Friday, January 3, 2014

5/116 - The Death of Ivan Ilych and Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy

After coming off the Anna Karenina high, I decided to tackle these two short stories, and I went in with a sort of, "Huh! A mere hundred pages to a reading master like myself? Nothing."

And they were easy reads, I will say. There were no moments of bewilderment or boredom, so my high opinion of my reading comprehension ability has yet to diminish by one iota. Which is probably not a good thing, but oh well. 

These stories were great.  I liked The Death of Ivan Ilych more than Master and Man, but obviously they were both excellent.  I felt like the psychological side of things was more developed in Ivan Ilych. 

I have to admit, I didn't like the translations of these stories as much as the translation of Anna Karenina. Not knowing one word of Russian, I obviously can't claim anything from an academic point of view, or make any statements based on anything but my gut. And my gut did not like how words such as, "honey," "kid," and, "mummy" showed up in these stories, and also pointed out to me that the same words in Russian probably showed up in the Russian version of Anna Karenina too and were not translated that way.  Again, it's just what my gut says. 
Also, call me a picky jerk, but I didn't like how 90% of the translator's bio was about how she's related to famous people. She's obviously clever enough to have learned and be a fellow at Oxford, so she doesn't need to rely on that to make her bio sound prestigious. Also, being related to the person who did the first illustrations of Tolstoy's stories will, sadly, not make you a better translator of those stories.  A word at the end that basically stated, "So-and-so's lifelong love of Tolstoy was instilled in her at an early age because her great grandfather did the original illustrations of his stories"would have been more appropriate. 

So. That's what I think, har de har har. 

CONCLUSION: I may be wrong about this, but it seemed to me that both stories were linked by the idea that, even if you've had a largely meaningless life and no one cares that you're dying, literally in your final moments you can be redeemed and at peace.  Which is nice. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

4/116 - The Voyage of the Frog by Gary Paulsen

I was a huge fan of Gary Paulsen's novels when I was in middle school, especially the hatchet books. For some reason the suburban, squeamish, nearly vegetarian middle-school-Kelsey was all into stories about kids having to, like, skin rabbits and build shelters out of sticks.  Don't ask why, I don't get it either.

This book was fun.  Not something I'm dying to read again, though I wouldn't be averse to doing so.  I always feel like a much more resourceful person after reading one of his books.  Even though there was a sort of diagram in the front with all the various parts of the boat noted down, I still got rather lost now and then with him clipping and untying and hauling things.  It didn't affect my understanding of the plot itself, mercifully.  I can imagine a kid who is into sailing would adore it.

CONCLUSION: Very pleasant. Sailing is much more dangerous than I'd imagined.

Let's do this thing.

Looks like I'll be reading 113 books this year.  Welcome to 2014, Kelsey.

My real question right now is whether I should organize or plan out my reading, or just let it be kind of a grab what you want when you want thing, based on feelings.  I'd feel awfully learned if I grouped things by date of publication, or general eras or general countries. But I worry that if I did that I would get all mired down by having to read a long stream ancient plays or absurdly fat books of Russian short stories.

Right now, having come off the exhilaration of Anna Karenina, I'm quite game to read my skinny little volume of The Death of Ivan Ilych and Master and Man or whatever it is and continue immersing myself in the brilliance of Tolstoy.  Or, still glowing with the pride of having plowed through 800 pages, I could toss myself onto the much larger task of reading not only Shakespeare's complete works (which, unfortunately, only counts as one book because it's all one giant, nasty volume) but also, at the same time, Harold Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human or whatever the monstrosity is called. However, a nice Gary Paulsen teen/kids book doesn't sound so bad either.

We'll see what happens.