7 Quick Takes, 6/1/12: Anna Karenina Goes Crazy, But I Do Not


I finished Anna Karenina Thursday.

Count Tolstoy, his wife, their son, and the dog. (Credit: WikiCommons)

Immediate thoughts, in no particular order:

a) This book makes much more sense as an adult woman, a wife, and a mother than it did as a high school senior.

b)  Anna, after stripping herself of everything else except Vronksy, has no personal resources beyond him and therefore devolves into a self-centered, needy mess.  Tolstoy sees this as the tragedy it is.  (Ahem, Stephanie Meyer…)

c) That being said, that it manifested in her jealousy of other women strikes me as false.  Her jealousy of his time and his outside pursuits seemed more true-to-life.

d) I have no patience for political discussion in literature. Levin and I are BFFs on this one.

e) Tolstoy is a genius when it comes to descriptive detail.  The man knows how to use an adjective.

f)  Want to study narratorial viewpoint?  I recommend reading Anna Karenina!

g) I liked the story.  Simple to say, but, really, how often do we like the stories we read?  I even teared up at a few Kitty and Levin scenes.  Tolstoy the Storyteller did his job.


This week, seven-and-a-half years after our wedding, we received our last wedding present:

My dad built this bed for us.  Isn’t it awesome?  He finished the posts years ago but did not have the wood to complete the headboard.  Not only did he lose his supplier, but it’s just hard to find a piece of black walnut large enough for a solid headboard.  This piece has “character” (his words), but, honestly, we like it that way.  Thanks, Dad!


In case you were wondering… our moving plans are coming along.  Thanks for asking.

We should close on our house at the beginning of July.  Then the contractor comes in and takes care of the wood floors, the windows, random odds and ends, like pulling out the ghetto shower stall in the corner of the middle bedroom.  Yeah.

My sister, in the meantime, will give birth to my little nephew and godson.  We’ll have a baptism.  And then… move!  We should be in Michigan the first week of August.


You know what book is just awesome?  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

It’s good that I think it’s so awesome, because a certain little boy likes to read this book while sitting in a certain place training to do a certain thing.  (Hint:  it involves Big Boy Underwear.)  I read The Snowy Day, on average, eight times a sitting.  And I haven’t gone crazy yet.

Keats writes with a wonderful cadence:

“Crunch, crunch, crunch, his feet sank into the snow.  He walked with his toes pointing out, like this:
He walked with his toes pointing in, like that:
Then he dragged his feet s-l-o-w-l-y to make tracks.”

“A stick that was just right for smacking a snow-covered tree.”

“And he thought and he thought and he thought about them.”

Writing a good children’s book is an art akin to poetry, I think.

(Sitting here in my favorite coffee shop, I quoted those lines from The Snowy Day from memory.  Like I said, I haven’t gone crazy yet.  Yet.)


Question:  How do you manage social media? 

I find that I simply can’t keep up with everything and still keep my mind clear and free and easy for writing (especially working on the novel).  Both Twitter and the blogosphere are something of a rabbit hole.  And then I want to get involved with discussion boards at the Catholic Writers Guild, but… media overload. There’s good stuff out there that I want to read and follow, but, how to prioritize?

How do you do it?  What are your tricks?


I suspect that, for me, my social media issues are ones of temperament.  Though I can be loquacious among friends, by nature I’m an introverted melancholic. “Social” anything tends to stress me out at a quicker rate many others, I suspect.

That’s why I spend Fridays and most of Sunday almost entirely off-line.  I need to recuperate!  The imagination needs some happy space!  I need to read something in book form!


Read this and other Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.  Thanks for hosting, Jen!


  1. Jeanne G. says

    I love your bed… and I wonder about #5 too. I will be off one platform or another for weeks! I just remembered the day before yesterday that I have a Twitter account :D. Oops! After about 3 weeks…

  2. The Professor says

    I agree about Snowy Day. It is perhaps a perfect children’s book. In addition to the things you point out, I’ll offer three more thoughts:

    One, the artwork is beautiful, even iconic and magical; which brings us to

    Two, Keats shows perfectly what the world looks like through the eyes of a child, usually in his books, a child who lives in the inner-city wondrously transformed through sheer childhood delight; which points to

    Three, perhaps the most perfect moment is when Peter finds a stick–how true, simply!

  3. says

    The picture of your bedroom is so peaceful! Your dad did a wonderful job. I started reading Anna Karenina once a while ago, I might have to pick it up again. Any tips for reading Russian Lit? The style is so different than what I’m used to.

    • says

      Thanks! Though the lower half of the bedroom is not in view. That’s where the madness occurs. :)

      Tips for Russian Lit: Hmm. That’s a great question for my husband – he loves the Russians. Or my friend Kristi (http://thedurbins.wordpress.com/). Any thoughts, you two?

      Besides Anna Karenina, I’ve read War and Peace twice, some of Tolstoy’s short stories, The Brothers Karamozov once, Crime and Punishment (didn’t finish), and a few Pushkin stories. That’s it. I have not read Chekov (sad, I know). I’m not sure I could speak specifically to Russian style as such…

      The biggest obstacle I’ve had in reading Tolstoy is getting a handle on the names – both War and Peace and Anna Karenina open with salon scenes. There are a million minor characters with their given names and patronymics, so foreign to us, and I have no idea who I’m supposed to be following until it’s revealed that hardly any of them matter. Having gone through it a few times, I’ve learned to stick it out. The Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of Anna Karenina, which I read this time, has a handy character chart at the beginning, and I referred to it frequently while reading.

      That being said, I’d recommend Tolstoy’s short stories. They are delightful, and, best of all, they’re *short*! It’s a good way to get into the Russian mindset without committing to one of the epic novels.

  4. says

    Wow, the bed is GORGEOUS. Hubby knows wood and was mouth-agape at the amount of black walnut therein…

    Beginning of August= calendar marked. And I will totally be not pregnant by then, which is awesometastic!

    As for managing the social media, if I was trying to write something real (like you are) I definitely would have to cut back. It can be really exhausting sometimes, at which point I just have to turn it off and walk away. But the only writing I do is computerish writing and not novel writing. Maybe that’s why I can’t imagine doing so….because my brain is so wrapped up in all this other stuff!

    • says

      Thanks! You two should see some of the furniture my dad has built. Right behind me as I type is a settee with a curved cherry arms and back and a black walnut seat, and a paneled cherry coffee table with a “map drawer”. Not ours, though – we’re just passing through and get to enjoy my parents’ nice things for a while.

      • says

        And… social media and writing. Yeah. The best thing I have found is to take time off. That, and avoid email and Twitter in the morning like the plague. Evenings are generally fine – my brain’s fried by then. But, not too late, or I’ll be thinking of “internet stuff” all night in my dreams.

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