Wednesday, March 10, 2010
If I had a readership, it might be interested to know that Soviet Roulette (why not refer to a corporate entity now that I have got official business cards?) is "in talks" with a fellow Russophile to start a Lake County Russian literature reading group.
I realize that publicizing these discussions before they are finalized is tres gauche. (I recall Joseph Heller's line, that a character in Something Happened was "too gauche to know what gauche meant.) And I think specifically of a friend's blog that tracks her own dating adventures in real time (It's hard enough to plan a romantic date without subjecting that date to the scrutiny of a thousand blog readers, isn't it?). Even so, this blog hasn't broken a single piece of news to date, so it's time to start.
At first, we discussed a general Russian literature reading group, but that seemed too open-ended. This led us to agree upon Tolstoy as the logical unifying theme for this group. We've all read War and Peace and Anna Karenina, I'm sure. But don't a lot of us overlook Tolstoy's shorter work? And isn't Tolstoy the perfect choice for a reading group? He dominated the 19th century, but also lived well into the twentieth century, on the cusp of the Revolution.
And Tolstoy is for everybody, as the bumper sticker, or bell hooks, might say. He's written on everyone and everything. And if the reading group decides to branch out to other great authors, Tolstoy has had a great deal of personal contact with almost every other major Russian author of the 19th and early 20th century, including Chekhov, Gorky, and Turgenev. (In fact, I've just come across an interesting passage in Stanislavsky's biography where Tolstoy invites Stanislavsky over for assistance on one one of his plays but then demurely allows his wife to berate the famous actor and director for his presumption.) He also seems to be Plato to Dostoevsky's Aristotle, so it wouldn't be wrong for the group to move its way over to the Gambler or other short Dostoevsky works, would it?
I like Tolstoy for this because he's written so much nonfiction too, so the group could conceivably spend some time on the author's stance on morality, religion, cultural criticism, art, vegetarianism, peace, nonviolence, opposition to the death penalty, and politics. Plus, there's the voluminous Tolstoy memoirs and work by rival family members, Tolstoy cult followers, etc.
At any rate, we plan to have a syllabus so perhaps blog followers will keep up with the readings and respond to blog discussions on the readings in question.