Quicklet on Leo Tolstoys Anna Karenina (CliffsNotes-like Book Summary)


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Some would make the case that we live on in our kids and grandkids. I say bugger to that. I want more time! Well, there are ways to be immortal, and one of them is to write a masterpiece like Anna Karenina that will live forever. By the end, I am ready to throttle Anna until her pretty eyes bug out of her head and her cheeks turn a vibrant pink, but at the same time, she seemed to be suffering from a host of mental disorders. She was so cut off from everyone and so disdainful of everyone.


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I had to believe her loathing of people was a projection of how she felt about herself. She needed to find some satisfaction in the ordinary and quit believing that a change in geography or in lovers was ever going to fix what was wrong with herself. She had such a destructive personality. Two men tried to kill themselves over her. Her feelings of being stifled were perfectly natural. We all feel that way at points in our lives. We feel trapped by the circumstances of our life.

She sacrificed everything to chase a dream. The dream ate her. This book is a masterpiece, not just a Russian masterpiece but a true gift to the world of literature. View all 66 comments. People are going to have to remember that this is the part of the review that is entirely of my own opinion and what I thought of the book, because what follows isn't entirely positive, but I hope it doesn't throw you off the book entirely and you still give it a chance.

They owe me hardcore now. As does Mr. This book was an extremely long read, not because of it's size and length ne People are going to have to remember that this is the part of the review that is entirely of my own opinion and what I thought of the book, because what follows isn't entirely positive, but I hope it doesn't throw you off the book entirely and you still give it a chance.

This book was an extremely long read, not because of it's size and length necessarily, but because of it's content. More often than not I found myself suddenly third a way down the page after my mind wandered off to other thoughts but I kept on reading You know, totally zoning out but continuing to read?

The subject I passed over though was so thoroughly boring that I didn't bother going back to re-read it Leo Tolstoy really enjoys tangents. Constantly drifting away from the point of the book to go off on three page rants on farming methods, political policies and elections, or philosophical discussion on God. Even the dialogue drifted off in that sort of manner. Tolstoy constantly made detail of trifling matters, while important subjects that added to what little plot line this story had were just passed over.

Here is a small passage that is a wonderful example of what constantly takes place throughout the book: "Kostia, look out! There's a bee! Won't he sting? Give us your theory," demanded Katavasof, evidently provoking Levin to a discussion. Just a small example of how Tolstoy focuses much more on philosophical thought, and thought in general, more than any sort of action that will progress the story further.

That's part of the reason the story took so long to get through. The editing and translation of the version I got also wasn't very good. Kit reckons that that's part of the reason I didn't enjoy it as much, and I am apt to agree with her. If you do decide to read this book, your better choice is to go with the Oprah's Book Club edition of Anna Karenina.

The characters weren't too great either and I felt only slightly sympathetic for them at certain moments. The women most often were whiny and weak while the men seemed cruel and judgemental more often than not. Even Anna, who was supposedly strong-willed and intelligent would go off on these irrational rants. The women were constantly jealous and the men were always suspicious. There's not much else to say that I haven't already said. There were only certain spots in the book which I enjoyed in the littlest, and even then I can't remember them. But remember this is just one girl's opinion, if it sounded like a book you might enjoy I highly advise going out to read it.

Just try and get the Oprah edition. View all 79 comments. Not since I read The Brothers Karamazov have I felt as directly involved in characters' worlds and minds. I was hooked on Anna Karenina from the opening section when I realized that Tolstoy was brilliantly portraying characters' thoughts and motivations in all of their contradictory, complex truth. However, Tolstoy's skill is not just in characterization--though he is the master of that art. His prose invokes such passion. There were parts of the book that took my breath because I re Not since I read The Brothers Karamazov have I felt as directly involved in characters' worlds and minds.

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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – review

There were parts of the book that took my breath because I realized that what I was reading was pure feeling: when we realize that Anna is no longer pushing Vronsky away, when Levin proposes to Kitty, and later when Levin thinks about death. The book effectively threw a shroud over me and sucked me in--I almost missed my train stop a couple of times.

That being said, there were some parts that were difficult to get through. I felt myself slowing down in Part VI. I was back in through the remainder of the book once I hit Part VII, but I understand how the deep dive into politics and farming can be off-putting. Still, in those chapters Tolstoy's characters are interacting, and it's incredible to see them speak and respond to one another. It's not only worth the trouble, but deep down, it's no trouble at all. It's to be savored, and sometimes we must be forced to slow down and think about the characters' daily life as they navigate around in their relationships.

A word about this translation. When I was in college I attempted to read the Constance Garnett translation. I didn't stop because it was awful I think finals came up, then the holidays, then more classes, etc. However, I never really felt like the words were as powerful as they should have been. Years later, the only image that stuck in my mind was of Levin meeting Kitty at the ice skating rink.

I just never really entered the world of Anna Karenina , perhaps my fault more than anything. However, the diction and sentence construction in Pevear and Volokhonsky's translation is poetic and justifies the title "masterpiece. Each word has its place. Understandably, many are unwilling to give themselves to this book. Many expect it to do all of the work. But it's an even better read because if the reader works, the experience of reading this book is incredible. View all 16 comments. Tolstoy draws a portrait of three marriages or relationships that could not be more different.

Anna Karenina is rightly called a masterpiece. Moreover Tolstoy does not spare on social socialism and describes the beginnings of communism, deals with such existential themes as birth and death and the meaning of life. He also seems like a close observer of human passions, feelings and emotions. All in all I was touched by his b Tolstoy draws a portrait of three marriages or relationships that could not be more different.

All in all I was touched by his book because it was one of the most impressive books I have ever read. View all 27 comments. Set in s Florida, a lector arrives at a cigar factory to read daily installments of Anna Karenina to the workers there. Although the play takes place in summer, the characters enjoyed their journey to Russia as they were captivated by the story.

Even though it is approaching summer where I live as well, I decided to embark on my own journey through Leo Tolstoy's classic nineteenth century classic novel. Although titled Anna Karenina after one of the novel's principle characters, this long classic is considered Tolstoy's first 'real' novel and his take on a modernizing country and on people's lives within it.

The novel begins as Anna Karenina arrives in Moscow from Petersburg to help her brother and sister-in-law settle a domestic dispute. Members of Russia's privileged class, Darya "Dolly" Alexandrovna discovers that her husband Stepan Arkadyich "Stiva" Oblonsky has engaged in an affair with one of their maids. Affairs being a long unspoken of part of upper class life, Dolly desires to leave her husband along with their five children. Anna pleads with Dolly to reconcile, and the couple live a long, if not tenuous, marriage, overlooking each other's glaring faults. While settling her brother's marriage, Anna is reminded of her own unhappy marriage, setting the stage for a drama that lasts the duration of the novel.

Tolstoy sets the novel in eight parts and short chapters with three main story lines, allowing for his readers to move quickly through the plot. In addition to Stiva and Dolly, Tolstoy introduces in part one Dolly's sister Kitty Shcherbatsky, a young woman of marriageable age who is forced to choose between Count Vronsky and Konstantin Dmitrich Levin. At a ball in Kitty's honor, Vronsky is smitten with Anna, temporarily breaking Kitty's heart. Even though Levin loves Kitty with his whole heart, Kitty refuses his offer in favor of Vronsky, and falls into a deep depression.

Levin, seeing the one love of his life reject him, vows to never marry. Anna becomes a fallen woman and rejects her husband in favor of Vronsky, fathering his child, leaving behind the son she loves. Even those closest to her, including family members, are appalled. A G-D fearing woman in a religious society is supposed to view marriage as sacred. Yet, Anna does not value her loved ones' advice and chooses to live with Vronsky.

Despite a comfortable, upper class life, Anna is in constant internal turmoil. Spurned by a society that clings to its institutions as marriage and the church, Anna chooses love yet isolation from all but Vronsky and their daughter. Her ex-husband is viewed as a strict adherent to the law, cold, and unsympathetic, and will not grant a divorce.

Even though Anna is clearly in the wrong, Tolstoy has his readers sympathizing with her situation, rooting for a positive outcome. He brings to light the plight of lack of women's rights, especially in regard to divorce, and has one hoping that Russia changes her ways as she modernizes. If Anna's situation sheds light on the worst of Russian society and Dolly's reveals its stagnation, then Kitty, who later marries Levin, shows how the country begins to modernize. Kostya and Kitty marry for love, rather than gains in society.

Believed by many to be Tolstoy's alter ego, Levin is an estate farmer who is well aware of the rights of his tenant farmers called muzhiks. Along with his brother Sergei Ivanovich, Levin works toward agrarian reform. Both men, Sergei Ivanovich especially, is swept up in the communist ideals that are beginning to form, in rejection of the tsarist governing of the country.

Tolstoy diverges pages at a time to farming reforms and one can see in these pages his own beliefs for the future of Russia in the late 19th century. Having Levin introduce farming mechanisms from the west and Vronsky participate in a Slavic war, Tolstoy presents a Russia that is no longer completely isolated.

He reveals how communism begins to shape up as farmers are no longer happy as tenants and many privileged classes adhere to newer values. Meanwhile, through Dolly, Anna, and Kitty, Tolstoy also presents how a woman's role in this society changes, including schooling and her place in a marriage. As the twentieth century nears, Russian life is no longer set in antiquated ways. Had I not read a drama set in the tropics, I most likely would not have journeyed to 19th century Russia. I enjoyed learning about Leo Tolstoy's views on life there and how he saw late 19th century Russia as a changing society.

I found the plight his title character depressing while reading about Levin and Kitty to be uplifting as Russia moves toward the future. Tolstoy's words are accessible in spite of the novel's length, a testament to the stellar translation done by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. A true classic, I enjoyed my time with the characters in Anna Karenina, and rate Tolstoy's premier novel 5 shining stars. View all 28 comments.

Alright, I'm going to do my best not to put any spoilers out here, but it will be kind of tough with this book. I should probably start by saying that this book was possibly the best thing I have ever read. It was my first Tolstoy to read, and the defining thing that separated what he wrote from anything else that I've read is his characters. His characters are unbelievably complex. The edition of this book that I read was over pages, so he has some time to do it. His characters aren't static Alright, I'm going to do my best not to put any spoilers out here, but it will be kind of tough with this book.

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His characters aren't static, but neither are they in some kind of transition from A to B throughout the book. They are each inconsistent in strikingly real ways. They think things and then change their minds. They believe something and then lose faith in it. Their opinions of each other are always swirling. They attempt to act in ways that align with something they want, but they must revert back to who they are.

But who a character is is a function of many things, some innate and some external and some whimsical and moody. So all the characters seem too complex to be characters in a book. It's as if no one could write a character that could be so contradictory and incoherent and still make them believable, so no one would try to write a character like Anna Karenina. But people are that complex, and they are incoherent and that's what makes Tolstoy's characters so real. Their understandings of each other and themselves are as incoherent as mine of those around me and myself.

One of the ways that Tolstoy achieves this is through incredible detail to non-verbal communication. He is always describing the characters movements, expressions, or postures in such a way that you subtly learn their thoughts. He does an amazing job in the internal monologues the characters experience. You frequently hear a character reason with himself and reveal his thoughts or who he is to you in some way, and all the while you feel like you already knew that they felt that or were that.

Even as the characters are inconsistent. There are times when he can describe actions that have major implications on the plot with blunt and simple words and it still felt rich because the characters are so full. It also speaks interestingly on social classes or classism. There is just so much to wrestle with here. And you go through a myriad set of emotions and impressions of the characters as you read. At times you can love or hate or adore a character. You can be ashamed of or ashamed for or reviled by or anxious with or surprised by a character. And you feel this way about each of them at points.

But it isn't at all a roller coaster ride of emotion. It's fluid and natural and makes sense. One of the many points that the book seemed to reach to me was the strength and power of love. Tolstoy displays it in all its power and all its inability. In the end love is not sufficient enough to sustain. He writes tremendous triumphs for it, and then he writes the months after when the reality of human failings set in.

But love is good, and there is hope. Life can be better with love in it. Should I have kids one day I think I'll make reading this book a precondition for them to start dating that and turning I was also surprised by a section towards the end of the book where Tolstoy through Levin, my favorite character and the one that I identified with the most, makes a case for Christianity that was so simple but at the same time really impacted me.

I guess I'll leave that alone here. Basically, I don't have high enough praise for this book. I hope everyone reads it. It is very long, and I found the third quarter or so slow. But I could definitely read it again. Not soon but it could become a must read every 15 years or so for me. Between he nature of the content and the quality of the words, I would say that this is the greatest masterpiece in words that I've ever found.

View all 10 comments. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over political issues that arose in the final installment Tolstoy's negative views of Russian volunteers going to fight in Serbia ; therefore, the novel's first complete appearance was in book form in Characters: Princess Ekat View 2 comments.

This is a book that I was actually dreading reading for quite some time. It was on a list of books that I'd been working my way through and, after seeing the size of it and the fact that 'War And Peace' was voted 1 book to avoid reading, I was reluctant to ever get started. But am I glad that I did.

This is a surprisingly fast-moving, interesting and easy to read novel. The last of which I'd of never believed could be true before reading it, but you find yourself instantly engrossed in this kind This is a book that I was actually dreading reading for quite some time. The last of which I'd of never believed could be true before reading it, but you find yourself instantly engrossed in this kind of Russian soap opera, filled with weird and intriguing characters. The most notable theme is the way society overlooked mens' affairs but frowned on womens', this immediately created a bond between myself and Anna, who is an extremely likeable character.

I thought it had an amazing balance of important meaning and light-heartedness. Let's just say, it's given me some courage to maybe one day try out the dreaded 'War And Peace'. View all 24 comments. Sep 17, Kevin Ansbro rated it it was amazing Shelves: literature-for-grown-ups , morality , social-awkwardness , gentle-humour , classic-literature , favourites , human-emotions. You see, I was force-fed Tolstoy at college his writing, not his flesh, silly!

Mine wasn't a college for cannibals! So, how amazed was I that Anna K has s "Leo Tolstoy would meet hatred expressed in violence by love expressed in self-suffering. He is slyly hilarious. How did I not know this? Please note that I haven't read this novel in Russian Cyrillic. I acknowledge that my perception owes a great deal to the amazing interpretive work of the translators, but let's imagine that we in the West have enjoyed his work as the great man intended. The title is something of a misnomer and doesn't do justice to an endearing love story that also captures the disparity between city and country life in 19th-century Russia.

For a start, Anna K isn't the star of the show. That billing falls to our anti-hero, Konstantin Dmitrich Levin, a socially awkward, highly-intelligent loner who considers himself to be an ugly fellow with no redeemable qualities. Despite being weighed down by all this existential angst, he worships Kitty Shcherbatskaya, an attractive young princess whom he believes to be out of his league. Kitty is described as being "as easy to find in a crowd as a rose among nettles.

Levin's love rival, raffishly handsome Count Vronsky, couldn't be more dissimilar. He is socially adept and careful not to offend, whereas Levin could probably start an argument with a goldfish. What a fabulous read this is. Tolstoy's levity and perspicacity shines from every page and the badinage between the main characters is exquisitely observed. He does though have an idiosyncratic way of writing: adjectives are thickly laid on with a trowel and he loves to use repetition to emphasise a point.

Anna herself is fascinating, and to affirm just how fascinating she is, Tolstoy employs the word fascinating seven times in one paragraph! I've even started doing it myself! How fascinating! When not beating you about the head with repetition, the Russian master can do majestic descriptive imagery as good as anyone. One simple scene, where Kitty collapses into a low chair, her ball gown rising about her like a cloud, was just perfectly captured.

This is a wonderful story of fated love and aristocratic hypocrisy. Tolstoy uses Levin as his political mouthpiece to rail against the ills of late 19th-century Russia, and the author's philosophy of non-violent pacifism also had a direct influence on none other than Mahatma Gandi. Anna Karenina is often cited as 'one of the best books ever written'. So who am I to disagree? So, I have this ongoing etiquette problem. Though sometimes I think it is a matter of respect. Or maybe social awkwardness. Post got that deeply into the protocol of neurotic bibliophiles.

Anyway, the question is.. That is, are discussants more likely So, I have this ongoing etiquette problem. That is, are discussants more likely to assume a first name basis when conversing about women authors rather than male authors? If so, does this mean a sign of disrespect? What about when this happens as a discussion among women? Is this more or less problematic? It also, obviously, happens sometimes with two authors by the same name, or with an author that someone happens to know personally.

But my question doesn't just have to do with this situation. I'm more interested as to why readers feel the impulse to do this to start with. But its hard to pinpoint when that happens. Usually, for me, I only see it when I write my review. Usually I self-consciously delete it later once I realize it. But it is always revealing of how much the novel got to me. Virginia Woolf is the ultimate example of this for me.

My experience with Mrs. I had the same experience with Austen and the Brontes and Graham Greene and a few others. I've read this before, but that time my impression of Tolstoy as an intimidating, distant Big Russian Author intact. This read was different. I believe that the translation work of Paevar and Volokhonsky deserves credit for that. My first read was with the Garnette translation. And unfortunately, it turns out that graceful late-Victorian prose reads rather… well.. Intelligently done, but often intimidating and cold.

At least, it is not the Tolstoy that Paevar and Volokhonsky showed me. I remember those Leo moments. There are many things I loved about this novel. As I understand it, writing this novel was a great struggle for Tolstoy. Originally, he meant this to be a straightforward morality tale. Anna was meant to be an ugly, vulgar old adulteress who represented Evil Womankind, and Karenin a model of sainted Christianity. But the longer the writing went on, the more this black and white purpose acquired shades of grey. Anna became beautiful, then sympathetic at the beginning, and then in the middle, and then all the way into the end.

Vronsky no longer twisted his mustache, but became a man with a code who wanted very much to be allowed to keep that code and live a life. He found his way from rigid morality to what makes a tragedy a tragedy. There are moments where he shows that he could have gone full on Oscar Wilde if he wanted to, but he takes it back.

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Some of them I sympathized with from the beginning-Anna, Dolly, Levin- and some snuck up on me-Karenin, Kitty- and some-Vronsky, Oblonsky- took me awhile, but I got there. The book is set up as a dance where these seven people come together, go through the motions and then change partners again.

How they come together, why, and what the two partners want from each other in that moment reveals everything about these two characters. As our two anchors who represent the two choices that you can come to resolve the existential crises of life, Levin and Anna get to meet everyone and everyone gets to reflect them back to themselves. Other characters experience them and make their own choices by evaluating their experience. Their resolutions represent the spectrum of other choices that you can make in between Ecstasy starts as Anna, moves to Levin and Death which moves from Levin to Anna.

What happens in the scene is beautiful and makes a lot of sense. Like that circle you always see done with fascism and communism-in-reality where despite whatever they may say, they are not the opposites that they claim. Someone is always going to be left on the outside, or being the third wheel to one of the pairs. Everyone has a turn with this. Anna starts it, then Levin continues it, then Kitty, then Karenin and full circle until we come back to Anna standing by herself once again. Through the odd man out, we get an exploration of how loneliness, rejection, and mistaken choices to reject others affect these characters.

The two choices seem to be either that it will transform them, or that it will gradually harden the worst parts about them until they become an unbreakable diamond. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the space and time to do that. Levin gets to do it eventually. Anna is the diamond. Karenin shatters to pieces and then rebuilds himself into one again. Surprisingly, in the end, Karenin was the one who broke my heart.

He shows these peoples' attempts at understanding each other and failing again and again. Characters frequently make assumptions that other people are mind-readers or that they are, and some even go so far as to tell them so. The ones who can communicate with each other are the ones who drive the novel- Anna, Levin, Kitty. Our author stand-in, Levin, is the most socially anxious being. He frequently doubts every word that comes out of his mouth, blushes and embarrasses himself with his boyish pride, and puts his foot in his mouth on about a million occasions.

But all these little moments add up to a more thorough condemnation of social conventions than view spoiler [anybody throwing themselves under a train at the end could possibly have managed hide spoiler ]. Only Connect in eight hundred pages at full volume. Only a few people manage it, and usually not for long. He shows us why succeeding is a gift, not something that we can take for granted. And as for the writing… Tolstoy gets away with so much that other authors can't. He tells rather than shows for at least half the novel, and that is a conservative estimate.

He repeats himself constantly. He chooses isolated moments and lets them go on for fifty pages longer than anyone on earth needs. A two day hunting trip takes twice that. But Woolf can: "For it has come about, by the wise economy of our nature, that our modern spirit can almost dispense with language; the commonest expressions do, since no expressions do; the most ordinary conversation is often the most poetic For which reasons we leave a great blank here, which must be taken to indicate that the space is filled to repletion.

That is, what he does to Anna because he could not himself decide what he wanted her to be, and really what he wanted himself to be. Even his generosity failed him here.

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He went gloriously, full-tilt into a wall wrong, but it was wrong. It seemed like his original stern morality got the best of him. At first, I wanted to think that it was just a plot mechanics decision in the sense that Anna was the big outlier in the story and social structure, and the way he had written the people around her there was no way for anyone to move forward unless she herself changed. But in the end, I think that I'm wrong and it was just him feeling like he had to condemn her for her sins in the end.

He couldn't let it be about what he said it was the whole novel because that was too dangerous. About how to rationally believe in God as a man of science. It makes sense that they would. I know why, actually. But I'm still not a fan. But still. I can mostly forgive Tolstoy for what he did to Anna and Levin and their complex struggles because of one thing: his joy.

Even when his generosity of spirit uncharacteristically fails him with Anna, or when powerful intellect goes off the rails toward crazytown with Levin and his peasant-worship, he has this great ability to celebrate things great and small. This is most evident in the Levin sections where we get long odes to the harvest and to his love for Kitty. And really, despite the all that earnest, existential angst and all the terror of death, the ultimate conclusion that I think Tolstoy wants me to walk away with from that last Levin chapter is Life.

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Even with the problems with it I mentioned above, its such a relief to see Levin finally just let himself rest that its difficult to hate it completely. Kitty gets to be wrapped up on it. Oblonsky walks around with an apparently unshakeable foundation of it. Tolstoy complements this with a sly sense of humor that sneaks into the prose in between the other seven hundred and fifty pages of Seriously Considering the World.

He pokes fun at men showing off their manliness to each other. He has some fun with mysticism, laughs about the ridiculousness of politics. He makes me laugh with the extremes to which he carries his insistence that we think about the feelings of everybody. Including the dog. You monsters! Awhile ago, I saw Jon Stewart give a speech in tribute to Springsteen. This book is a book of statements, but it feels like a book of questions. Do you know any better? Often, with Tolstoy, I think that a lot of us feel like we do.

With rare exceptions, he deals with everything on earth as if it is the most serious thing alive. We can even feel that we know better about communism, idealization of manual labor or even just his ideas about cooperative farming. He reminds me of David Foster Wallace, in that respect. That Consider the Lobster essay, with all that serious questioning and pain, thrown out to the readers of Gourmet. Both these guys are really asking. This was a surprisingly vulnerable book in that way. For every opinion Tolstoy pronounced, he retracted two and asked four questions.

That is the sort of mind I want to be around. A little bit. In Moscow, Anna Karenina meets the charming Vronsky, and together they indulge in an affair despite her husband Karenin. One might argue that Anna is selfish in her passionate romance, having to choose between Vronsky and her young son. Alongside this intense relationship, there are many more characters cleverly intertwined, which gives the reader a deep insight into different aspects of the time.

So your response to an issue or an idea or even like a TV show it could be anything. You'll really responding to that. But it's a very isolated life, the writing life, I don't know if it's different in other countries, maybe we have romantic images of what it would be like to be a writer in Greenwich Village or some fashionable suburb in Paris or London or whatever. In Australia, it just feels like, it feels very barren.

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So that the communication that you have with other writers just feels like you're not alone, that this is a worthy endeavour. You might not get paid for a lot, you might get paid nothing for the work that you do, but to feel part of a creative environment. I think that's what we're really searching, especially in a world that feels really atomised. To have that sense of community I think that's really one of the major impulses for me as writer, is to feel like I'm part of a history of human response to experience. In a weird way, I feel really close to someone like Homer, let's say.

Or if I read Shakespeare and I feel how he fails or he succeeds. Or if I read Alice Monroe, I feel like we're a part of, there's a kind of familial sort of connection. And it's even closer when you can have a colleague along the way like Ryan O'Neill. You have a direct sense of brotherhood in that same incredibly arduous task. We're all filled with these sort of Hollywood images of what it means to be a writer, but there's so much pain involved with writing as well. There's so much isolation, anxiety, and depression and all those kinds of things. No writer is immune to those things.

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So that sense of solidarity that you can have with someone along the way, is a really crucial thing to have. It's not just a creative spark type of thing, it's actually like the sense of moving with someone in a direction that feels to you has real significance. Astrid: Fantastic compliment. You have just used the word companionship and solidarity to describe your writing relationship with Ryan. And previously you've expressed if I can use the word alienation from the lack of a broader literary community perhaps in Australia.

How do you think we change that? What would you like to see? You're quite a successful writer in terms of literary awards, an emerging writer would look at both of you and think, wow I want to to be like Alec and Ryan. Alec: Well when I was Ryan was, you know he's obviously in the room. I have to mention you Ryan, but no really, it's being part of a literary community, and that was what was galvanising to me when I was starting out.

I wrote my first novel and I spent eight years of agonising over it. I felt like there was three or four times of almost a nervous breakdown. It was incredibly painful. And the worst thing about it was that I was working as a bartender in a cocktail bar, and my experience of what I was trying to do was totally alien to anyone else that either came into the bar or that I was working with. But, when I started writing stories and sending them to journals, because as I said I couldn't even get a response to the novel when I sent it out.

No one would even give me anything but a form, if I got a form rejection! Mostly it was just silence. Then you start sending it out to literary journals and you get these wonderful responses from editors, who also own their literary journals and they invite you to come to the launch, and to maybe read, and you meet people that are there. And then after winning the Miles Franklin for Black Rock White City I was invited to go to literary festivals, which had never happened previously.

I always feel like every time I meet a writer — and it's a very broad spectrum of people that you're talking about, when you talk about Australian writers, we're not talking about just one type of writer, there's just so many different voices. And everytime I talk to any of those writers there's always this sense of community, of fellowship. I don't know if that's true anywhere else in the world, but I really felt that that was an incredibly lovely thing.

Like for instance, even with something like the short list for the Miles Franklin, The Australian had sort of let it slip that I'd won, no one was supposed to know. But everyone sort of found out. We had this… The shortlisted writers we went out for drinks beforehand. It could've been awkward, but it was incredible. Even in that sort of situation where you're supposed to be in competition, incredibly open hearted writers feeling like they are part of something together.

To me that's just what makes you feel like it's all worth it, because you're part of a family, you're not just some kind of ego driven person that's trying to do something just for yourself, you're trying to be representative of a creative community. Astrid: Alec has talked a lot about community and tapping into that heart and soul, trying to understand what Australia is and what we can be.

I know you are involved in bringing together some writers, in an experimental writing collective. I'm going to stuff up the name, but I believe it's called Ryan: Kanganoulipo is an experimental writing collective. The original idea came from Julie Koh, who's a fantastic short story writer and Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist, I think it was last year, no it might have been this year.

Basically the idea is Julie and other writers like Jane Rawson, Patrick Lenton, Tom Cho, again perhaps don't find themselves in this literary realist tradition that you so often find in Australia. A lot of books are very realist, and you still see books set in the bush and things like that when really the Australian experience is 95 percent outside of the bush and things like that. The members Kanganoulipo, there is 12 of us, we don't have an interest in those themes, and we're also trying to bring back maybe a bit of fun into literature as well.

It's a collaborative experience as well, so that one of the great things about it. As Alec said, it can be a really solitary experience writing. It's necessarily a solitary experience, as you actually need solitude to write. But you also need to have some connections as well. So Kanganoulipo is, we just come up with fun ideas. One of us may come up with an idea for a card game based on Australian literature like Top Trumps, where you've got Tim Winton gets ten points for sense of the bush, and Helen Garner gets 11 points for realism or whatever.

We all sort of chip in and work at this project, and then that will get presented somewhere or be a festival or something like that. It's taking sort of the collaborative experience that Alec and I have even one step further. We're actually working on each others projects, and people come up with ideas and other people are carrying out those ideas and then getting feedback, and it all sort of comes together. It's really… We're having fun as writers and we're just trying to expand the scope of Australian literature just a little bit to show a bit of humour and a bit of strangeness, a bit of oddness.

It doesn't have to be surfing or someone swimming in a creek in the bush. Certainly there's room for those stories in the fantastic, but maybe in the last years we've had quite a few of those. And why not try something a little bit different? Astrid: Your face has lit up talking about this. I have no doubt you have a great time there. I have one final question for you both. You've both won major literary awards, you're both young, what are your literary goals? And that's my goal, to finish those stories and produce a great collection of stories.

It's the form of literature that I love best. I mean, I suppose now I'm more known as a novelist, but still 90 per cent of the stuff that I love to read are short stories, so to create a hopefully great collection of stories that people will actually read, as opposed to most collections of stories. But I think that's how immediate your goals are. I've got an 8 year old and a 6 year old, two daughters, and we've been sharing lots of kids books, and I'd like to write a few kids books. I know that, if people know how dark my work is that's a disturbing thought.

But you know, I've got that sort of side that I'd like to explore as well. We're talking about burning down houses, that doesn't necessarily mean you go from churches to crematoriums. You might maybe, you want to build beautiful places for children to enjoy the same kind of imaginative and creative and those kinds of experiences. So, I'd like to write some children's stories and some picture books as well as other kinds of stories like that.

I've got an ideal for a screenplay, that I'm sort of working on.

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You know I'm just really excited by what else. Like we were saying before, some writers they find their groove and they rock that groove as hard as they can and sometimes they're producing really good work, but sometimes it's boring because their doing the same thing. I kind of think of it more like Dustin Hoffman type of acting where, what obviously gives him creative juices, like play a woman in one role or to play a New York gangster in another role, or to just say what else can I do? Because that way you've got at least a guarantee that you won't be doing exactly what you've done before.

So that's my goals, just to keep on growing. That's it, it's to never feel like I'm done with it. That it's exhausted. That the worse, the feeling you get after you finish a book where you feel like that you're played out, you've said everything you could possibly say. To feel like when you start writing, working on something new, to start feeling that same kind of excitement and know there's more.

I think it's a process of growth, really, on that level of being and that's why it feels life changing, why it feels worth all of the sacrifices you make. Yeah, that's my ideal, just to keep on feeling like I'm getting better and finding more and more insight into my experience. Astrid: That really excites me. I love your writing, I would love to buy children's book's written by you and give them to all the children I know.

Alec: My 8 year old daughter is always reminding me, so what happened to Mr. Lily Bender and the sea dragons? Ryan: So, the writers that I love, like English experimental writer B. See, I paid you back there, I compared you to Nabokov. The writers that I love never write the same book twice. And that's my ambition as well. My first book was a book of short stories, The Weight of a Human Heart , the second was Their Brilliant Careers , which is a weird biographical invented fictions.

Because as a reader I love reading books that are different, and as a writer it challenges me to write something different. So, that is my ambition, I'd like — and I don't know whether I'll accomplish it — but I would like every book to be different in form and essentially not repeat myself as a writer. That's my ambition, but as Alec said I'm at the point where I've just finished a project and I'm feeling pretty bare at the moment. The cupboard is bare in terms of ideals.

I'm half expecting, seeing half sheer terror that nothings going to come. I've still got that, but I'm trying to tell myself for the last two times an ideal did pop up.

So I'm just going to be… I'm just finishing the proofs for The Drover's Wives , once the proofing is done, once that's completely done, I'm just going to read a lot of stuff and just wait for something spark off and hopefully it will go from there. Then who knows what the next book will be, half terrifying and half exhilarating. Astrid: Who knows. Ryan and Alec thank you very much for coming on The Garret.

Skip to content. When did you start to share your work with each other? He had a real hot streak going Astrid: Did you ever feel any competition? Ryan: Honestly, no not at all. Astrid: What have you learned from Ryan and sharing your work with Ryan? Astrid: I wanted to explore that. What do you do when you get conflicting feedback? Astrid: Is there a difference providing feedback on a short story compared to a novel? Length is a different issue and the idea of does it hang together, the structure and the characterisation… So I think it is quite different, although you still… The feedback does take longer, but you're still looking for — and that's when Alec's been very generous with his time — you're still looking for that level of detail, which is asking a lot of a writer, because writers are meant to write, and anything that takes you away from writing, you can resent.

Astrid: In the course of 24 hours. Ryan: Spoiler, I'm actually not from Australia. Astrid: Definitely. Alec: I have reviewed pages Astrid: You mentioned that you teach.

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