Such miserable weather has never been seen before! (But at least I had an excellent lunch, courtesy of the Bolin Heights women.)
I'm playing Joanna Newsom now, just for Emily. "This is horrible," she moans from upstairs, "all of my muscles are tensed up." She lies; she actually likes her, but has been pretending for so long now that it's impossible to admit it. While I'm trying to get her to like crazybeautifulgenius harpists, she's trying to convert me to the likes of Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and the Dixie Chicks. I'm sorry. But that's never going to happen.
Finished reading The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories (by Tolstoy) last night. Tolstoy is a master, absolutely unparalleled. "The Kreutzer Sonata" is flooring. You have to read it. It's the narrative of one man on a train telling another why he murdered his wife. And it is chilling and pitch-perfect.
Tolstoy's intuition and translation of women is outstanding to me. In my experience, male authors who try to write narratives from a woman's perspective rarely succeed, at least in a persuasive way. If they are unusually talented, they are able to write from a woman's mind in a slightly believable way, like Per Petterson in To Siberia. But Sistermine is an especially masculine girl; she is a tomboy, she is aggressive, she does not consider her body in a way that a woman would. But that is forgivable, because Petterson is a man. Yet when you read Tolstoy, and Tolstoy writing in a woman's voice, it's almost impossible to believe that he isn't a woman. His women are so true and real and consistent, avoiding any pat stereotypes or molds that female characters can be fit into. In "Family Happiness," one of the novellas included in this edition, the narrator is a young girl whom we follow throughout her love and eventual marriage to an old family friend. Throughout the story, Tolstoy maintains an absolutely consistent grasp on Masha's character and growth.
"The Kreutzer Sonata" is not narrated by a woman, but his insight into the plight of women in society is remarkable, particularly when you consider that he wrote it in 1889. Think on this, which is just as true today as it was then:
“Woman’s lack of rights arises not from the fact that she must not vote or be a judge—to be occupied with such affairs is no privilege—but from the fact that she is not man’s equal in sexual intercourse and had not the right to use a main or abstain from him as she likes—is not allowed to choose a man at her pleasure instead of being chosen by him.”
In short, I am perpetually amazed by him. Next books on the stand: Manhattan Transfer, by John Dos Passos, and Zen and the Birds of Appetite, by Thomas Merton.
Truth be told, I'm actually not looking forward to spring break. I'm going to be sitting at home, working a few days and studying for exams. I do want to see my family, though.
Beautiful: "Songs of Levi," Sam Amidon.