“Russia’s most celebrated writers - including Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Nabokov, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn and Mandelstam - are often depicted as solitary geniuses. But many of their works were the fruits of creative partnerships with their wives. Far from being passive typists, they served as editors, researchers, translators, publishers and more.”
When Tolstoy first started working on the novel, he envisioned Anna as a kind of empty tramp, but the more he wrote, the more sympathetic he became to her plight. Still, at no point does he absolve her of moral responsibility for her own decisions, as some readers are too apt to do. Anna is a tragic figure, not merely because she is an emotionally deprived woman in a loveless marriage surrounded by empty hypocrites. She is also a victim of her own her romantic illusions, of making, in Tolstoy’s words, “the eternal error people make in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires.” By giving herself over to the fantasy of complete liberation, Anna becomes a slave to her passions, a star in a tragic story partly of her own design. She is a stark illustration of Tolstoy’s belief that one of the central problems of modern social life isn’t just that we’re all playing roles on a stage, but that those roles often end up playing — and destroying — us.
People joining Pinterest often get drawn into the excitement of quick and florid self-expression followed by instant feedback. Still, Ann Romney’s move was a little stunning. Mitt Romney’s devoted wife—Mormon convert, mother of five, would-be first lady of the United States—champions a chronicle of … an open marriage?
“The Karenins, husband and wife, continued living in the same house, met every day, but were complete strangers to one another. Aleksey Aleksandrovich made it a rule to see his wife every day, so that the servants might have no grounds for suppositions, but avoided dining at home. Vronsky was never at Aleksey Aleksandrovich’s house, but Anna saw him away from home, and her husband was aware of it.”
Let’s just say the medium made her do it. Pinterest has been described as “crack for women” (although isn’t crack crack for women?). Keeping scrapbooks, chocked with mementos and photos and locks of Ringo Starr’s hair, has long been condescended to as a pastime of moms and grandmas, who paste and caption to wile away their waning years on breaks from Sudoku.
Virginia Heffernan’s latest column is about Pinterest and Mitt Romney’s wife Ann’s use of it, and how surprising it is that she would pin a book about “dissatisfied aristocratic wife committing adultery, leaving her high-ranking govt official husband before inevitable tragic end.”
One day in seventh grade I ordered my usual stack of books from the Scholastic Books Service; one of them was an abridged version of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. A little skeptical, I figured I could skip past the peace parts if they proved too boring. When the nine or so books I’d ordered finally arrived I saved Tolstoy’s novel for last—even abridged, the book was 500 pages long, longer than any book I’d ever read before. But its length was not the challenge, not in the way the vocabulary of Henry Huggins had been for me years ago. The challenge was of an entirely different order.
I can remember the moment I realized I’d stumbled into new territory. I was sitting on a lawn chair in the backyard, beneath the clothesline, in the shadow of a tree. I set Tolstoy’s novel on my lap, then picked it up and checked the page number. Page 73. I can actually remember the page number. And what most struck me was that, after reading 73 pages, of a novel titled War and Peace, nobody had died yet, there was none of the action that I’d come to expect from all my previous reading. And most surprising, I didn’t care. Because I knew that this was already the best book I’d ever read. And nobody had died yet. Now how could that be?
Here was action of a different sort: the action of the heart, the revelation of interior lives, the drama of inner conflict, all of which gave voice to my growing awareness of my own secret self. Here was a vast world that wasn’t Mars, or Venus, or the center of the earth. What had once been the pleasure of escape was now a pleasure of a different sort—that of a journey, a way to map inner landscapes.