alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,

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Tolstoy and Me

This weekend was a quiet one for my husband, The Gryphon, and I, as we got caught up on some things. Saturday I got the most work done, catching up on Otakon Press Relation e-mail. This takes longer than you might think. I'm sorting through requests for press access, and I have to review the materials that people provide, then make a ruling on whether to approve them as press.

Also on Saturday, after I got caught up on Otakon business, I hopped onto Facebook to catch up a little bit on the apps requests my friends had sent me. I collected plants for my Lil' Green Patch and fish for my Lil' Blue Cove (both apps raise money to save the rainforests, through sponsors).

One of the most interesting things, though, was a quiz I took labeled "What kind of writer are you?" The quiz consisted of answering a series of somewhat cryptic questions. I'm not sure what logic lay behind the results, only that my literary counterpart turned out to be Leo Tolstoy. I posted the results to my profile, asking if anybody agreed with it, because I considered it a strange conclusion.

Leo Tolstoy and Alyce Wilson

The first person to respond said that, based on my recent writing, I was closer to Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman, for which I thanked him. But another friend responded to say she felt there was a valid comparison. She noted my tendency to muse on the nature of human experience. I tend to be very reflective and seek out the meaning of things, she said, a trait she felt I shared with Tolstoy.

I did read the novella, The Death of Ivan Ilych, for a class back in graduate school, but that was (*mumble*) years ago, and I remembered very little. Having never read War and Peace, out of curiosity I printed out the first chapter, which is available online, as are many classic works. Considering that I was reading a translation, I did notice some parallels.

Tolstoy, like me, tends to make sparing use of modifiers, such as adverbs and adjectives. It's a habit I picked up years ago after reading The Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. I was struck by the fact that Hemingway only used modifiers when he really needed them, which lent the ones he did use more impact. My sister kept pointing out this tendency to me when I was writing pieces for LJ Idol this season. She kept reminding me to add more detail, to make my scenes richer. It went against my nature, but I agreed the revised versions were stronger. Still, my default setting is towards a pared-down use of modifiers.

I also felt, reading through the first chapter, that Tolstoy had a tendency, as my friend has noted, of getting behind the psychology of his characters. He provides hints about who they are, how they think, and what we might expect of them in future chapters. In fact, I was sufficiently impressed by chapter one that I may — and I stress may, since I have an entire book shelf full of "books to be read" — read more of War and Peace, or perhaps Anna Karenina, which I suspect I'd like more, since it's a more personal story.

Even if that insight comes from a potentially flawed quiz, it's always interesting to step outside myself and see how others might view me.

Sadly, Sunday was not as pleasant or productive, since I woke up with a sinus headache. While I took some Sudafed and some pain killers, and even took a hot bath, in hopes of opening my clogged pores, nothing seemed to help. I suffered from the headache most of the day, which prevented me from working on Wild Violet, getting further caught up on personal correspondence, or working on our taxes.

I did manage to call my Dad and my Mom and wish them Happy Easter. Mom was especially happy to hear from me, since she longer has time to send e-mail. It was nice to hear their voices, but the headache prevented me from truly enjoying the conversations.

Around dinner time, we ordered some Chinese food for delivery. I went upstairs to lie down because Una kept barking at every movement. She always knows when we're expecting somebody, and she doesn't like it. Too often people arrive — taxis and friends — and take The Gryphon away. She does not approve.

Upstairs, away from the noise, I began to feel better. The Gryphon prepared a plate for me, and as I began to eat, my headache disappeared as if by magic. Maybe it had been aggravated by low blood sugar: I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. Suddenly I felt really good. I called my brother, the one family member I hadn't spoken to that weekend (I'd had an IM conversation via Facebook with my sister on Saturday).

Then, naturally, because the universe has a way of evening things out, I had to sit down and do our taxes, which is not the most fun task. Strangely, I found myself almost joyous, crunching the numbers and filling in forms, simply because I was no longer incapacitated by pain.

You never appreciate normal days quite so much as when you've had a day of pain.

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Tags: family, gryphon, memes & quizzes, otakon, pain, writing

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