seems to be Tolstoy's magic, as so many have pointed out: his realism, his understanding of the human condition. I don't really recall this dawning on me when I read Anna K years ago but I should have, especially when Patty had us writing essays analyzing it through the prism of M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Travelled. I kind of miss my little BGHS maverick new-age English department. It was so very Arizona.

Mr. T just peppers his book with these surprisingly astute analyses of people's thoughts, like: "'I'm at work, you see,' he added, pointing to the manuscript with the air of those unhappy people who regard their work as a means of salvation from the adversities of life." - p. 573 I also love it when he has an eccentric character repeat a phrase, as "Uncle" does during and after the hunt with "a fair field and a clear course," and Mr. T writes, "'I knew you wouldn't be able to resist--good thing you came out! Fair field, clear course!" (This was his favorite expression.)" - p. 600

Tolstoy really has the uncanny ability to make you think life is great and that we're all in it together, and also he kind of makes you wish you were alive at the time/place he's writing about.

Then again, I am in the 'peace' stretch...

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