20 October 2006

I stole this title.

Today I am off to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to begin job training for the trucking company Schneider National. Thereafter my life will consist of irregular routine on a regular schedule: 2 weeks on the road followed by (approximately) two days at home. For those who actually read this blog, that is actually a good thing. I expect there shall be somewhat of a hiatus until such a time as I can aquire a suitable laptop with WiFi, and I shall (perhaps) be blogging away merrily again.

I could ramble on about how pleased that I am with the current embattled state of the current Administration, and their "Conservative" stalwarts, but for the moment, its enough for my purposes simply to mention it.

November raises its frigid head. That means that once again it is time for National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is simple: write a novel of 50,000 words or more within the calendar month of November. Meet similarly aspiring authors both in your area, and via chat room, from around the world. Proceeds from both donations and merchandising will purchase books for schools in Viet Nam and similar areas in Southeast Asia.

My attempted novel last year suffered from the usual over-reaching and overly grandiose vision that I seem to apply to most of my projects. I did turn out some 8000 words or so despite working 60 hours a week. "The Order of the Shining Moon," however, will not see significant progress until a good amount of research has been completed in the areas of shamanism, shape-shifting, and Christian mysticism, to name only a few. This year, I'm thinking of a much simpler subject, but like last year, it is doubtful that I will have the time to get out a full 50,000 words. I do have some voice recognition software on this computer, but I abandoned that project when I realised that I had to take the time to orally record a "lexicon" of words needed to enable such transcription. Perhaps I can do that when I return from orientation, since I now see how useful this could be, and copy those files to the future laptop. A laptop computer which now seems to require an external microphone.....

Before I go; Anna Karenina. I was tasked with reading this book in... grade school, I think, but I didnt manage more than some 300 out of 868 pages. What I did manage to read then, I didn't much understand. So, when I was away over my July vacation, having finished a book on the life of Voltaire, I picked up Anna Karenina. It was not out of a desire to say that I had completed what I had started so very long ago. Rather than that, it was a conscious attempt to broaden my knowledge base as an aspiring author. I was looking for the means to write from a female perspective, as impossible as that may be for a man. In that regard, I may have chosen the wrong book, as its not especially clear that Tolstoy himself had any such clarity.

What I do find in Tolstoy, is the depth that he gives to even his minor characters, in their motivations, internal dialogue, and experiences. [I expect this is generally why his books are notoriously long: between the book covers he is packing a segment of history and society as experienced by several characters.] This depth stacks up favorably against a number of "popular" authors who may or may not have 'style', but seem to gloss over matters of internal dialogue or even ignore it in order to move the plot along.

Anna is the indifferent victim of an arranged marriage to a successful civil servant. At least, she is indifferent until her social intercourses bring her in contact with Count Vronsky. Vronsky is obsessed with her, and wins her over to the consternation of her husband. Karenin is not a man of action; at times the intrigues within his comittees sometimes exceed his mental capacity. Anna's infidelity seems to him largely an inconvenience, personally, and to his standing in society. She leaves him to live with Vronsky, which proves to be a better situation for both parties. She is free do do as she pleases and is not present to embarrass Karenin. Karenin, whether intentionally or not, ultimately succeeds in making her life miserable. He refuses to give her a divorce, which complicates her happiness with Vronsky. Anna still belongs to Karenin, and any children that she may have will bear his name.

As Anna's situation blossoms and then degenerates, Constantine Levin flourishes. They are aquainted, but rarely meet during the novel; their circumstances apparently not affecting each other. Constantine is a good and thoughtful man who is married and has his first child in the course of the novel. Levin is both a lens for the setting of the novel and a 'normal' person to contrast Anna's experiences. Levin is accepted in high society through his bloodline and his marriage, though he is most at ease on his farm. He tries to understand the world around him and his very existence, though in arguments he has difficulty expressing himself.

I have no option but to come away liking Tolstoy. His characters feel real. They have flaws, talk pompously, and sometimes fail to understand each other. There is a good scene in a train where two men (strangers to each other) speak very highly to each other of a group of four volunteers (who are esteemed in society). But what one man fails to ask about, the other knows and intentionally fails to mention; these men are socially derelict. Volunteering is possibly the only honorable course of action possible for them. These two fail to breach this topic (each for his own reasons) for fear of speaking contrary to what seems to be a publicly held truism: these volunteers must be applauded as (departing) heroes.