Saturday, October 17, 2009


There exist some books which you read and forget, only to faintly recall, years later, that there was this book you really liked- and have completely forgotten. Hence, I remember little about the circumstances in which I read 'Journey to the River Sea', and my frantic bouts of searching for the memory were ended only when I was gifted another copy of the book... and the writer's name.
I've long maintained that if I could, once, manage to write something that kids under ten would like I would have achieved my goals as a writer. And Ibbotson does it so effortlessly!

So, well, Countess Under the Stairs I picked up this morning- and finished in less than half a day, having neglected integration to the point of desertation. The thing about going back to children's books is the enhanced ability to note the way in which universal truths are presented with a sense of humor- sounding preachy is anathema. C. S. Lewis for instance, managed it so well I never caught on to the symbolism till much much later- by which point I wondered why I hadn't seen through the Aslan thing a lot sooner. E. Nesbit's pieces of dialogue (such as one where a boy, afraid that he's heard rats moving around, is comforted by his mother with a 'not rats, mice.") are haunting in their accuracy.
I realize I'm not getting anywhere with this review. Suffice it to say it's a fairytale, well told. And honestly, what the hell else even matters?

Friday, September 25, 2009


First I read Anna Karenina in two weeks (those were some two weeks!) and write a 'formal critical analysis' on it. Then I wonder what to post on this blog. Clearly, I have lost it.
Also, the thing I love best about the book is it's name. No sarcasm intended, Anna Karenina sounds lovely.
And now for the heavy stuff:
-Formal Critical Analysis

To be oneself or survive? To be happy or seek the truth? These are the questions Tolstoy’s protagonists in Anna Karenina grapple with, with differing results.

The novel traces the parallel stories of Anna and Levin, and yet the two stories are directed in opposite directions.

Levin is the eccentric non-conformist, constantly questioning and doubting accepted truths. He is willing to form his own opinion about agriculture and communism, sympathize with his brother Nikolai and to denounce the zemsvto.
Anna starts out as the ideal wife, mother, aunt and sister. She is able to convince Dolly to forgive her husband though she doesn’t believe a word of her own advice. And yet, as Kitty observes at the ball, “Anna’s charm lay in always rising above what she wore.” Her present subjugation cannot continue for long.

It is at this point that Anna meets Vronsky, a fateful meeting during which a man is killed by the train, a premonition of the disastrous effects of stepping out of line. And it is when she steps out at a station at that she meets Vronsky and her fate is sealed.

The author uses a stream of consciousness approach to chart out the thoughts of each character. This is effective, because it contrasts what they think with how they behave and the positions they hold in society. The characters constantly maintain a facade for society, while bemoaning the fact that deception does not come naturally to them. Oblonsky regrets deceiving his wife, but blames society. Vronsky resents being forced to lie, but sees no way out. Anna is the only one who chooses to break this pattern, disastrous for her, but the only option through which she remained true to herself.

Levin marries Kitty and is compelled to give into some worldly trappings. Eventually, his inability to help Kitty with their child forces him to believe in a higher authority, and accept religion as the ultimate truth. That religion is portrayed throughout the novel as the last resort of the weak implies that this is a downfall from his earlier ability to question with an open mind.

Even though Anna is courageous enough to separate from her husband, she still seeks reconciliation with society and her husband’s forgiveness. Unable to obtain this, she builds a life for herself, around Vronsky, and an English girl she adopts. It is Dolly’s visit, ultimately, that forces Anna to accept that her pretence of normalcy was just as hypocritical her marriage. Her suicide then is a final act of defiance, a refusal to conform, even if the alternative is death.

As Levin asks of Koznishev in the beginning “If my ability to feel is destroyed, if my body dies, can I possibly exist? Levin’s acceptance of society’s beliefs, and the consequent suspension of his own senses, is thus a metaphoric death for him.

Anna’s literal death is a foil for Levin’s metaphoric one, and the question remains- who made the right choice?