Friday, August 28, 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

There are 9 10 attendees at the Thursday Anna Karenina discussion at UCPL. A big finish, over the last two days, for our fifth summer read! 

  • Does Vronsky have any depth? He cares about looks, gambling, riding, art (a bit). No interior monologues to speak of.
  • Where did Vronsky get his money after he resigned his commission?
  • Why do Sergey and Varenka never re-connect? Is this another version of Vronsky and Anna, a couple not connecting? Or Kitty and Levin, who missed their connection on the first try?

 We had quite a crowd, 36 attendees, and a very lively discussion at our Wednesday night discussion about Anna Karenina.
Have you read Anna? What did you think of this book? How does Tolstoy's novel rank on your list of favorites?

 We had a great discussion on Wednesday night! Overall Anna Karenina was a hit, though it did not make the top of anyone's list (not even among the 5 Summer Reading Big-Books that we have done).

  • Is Anna a likeable character? Not for too many of us.
  • What drives Anna to suicide? Opium? Loneliness? Powerlessness?
  • Could Anna have been happy?
  • How serious was Levin about suicide? 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Snipe Hunting with Levin and Stiva

A large section of Part VI is dedicated to an overnight hunting expedition with Stiva, Levin, and Vasenka (whose name I kept misreading as Varenka, putting a new twist on that scene). The men are hunting snipe, a waterbird similar to a sandpiper that lives in Scandinavia and Western Russia.

According to the Handbook for Travellers in Russia, Poland, and Finland (published in 1865, and available online here), the snipe-hunting season started on July 15 and was over by the end of  September, at which point the weather had gotten too cold for the birds, which migrate to Africa. The same book notes that English setters were the preferable dogs for such a hunt, which often involved slogging through marshes.

Photos from the Internet Bird Collection
While reading this passage in Anna Karenina, however, I was faintly amused by the notion of snipe-hunting, which I grew up knowing as a hazing ritual for those new to outdoorsy activity. The more experienced person sends the less experienced and more gullible party out into the woods, generally late at night, with instructions to make certain noises, or do certain movements to catch a snipe (generally in a bag or pillowcase). The experienced outdoorsman then toys with the "snipe hunter" in some way, either by scaring them or just getting them hopelessly lost, and if all goes well, everyone has a good laugh about it later. (The practical joke even made its way into an episode of Cheers, when Frasier is sent on a snipe hunt. Watch a clip here.) It wasn't until I read this book for the first time a couple years ago that I realized that snipes actually exist.

Did anyone else get sent on a snipe hunt grow up with this definition?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Oh the In-laws!

I can't help but laugh while reading Part VI and feeling sorry for Levin.  He is so in love with Kitty and they are getting used to each other as a couple when the in-laws show up and show no signs of ever leaving.  Poor Levin!  His new family includes Dolly and her children who, thanks to Stiva, can't really afford to live on their own.  Varenka is visiting, Stiva is using the place as his personal vacation get-away on weekends to hunt and relax.  Stiva even shows up with an acquaintance who flirts with Kitty and throws Levin into a horrible jealousy that results in conflict between the newlyweds.

Most important is Kitty's mother who is there to supervise Kitty and restrict her movements, now that she is with child.  She insists that the birth take place in Moscow instead of at home in the country and just knows better than anyone about how things should be done.  Despite all, Levin does care for his mother-in-law but his favorite is his father-in-law "whom he liked more and more the more he saw of him..." (Section 6, Chapter 6).  You can't help but think maybe the most likable part of the old prince was the fact that Levin doesn't see him all that often.

"And I know why, " the princess went on; "he says that young people ought to be left alone for a while at first." (Section 6, Chapter 6).

Hear hear!