Sunday, April 15, 2007

Anna Karenina

What does it say about me that my favorite section of Anna Karenina very may have well been the ten or so pages leading up to her throwing herself under that train, an opium-fuelled spiteful stream-of-consciousness monologue, something that reads like Woolf and Joyce would in a few more decades, this proto piece of modernism? The section feels so out of place and is startling to come across, and for that reason, this glimmer of something new after nearly eight hundred pages of a polite omnipresent narrator, reads like, dare I say it, a speeding train about to crash. And, of course, it does crash and you know it's going to and reading those moments leading up to it, Anna losing her mind more and more, is totally riveting.
'He thought he knew me. And he knows me as little as anyone else in the world knows me. I don't know myself. I know my appetites, as the French say. Those two want dirty ice cream. That they know for certain,' she thought, looking at two boys who had stopped an ice-cream man, who was taking the barrel down from his head and wiping his sweaty face with the end of a towel. 'We all want something sweet, tasty. If not candy, then dirty ice cream. And Kitty's the same: if not Vronksy, then Levin. And she envies me. And hates me. We all hate each other. I Kitty, Kitty me. That's the truth.' (760)
And might that be the truth? Anna, in her final moments of gloom, states some pretty compelling truths. It is almost too bad that the novel can't end here, that there needs to be that final section with Levin where he states alternate truths, ones for the living, that, nice as they are, sound a bit too ham-fisted, too tidy, too Tolstoy saying, "And the moral of our story is..."

It does feel particularly satisfying to have finally finished reading this book. I started it so long ago, soon after arriving back from my trip to California, some two months ago. The book coincided with my start of unemployment in New York, was with me as I lost my anal virginity, on so many subway rides, in parks during warmer days, and throughout my time as a chicken at Marc Jacobs. My time as a chicken, thankfully and hopefully, ended on Thursday, and so completing this book soon afterwards feels nice, as if in some way various changes are being effected, various things that needed to be finished have been finished. I have another book, many of them, that I am now ready to start. Sadly, I cannot say the same thing about my job situation, though I imagine it won't be a problem, as the temp agency that set me up with the chicken job told me that as soon as it was over they would find me full-time work. I intend to remind them of that promise tomorrow and to see what jobs they can place me in. So things are good. Certain things are finished. New things are ready for the starting. Life is going to lived.

The last section of the book is about Levin, the unbeliever, finally coming to peace with God, believing. Some of the revelations that he experiences were eerily similar to ones I had on Friday night when I was stoned and walking home down Grand Street, that there are truths outside of language, that reason has its limits, and sometimes it is better not to try to put things outside of these structures into them. But these things, what are they if they are outside language, outside of our ability to communicate these things with others? When Levin is thinking things along these lines, thoughts I had traced out for other purposes just the other night, my pen went crazy with the stars, with the stabs into the air, saying yes, yes, yes.

Last night, that boy from the subway, Ryan, came over and I touched him, sucked his dick, and felt some other sort of truth worthy of stars in the margin, felt a happiness, a sense that, yes, this is right, my skin against this skin. Before fucking me, he gave me a rimjob that did everything right possible, things I had not conceived of, things with stubble and blown air. And this is not the goodness in this world that Levin was talking about as evidence of God, but this goodness and all the other forms it has been manifesting itself in lately certainly seem like proof of something. The fucking hurt me and was totally overwhelming in the sensations it produced and so when he slipped out of me at one point, I told him he had to stop fucking me, that I couldn't take it. And so we jacked off together and though it felt like too much at the time, his fucking me, its absence also seemed like too much and I wanted the hurt, the pleasure, the overwhelmingness of it all. He left early this morning after a nice night of cuddling, left at a calm point in the storm that has been pouring sheets of rain all day long.

My sheets are stained. I have been listening to CSNY today. The sky is grey. Coffee produces lovely effects in such settings.

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