Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some awesomeness, academic and otherwise.

So, I should be writing (several!) papers right now, but I want to write about this and it might actually HELP stimulate ideas for this particular paper (we quite literally have no topic. I mean, seriously.) Trying to get the brain going. It's a bit more sluggish than usual these days. I blame the internet. And my unhealthy eating and sleeping habits. Oh, and my body, of course. It's always easy to pin the blame on one's body, especially one that is structurally unsound as mine. I think God was a little drunk that day.

(Defense mechanism back in full swing, what up.)

What I actually want to talk about right now is Chekhov. I have a serious thing for Russian writers, Tolstoy in particular (Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books, ever, for both the gorgeous language and the total trashiness that abounds through parts of it.) I've read two different translations of the book, the second of which is by my favorite! translating! team! ever!, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (whose names I know by heart because I am such a fucking nerd). My mom got me a copy of War and Peace for Christmas a couple of years ago, to which I geeked out and said, "Oh! Those are my favorite translators!" Those two also happen to be a married couple. Can you imagine the fucking awesome life they have? Cutest ever, for real.

Anyway, we're reading Chekhov in my 19th century story class - for which I am grateful, since I haven't liked much of anything we read in that class since Poe. (Oh, Poe!) Because Chekhov is great - not to mention that the book is translated by my favorite translating team. I love him for things like this, in "The Lady With the Little Dog," which I had read previously in a "love stories" anthology that I got in preparation for my own short story work, and which is way, way more depressing to read than it sounds:

"Anna Sergeevna came in. She sat in the third row, and when Gurov looked at her, his heart was wrung, and he realized clearly that there was no person closer, dearer, or more important for him in the whole world; this small woman, lost in the provincial crowd, not remarkable for anything, with a vulgar lorgnette in her hand, now filled his whole life, was his grief, his joy, the only happiness he now wished for himself; and to the sounds of the bad orchestra, with its trashy local violins, he thought of how beautiful she was. He thought and dreamed."

I mean, that shit is beautiful. There's something about the recognition of the utter ordinariness (which the story keeps getting you back to over and over again), seeing the flaws all around him and yet adoring her anyway, that I find so much more moving than a strictly idealistic or epic love. I don't know, all the people with whom I've ever fallen in love have had such obvious flaws of which I was always aware, and I think recognizing what is exceptional about a person as well as what is perfectly ordinary is just a really powerful thing. Whenever literature captures that I think that can be really beautiful. I also love that this story is never really resolved, and that things don't end really well or badly for these two - their lives just go on, and you know that they will with or without one another, but more rich for the time they've had together.

Similarly, I love this Shakespeare sonnet:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Beautiful. Kind of funny, also, and not exactly glowingly complimentary, but it's rather wonderful nevertheless. It was also used to delightfully sappy purpose in My So-Called Life:

Which is an awesome show, and also a perfect segue for me to talk about Claire Danes!

(Queen Eadie for the win!) I wish she'd go back to the red hair, though. Alas.

Truly, though, I love this girl. She manages to be Hollywood-level beautiful while maintaining a completely believable level of gawky awkwardness. I watched Shopgirl with Shannon last night (for a Film Studies paper, which ugh, I should be writing right now), and I was reminded once again of how wonderful she is. She has one of those faces that you can't take your eyes off of when she's on screen, and there's something about the way she acts that feels so effortless to me - like she perfectly inhabits the body of the character she's playing, and she says so much more with the way she moves and laughs and moves her eyes than she does with actual speech.

(I was utterly enamored with Scarlett Johansson for that same ability a few years ago, but she's decided to rest on simply being hot, which makes me sad. In any case, she was so much hotter back when she wasn't trying so hard!)

But now she's all Hollywood and bombshell and sanitized and perfect. Boo! Another before-and-after (and this is getting waaay tangential, but whatever), that also runs parallel to taking actual good roles and demonstrating lots of acting ability: Christina Ricci, before she got all skinny and "perfect":

(LOVE that movie, by the way.)

And now, for a contrast:

Not that she isn't still beautiful, but...come back to the light, Christina! Be sexy and curvy and weird again!

Well, that's way more than enough for now. Sayonara, for now.

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