A short piece I wrote about the intersubjective nature of reading.
As mentioned, I recently got into a class on Tolstoy for my final semester at Sarah Lawrence. For our first reading, we were assigned the first 119 pages of Tolstoy by A. N. Wilson. I have to admit right off the bat, the texture of the pages used in the book are phenomenal on the fingers. I’m definitely quite fond of them. Pen writes pretty smoothly upon them as well.
It’s not a bad biography–it’s certainly well researched and balances the truth and appearance of Tolstoy’s diaries as well as his fictions. So far I have read up from the years 1828 to 1855 and Wilson manages to throw in a decent amount of contextual history to account for the environment that Tolstoy was existing in. However, I have one major qualm. Throughout the 119 pages I have read so far, Wilson repeatedly makes Freudian Oedipal references about Tolstoy and his mother. Tolstoy’s mother died when he was only two, so his memory of her, or any memory of her that he claims to have, is only the jagged reimaginings of a young child recreating a mother figure. And I don’t think that the love that Tolstoy speaks of when he is talking about his mother is in anyway a physical love. Even when Tolstoy says that he has never loved a woman, though he has loved men, he acknowledges that there was no sensual, erotic attraction. It is a different sort of love that Tolstoy has put his finger on. And it is this love that Tolstoy feels for his mother, not an Oedipal love.
Wilson points to the notion that Princess Marya from War and Peace was based off of Tolstoy’s own mother, and that Tolstoy made his father Prince Andrei, in an attempt to unwed his parents by making them brother and sister and removing any sexual nature from their relationship. But in my opinion, this is a gross misreading of Prince Andrei. Andrei is half of Tolstoy if anything (the other half residing in Pierre); they had similar aspirations of acquiring all knowledge, they both attempted to seclude themselves in their estates to learn, only to find that they got bored. Andrei is that part of Tolstoy that craved individuation, yet knew that he must attempt to participate in the world. And throwing an Oedipal sheet over the character of Andrei is an insult if anything.
I’ve had a Twitter for a few years now, but I never really used it other than posting essay page lengths to my <50 followers. It was more for me than it was for them because when it’s four in the morning and you’re alone writing thirty pages, you want to try to tell someone–just to put it out there. It never occurred to me to use Twitter and its little tricks in order to gain more followers and become more known.
I’ve been watching videos about Twitter on Udemy, and one of the things that was said about trending topics that I never thought about is the fact that if you see a topic that is trending, you can tweet about it solely to say “who cares about ____” and even then your tweet will be up there under ‘most recent’ and you may just gain yourself some followers! It’s all about getting into conversations and creating little networks of communication. Paying attention to whatever is trending and putting your own voice into the topics allows for you to maintain yourself as up-to-date, and you can change the location to see what is trending where and take notice of the different trending topics around the country. There’s even a Trendsmap that allows you to visually see all the different hashtags on a map, completely up to date.
Scheduling tweets is something I would do at Poets House all the time–just set up quotes upon quotes of poetry to be tweeted every few hours to keep the Poets House twitter constant. It’s overall helpful because while I spent the summer working there, I scheduled tweets up until the end of November, so even when I was done working there and back at school, I could check their Twitter every few hours and see a line from a poem that I had chosen months ago just pop up there. The most important thing about the scheduling of tweets is to allow for the illusion that you are constantly active, even when you are not. This has always bugged me a bit, because it’s somewhat promoting the idea of people spending all of their time in from of the computer, that that is the only place where they must be at all times, representing themselves. It’s almost like you don’t want people to know that you have a life outside of the computer, because that means that you are giving them less attention, and yet throughout all of this everyone seems to forget that these Twitter accounts are being managed by actual people, so the idea that they are doing nothing other than update their Twitter is an unsettling thought. Maybe it’s just me because Twitter has just never appealed to me. Perhaps it requires too much brevity for me, but then again, that’s something I need to work at so maybe that 140 character limit isn’t too bad.
If you’re interested, you can follow me at @crimeiscommon.
I’ve been watching a few video lectures on Udemy on Search Engine Optimization, which in this day and age is one of those things that you know about just by having used Google before. All those times you’re trying to find a specific article or book, and you try every possible combination of keywords and phrases that you think are most likely to pop up. These video lectures show the website maker how to create a website/anything that will encourage Google to push it to the top of the list.
Of course, headlines are one of the most compelling and important parts of anything on the internet, so it’s incredibly important that not only are your headlines and titles intriguing to the reader, but they should also intrigue the computers at Google and give them enough information so that they can adequately recommend the site for whoever is interested. Your software/web designer will tell Google in the code that it is a headline, and Google works from there.
It was also noted that Google really hates ‘keyword stuffing’. It makes sense that a site with little-to-no keywords will not come up if anyone is looking for it, because they would not know how to bring it to the surface. But a page with too many keyboards will only frustrate Google and cause it to skip over you; just like how humans hate ‘over optimised’ text. If you are trying to bump your website up, the website itself is going to suffer because the content will be concerned more with the appearance of its form rather than the content itself. It’s like poetry; you should write naturally and not try to sound like whatever you believe the ideal is.
Tags are also important, and they’re one of those things that I have always ignored, because if I just spent a great deal of time picking and choosing words to explain myself, why would I then go over it all again and pick those key words to tag my post with. Why used short words to describe when the entire point of using all these words to begin with is for the purpose of describing. But especially with the internet, everything is getting shorter and shorter and especially when it comes to scanning countless articles, keywords are important. Again though, because of ‘keyword stuffing’, Google does not pay much attention to keyword tags, but if your tags are concise and precise, they can certainly help you out.
Google has also been making an attempt to bump newer content up, so that websites that update more frequently will get recognition over sites that have let themselves sit and get dusty. Google’s also been learning more about synonyms, so now when you’re looking for something, you don’t have to haul out the thesaurus in an attempt to find one measly website–Google will understand what you’re trying to say.
My name is Marina, and I suppose this will be my first ‘blog’ since the early days of Xanga. I’m currently a student at Sarah Lawrence College, and since it is one of those liberal art schools, we get to pick our classes for the semester during our first week back from break. And instead of registering online, like a normal college, we all get to run around campus, sign up for interviews with teachers, and then spend the rest of the day running all the way back to all those doors and sign-up sheets you scribbled your name on. And when I say interview, I don’t mean that the teachers interview us in an attempt to see if we would fit in the class. Oh no. Instead we are the ones who ask the teachers questions and get all the information that we need about the class. It’s ridiculous and tiring, but honestly it is one of the best ways to pick classes, and despite the outrageously long line we have to wait in so that someone at a computer can put our class picks into the system, I still prefer it to any other method of picking a course.
This semester I only had to replace one class and I was able to sign up for a history course titled ‘In Tolstoy’s Time’. I’ve always been an avid reader, and during my sophomore year at Sarah Lawrence I fell in love with Tolstoy, so when I saw an entire course devoted to him, of course I could do nothing but hope that I got into the course (which I did!). We’re starting off the class with War and Peace, which I haven’t read in two years and I honestly do not even know if it will even be the same book. First time around, I fell in love with Andrei and ended up finishing the novel in a single fifteen hour sitting–it would’ve been impossible for me to put the book down and leave the world of the novel before it had come to fruition on its own. I could not get enough of Andrei’s individuation–ended up writing a conference paper over fifty pages about how Andrei could not exist in this world because he lived for absolutes and in the ‘real’ world, it cannot be all or nothing; a man like Andrei cannot happily exist (similar to how Anna Karenina cannot exist in the world either). But since then, my own mentality has moved away from all or nothing, so I’m wondering if I’ll still love Andrei the way I did when he first appeared in less than fifty pages, with his hawk-like gaze scanning the room and always finding little to amuse himself. Maybe now he’ll just seem annoying and arrogant. This time around I have to read the Maude translation (I used the Peaver the first time) so maybe the discrepancies in the text will change things as well. It’s difficult to say, especially since I am unable to read War and Peace in the original Russian. We’re reading Anna Karenina as well and I’m equally concerned about my love for Anna. A teacher of mine told me that when he was in college and he read Anna Karenina, he was in love with Anna and always wanted her on the scene. But as he grew older, had a family, experienced life, he found himself moving away from Anna’s story and falling in love with Levin’s story–the mowing, the scene with him and Laska. Everything about Levin screams life, even the moment when he is contemplating his own death.
Every rereading of a book creates a new text. The book itself will sit there and stay the same, but it is always on the part of the reader to put those words together and pull out a thought.