Little nothings of life in literature

In this post I‘d like to talk about little things in life that aren‘t meaningful but can become something to talk about, to laugh at and simply become a nice memory. This my post will be related to the book, well actually with a collection of short novels and stories called „Little nothings of life. Russian satire and humor of the second half of XIX century and the beginning of XX century“. Yes, these stories I read were in Russian and it was really flattering to read them and learn what people laughed at back in the days. And now I can say that the quote from this book saying that „humor gets old quickly when it loses its meaning“ is true.

I‘m not going to tell about every story from this book, I just want to share my thoughts about this book in general. Why? Because there are too many stories to tell about.

I really enjoyd Saltykov-Schedrin‘s part from „The little nohings“ talking about education system. Especially, it was interesting to read that nothing really changed from XIX-XX century. At schools everybody are still evaluated under one given system, and if you don‘t fit in it then you‘re not good enough.There‘s still feels the lack of flexibility, individuality, creativity. Everything is still under these conservative rules and measures where a student has to be the way someone decided him to be. I think it‘s a damaging system. And the one gets lucky if he goes to university or college with more liberal politics. But the thing is we didn‘t go much further from the XIX-XX century. And this is pretty sad.

A poem „History of the Russian State from Gostomysl to Timashev“ by Alexey Tolstoy was super great. And again, I got this feeling like I was reading not about XIX-XX century‘s Russia, but about modern Russia and what is going on there today. It is a very great poem that has so many things that fit to our current time and it fits not only to Russian, but to any other country. I mean, everyone can find something about his own country. It‘s a universal poem that is relevant at all countries and all times.

In Ilya Vasilevskiy‘s writing „Without laugh“ believe it or not I found the prediction of artificial insemination. I mean, how weird is that? The end of XIX century and the beginning of XX, could there be such thoughts at all? Sure, these writings written with humor and satire, and here we go – artificial insemination. Stuff that was probably such a science fiction back then is quite regular thing today. Who‘s laughing now?

Some of the aphorisms and thoughts were were interesting. I found these very interesting: „It‘s better to say less, but well“, „Death stands at the end of life, so it would be more comfortable to get ready for it“, „Where‘s the beginning of that ending with which the beginning ends?“.

I am telling you these novels were supposed to be about fun and laugh, about entertainment, but after I‘ve read them I thought that this was some smart ass stuff I’ve read. Alongside with entertainment it was smart. And when you start to think about these novels, analyze them, you realize that they are even more deep then you thought at firtst. And some of them doesn‘t feel to be about XIX or XX century. So, if any of you who‘s reading this post will ever by any way gets a chance to read it – do it. You won‘t regret it.

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A bracelet as simbol of secret love

Recently I‘ve been all about books. Can‘t keep a balance between books and movies, it‘s either one or another. OK. This time I‘m going to talk about Alexander Kuprin‘s beautiful yet sad story called „The Garnet Bracelet“. It‘s not a long story, but for me it was really beautiful, even though it‘s really tragic. It‘s one of those times when you sincerely feel sorry for the characters as if they were true people, though they are fictional.

The main character Vera gets as a present this garnet bracelet from her secret admirer. She knows that there exist this man who secretely loves her, he stalks her in a way, but no one knows who he is. At this point, situation is really creepy. And then she gets this bracelet which is extremely expensive and rare jewelery. No how would you react to this? At this point expensive jewelery is a nice present, but when it is from your stalker? Then what? Nothing, really. A present from a stalker is a present from a stalker. It‘s not good.

Now, someone may think that Vera‘s stalker was a rich guy. But no he wasn‘t. Her husband and brother managed to find him. It was a poor, regular man Zheltkov. And at this point I started to feel sincerely sorry for him. Not that I say stalking is good thing, but the pure feelings Zheltkov had for Vera were amazingly beautiful. I mean he saw her, fell in love, but he never intruded in her life actively, well aside from writing her letters and sending presents once in a while. But he never showed up to her, he never tried to seduce her, or ruin her family. Now, he loved her, even though he knew there won‘t be no response to his love. He sacrifised his own happiness and chance to be loved. He just loved a woman from a distance…

So at one point, some can say that Zheltkov had a sick obssession with Vera. Maybe he had. But the way he dealt with obssession demands some respect because there are people who cannot deal with their passionate love in such a deliquete way. What‘s more shocked me about Zheltkov that at the end of the story, when Vera returned him bracelet he called her and she said that she could live calmly if he would be absent from her life. So I was shocked that Zheltkov understood her words so directly, so he commited a suicide (even though he explained that he commited suicide for differrent reasons) so she could live calmly. This is insane. I mean, can we call that a sublime love? Or was he just really sick? I don‘t know what would be the right answer, but what he did seems to me to be grand, even though I don‘t know why. Because, you know, suicide can‘t be seen as a grand thing to be done.

Who knows maybe under different circumstances Zheltkov and Vera could have been the happiest couple in the world. Unfortunately, things went different way and only Zheltkov experienced part of that love, and Vera… Well, Vera only had the feeling that there was huge love around her that did not enter and reach out for her.

At this point, we might think that in this story Vera is an unhappy character. She didn‘t experience the greatest love of all. And she‘s the one who is left with knowing there won‘t be such love in her life anymore. Zheltkov, on the other hand, had that all, and he left with that knowing.

So you see, this is a simple, short story, but how much tragedy it contains. And how much love. I don‘t know if kind of love exist in real life. Tragedy – it does exist. But love? I really don‘t think there is such feelings. Or maybe it does. Rarely. It‘s hard to tell. I don‘t know any single person who would have experienced it. But maybe there are such people. Probably they are the happiest people in the whole world.

At the very end, I‘d like to say that there are other beautiful and interesting novels by Kuprin. I didn‘t mention them here, but if you are interested in his works – go on and look for them. I think you won‘t be disappointed.

The life of man with very unusual health issues

Today I decided to get  back to my beloved John Irving and his book „The Water-Method Man“. I don‘t feel the urge to write (again) about Irving‘s style and features of his literature, because if you‘ve read at least three of his books you will be familiar with it. It‘s very reckognizable. So „The Water-Method Man“. Let me tell you one thing right here – not THE best of Irving‘s book, yet it has its charm and the idea of the book is quite interesting.

The main character Fred Trumper is an unusual man. In this book we see a constant sharing of his past moments, failures (he has a lot of those) with us. It seems like he‘s unable to work his life out. Maybe that‘s how the things just go, but for me it‘s like he‘s too infantile to make it work out, though he expresses that kind of wish.

As I understand correctly, for Fred to work all the things out is quite challenging because of his health problems. In particular his abnormally narrow urinary tract. Now this is a very intimate and unpleasant (not like other health problems are pleasant) diagnosis, which gets even more unpleasant, because it has a very weird treatment like drinking huge amounts of water before and after sex to get rid of all the bacteria that‘s hiding in his urinary tract. Now it‘s not something impossible to do, but it (as any other health problem) affects a person psychologically, it affects his social behaviour and that‘s when it starts to seem that he‘s unable to take care of his own life. I mean, sure it‘s not cancer, but think about being unable to pee normally, and every time you do it you experience pain and major discomfort.

However, health problem can‘t be a 100 per cent excuse for failing your relationship with women. Because if you‘re immature and unwilling to built up relationship per se, neither having a disease nor not having it will affect you THAT much. And Fred is a kind of character who has no will to built up a relationship, instead, relationship built upon him somehow (girlfriend gets pregnant, so logically this leads to marriage, the fact whether Fred was ready for it or wanted it isn‘t taken into account). I don‘t know, for me this type of men is acceptable only in fiction (though I know they exist in real life), but while you can change the fictional story for the better, you can‘t do it with real life story. And this imaturity in real life is just not mannish, and it is difficult to be in a relationship with this kind of man who has no will, no matturity, no respect or ambitions to work the relationship. It also seems to be sad how these kind of men have kids and they‘re not matture to raise their kids, as well. They on some level remain kids themselves, however, they are mature enough to cheat. Or cheating isn‘t a sign of someone being mature? Yeah, probably not. Why did I write the opposite?

Another thing that Fred faces constantly is the lack of money. He‘s not good at working and earning money which leads us again to being unable to support family and be a husband, father that your family can turn to. He himself seeks someone to turn to when problems drops down on him. And this constant lack of money worsens things even more.

Financial problems are very tough. And when people say that when there‘s love in family then they can go through anything they lie. 9 times out of ten when people face financial problems (really big financial problems) they aren‘t able to go through this due to constan anger, nervousness, feeling irritated, being insecure, not knowing how to solve the situation. Sadly it‘s true. But on the other hand, this is the kind of situation when you have a chance to see your partners real face. Fred also did. He was unreliable. Not because he was a bad person, no, he just couldnn’t solve the situation. He didn‘t even really try. He just abandons what he started: Ph.D. thesis (although he finishes it later), family…

I know that from this post it might seem that I hate Fred Trumper. I don‘t hate him, I feel sorry for him and for all the men who act like him in real life. They just don‘t understand how much they miss, refuse and are scared of in this life. Well, too bad for them.

A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow that wasn‘t pleasant at all

At first, after finishig reading Alexander Radishchev‘s book „Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow“ I wasn‘t even thinking about writing a post about it. I didn‘t like it. It was such a torture to read it, there was nothing pleasant or fun about it. I‘m not saying that this book is bad and awful i general, I just say it was like that to me. But then, after some time, I decided to write a post on it, yet I thought it‘ll be very very short. Now I don‘t know anything and I‘m not sure about anything so I‘ll just write and see what will it be.

The book is obviously about a journey which is divided into pieces related by title of different cities on the way to Moscow. The author touches lots of different aspects of Russian life of those days. Sure, all those things mentioned are interesting and important in general, however, reading about them was not that interesting, because it was difficult to read. For me, it was written in a difficult way.

The main character states about how peasants are treated. And he also feels bad about himself because he also has them. So, he brings up this question of injustice up which is weird having in mind  historical period when the book was published. And bringing these questions up wouldn‘t make the rulers of the country happy. Like, who like to spread information like this: peasants couldn‘t afford themselves bread even though they were the ones who produced it. At this point Radishchev was way ahead his time for being so brave and writing about stuff no one else did.

Throughout his way, a main character meets a lot of different people who represent different proffesions. He learns about lots of different things, lots about serious problems from them which helps him to build this some kind of understanding of what is goint on in the country. Because what YOU think about the situation in the country may be completely different from how OTHERS see it. And it is be so because of the different social statuses, financial statuses, education… You know how it is said that a wealthy won‘t be able to understand a poor guy. It‘s true, unless he becomes one.

So, mainly it‘s not only a travel through cities, but through different life stories of people that he meets on his way, through problems, injustice that is faced not only by peasants (who for example, can be selled one by one, splitting families), but even by people who are representatives of cultural professions, like poets who are worried about the fact that poetry in Russia isn‘t developing because everyone speaks French instead of Russian.

There are also touched questions like censorship, marriage equality, democracy. I mean all these issues are really interesting, especially if you look at them from the perspective of this time and you see what it was back then. But once again, reading it was very difficult and, honestly quite boring.

So there we have, a very short post on a book that basically says nothing. Not proud of it, but it is what it is. Sometimes it‘s really hard to force yourself to do something you just can‘t do. And it was exactly what I couldn‘t do – write an informative and interesting post.

One of the most beautiful stories….

So far it is really one of the most beautiful stories I‘ve ever read. What is it? It‘s John Irving‘s „The Prayer for Owen Meanny“. It‘s not a secret how I love Irving‘s books and I read them once in a while. Can‘t say that all of them are equally interesting, or that they all touched me deeply, but this one really did.

First of all, because of the story. Second of all, because of the narrater. I mean, John Wheelwright is telling a story about Owen Meanny, his life, how they‘re lives were inseparable and why. It is just so beautiful when a friend can tell something so heart touching about his best friend. I don‘t know if this could ever happen in real life. But in both cases Owen‘s story is John‘s story and vice versa. Plus, this  story is jumping in times, so you have to be concentrated on seeking the story, because otherwise you can get confused.

I really loved that in this book we could seek several plot threads, most interesting of whom were political and religious. Both of them can be used quite provocatively, but in this book they were used more likely as questions, issues to be considered. We see how main characters are feeling and thinking about them, so this gives us this trigger to consider them ourselves in todays context or it gives us a chance to consider past retrospectively. Maybe not in the way as John or Owen did, but in our own way, relating to those circumstances we are facing at the moment.

Another thing that fascinates me about this book is the way the friendship of two boys (growing up) is portrayed. It is fascinating because I don‘t know if there actually is that kind of friendship that last from childhood up to an entire life. I don‘t know this kind of stories. In my experience even the longest frienships eventually end up. I think this kind of friendship, a friend(s) as Owen and John are, I don‘t know, it’s a gift from above. Moreover, it‘s great to have a friend who eventually becomes like a mentor, teacher to you, which, in this case is quite unusual due to the fact that John and Owen are the same age. But this wisdom, maturity compensates this lack of height and ability to be a regular (physically) that Owen faces due to his health condition.

And the fact that Owen was not as everyone else, people did not push him away as it usually happens. No. On the contrary they accepted him, they loved him, took care of him. Somehow with his difference he managed to charm people and make them like him.

In this book we can observe a very interesting relationship between Owen and his parents and his relations between him and John‘s family which seems to be more close than with his own family despite the fact that Owen kills John‘s mom. Or maybe it‘s not that strange. I mean sometimes other people, other families are trully closer to us for whatever reasons than our own ones. I don‘t know why it is so, but it‘s true that in his own family a person can feel himself extremely lonely. But maybe in Owen‘s case the reason is that his family thought he was a result of an immacculate conception (a plotline that I couldn‘t take seriously)? They were kind of afraid of him or distant from him. Also, Owen‘s constant claim the he was a instrument of God doesn‘t seem realistic or serious to me too. I don‘t know why. Maybe there was some sort of hidden meaning that I wasn‘t smart enough to get. But for me it was too surreal. Or maybe I‘m not so much into faith, spiritual issues… No, I‘m actually into this and I believe in God, faith, but I just don‘t believe that when someone says that he is an instrument of God he’s actually and really is an instrument of God. There‘s not enough just to proclaim that and believe in it. I just think that there are higher requirements for it.

Anti-war, anti-Vietnam moods are really openly pointed in this book, as well as, those like joining the army. In this case, it is important not because of joining the a army per se, or guarding your country. I think in this case army represents some sort of achievement for those like Owen. It‘s like proving to others and yourself that you can do things no matter what, who you are, what you are. However, war is still seen as evil, as something, a man shouldn‘t do. And at this point it is interesting, because John is a pacifist and his best friend Owen joins the army. So at this point some sort of collision rises in their friendship which develops interestingly.

There‘s quite a lot of surreal elements, like dream – real world. What the boys see in their dreams turns out to be real. Well, actually, not everything that Owen forsaw happened really accurately. However, the basic part  actually turned out to be truth, and he really became an instrument of God. So maybe all this is more real than we think of it. Maybe this is how we build up our life, our faith, by believing in something so strongly until it finally happens. It‘s like programming ourselves to live certain amount of time and then die on a selected day in a selected way. Something to think about.

Of course, this book, as any other, book written by John Irving consists of several permanent elements: New Hampshire, father/real father/lost father, prostitutes, private schools,writers, film creators and, of course, all kinds of accidents. I‘m not saying it‘s abad thing, it‘s actually what makes his books, his stories, his style recognizable.