Monday, July 4, 2011


"God grant tomorrow be just the same!"

"Work is life's form, content, element, and purpose--at least mine. You've driven work clean out of your life, and what has come of it?"

This blog was partly inspired by the movie, Julie and Julia, in which blogger Julie Powell describes cooking 524 recipes from Julia Child's famous cookbook in 365 days. Although I loved the concept of Powell's obsessive blog as soon as I heard about it, I only saw the movie a couple of days ago. Loving Meryl Streep as I do, I enjoyed the movie a great deal. It also uncovered hidden memories of watching Julia Child's bizarre show with my mother when I was a child. It was hard to know what to make of Julia Child, with her powerful but unidentifiable accept. Without the benefit of a VCR, who could follow her complex recipes? I still wonder whether her show taught women how to cook or merely helped people to touch base with a deep sense of loss about the fact that they no longer knew how to do what she did, or even had time to make the attempt to cook real food.

Watching the film, it's time to reflect on the nature of this blog. Why did I decide to follow Powell's example and write about my evolving obsession with Soviet intellectual history? To my mind, blogging was an attempt to escape the fate of Ilya Ilyich Oblomov. See Elaine Blair's article in a 2010 edition of the New York Review of Books, entitled "The Short Happy Life of Ilya Ilyich Oblomov for an abbreviated description of that life: the novel is well over 500 pages long Ivan Goncharov's iconic character, Oblomov, retired from the civil service while still in his thirties. At this point, he devoted himself to leisure--not leisure in the ordinary sense of drinking, gambling, duals, and other equally pointless aristocratic pursuits, but leisure in the extraordinary sense of purposeful repose. Avoiding both work and entertainment, duty as well as pleasure, Oblomov does almost nothing from one day to the next and dreams of one day attaining an even purer state of indolence by perhaps living in the countryside. Eventually, although he drifts gently into family life, Oblomov dies, having "quietly and gradually fit himself into the simple and wide coffin of the remained of his existence." In some ways, the story of Oblomov is a metaphor for anyone who loves to read, since reading is one of life's most seductive forms of escapism. While Oblomov actually rejects literature in favor of an even more passive attitude toward life, reading is probably as close as most of us will ever come to the Oblomov's idyl. Blogging, of course, is a close relative of reading, and certainly blogging isn't any substitute for a plot in one's life, but it's at least an attempt to lift oneself off of Oblomov's comfortable bed from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. As a Soviet version of Bill Clinton might have said, "I feel your lethargy." Oblomov must be the greatest novel ever written where so little happens. Makes me think sometimes of the Coen brothers' movie Barton Fink, although without the apocalyptic firestorm.