Anna Karenina: Reigning Queen of the Little Black Dress
Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is often cited as the original LBD. This offends me, personally, since Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was published a full century before that movie came out. Indeed, fans of Russian literature—or, let’s face it, of Keira Knightley—will recall the iconic black dress Anna wore to the ball where she first danced with Vronsky, breaking Kitty’s heart. But what makes Anna’s dress, and Tolstoy’s novel for that matter, so memorable that we still care about it nearly 150 years later?
The Twilight Renaissance, and Telling Stories Over (and Over) Again
In a cultural era of movie remakes and Taylor’s Versions, an author choosing to retell their bestselling novel is still a relatively rare occurrence. However, the releases of Life and Death in 2015 and Midnight Sun in 2020 saw not one, but two instances of Stephenie Meyer revisiting her 2005 novel Twilight on its tenth and fifteenth anniversaries. Life and Death provides a genderbent take on the original, with protagonist Bella Swan being revamped as Beau Swan, and nearly all the other characters similarly altered. Midnight Sun, meanwhile, reverts to the original versions of the characters, but tells the same story from Edward’s perspective.
We all live through the eyes of others; usually infinite sets of anonymous eyes, sometimes a multitude of known ones, or a limited beloved set. Regardless of their numbers or kind, they do not only spy on us, but also shape our character. We are inevitably and viscerally aware of their gaze, and from early childhood, learn to know ourselves as we are seen by others.
“Classics you MUST read,” and Other Lies I’ve Been Told
In a system where productivity is everything, it’s hard not to treat the books you read as just another item to check off your never-ending “To-Do” list. For a long time, I’ve noticed this tendency in myself and in others to read books for the sake of being able to say we’ve read them. This is especially true of literary classics, the names of which are known to anyone who has existed in this world long enough to come across a “Top 100 Books” scratch-off poster in the home of some bibliophile or other. As a lover of classics, I can personally attest that To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre are all fabulous books, worthy of their places in our high school curriculum. Still, something about the way we treat classic novels really rubs me the wrong way. It’s as though we place these books on a pedestal so high that we dare not reach out our arms to really grab ‘em.
AFFECTION: A CYCLE OF SEVEN POEMS
May You Breathe Easy My Daffodil,
For If There Be A Will Of The Winds
Let That Will Find Itself Governed
By An Authority Totalitarian In Its
Desire To Match The Serenities Of
The Sky With Your Liberated Nose
The Russian Sickness
The story of the eighteenth and nineteenth century Russian intelligentsia, of the nobleman returning to his motherland after years of European education, only to discover a feudal country to which Western ideas cannot be applied is too familiar to readers of Russian literature. This odd paradox—an educated aristocrat who one hand studies French enlightenment texts but on the other hand owns serfs and lives a medieval feudal life—is perhaps the central motif for what gradually becomes the agonizing preoccupation and national obsession of arguably every writer of this country: when can Russia create a new idea, a movement so thoroughly Russian and original at heart that would even influence Western art and literature? When will Russia look inward for ideas instead of trying to implement Western ideas in its culture?