A June article in The Atlantic Monthly reports on a long study done by a Harvard prof regarding what makes us happy. The prof filled his study with personally written detailed reports on his observations of his subjects. The author of the article ways that with the level of detail given, “…the lives become worthy of Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.”
Dostoevsky, and I’m discovering Tolstoy as well, live in the minds of their characters. What makes reading either fascinating is their insights into what makes the characters tick. Tolstoy does so with a lighter touch, but so omniscient is he that he even speaks from within the mind of of one of the characters’ dogs.
Two men go bird hunting, and find themselves in a distracting conversation. All the while, the dog is wanting to hunt. You know this because Tolstoy tells you!
“While they were talking, Laska, pricking up her ears, kept looking up at the sky and then reproachfully at them.
“‘What a time to choose to talk,’ she thought. ‘And here comes one…. Yes, here it is. They’ll miss it.'”
You’ve got to love it.
I’m 55% along the journey known as Anna Karenina and touches like this have made it a worthwhile trip.
One of the characters is a government official who on one occasion turns in a study on some issue. Tolstoy comments:
“All the questions had received excellently drafted answers, and were not open to doubt because they were not the work of human thought, always liable to error, but were all the work of bureaucratic officialdom.”
You have got to love the twinkle in Tolstoy’s eye.