Friday, May 01, 2009

I'm reading Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Illych", which is said to be one to the greatest and most profound stories about death. So far it's a fairly slow read; 'not a lot is happening', as my students might say. However, I have a feeling the author is setting the stage for a dramatic final chapter. Reading this story reminds me, again, of the brilliance of Tolstoy's writing. I remember thinking, when I read "War and Peace" many years ago, that his writing is like a clear pane of glass through which life can be seen in utter clarity -- and this story has that same clarity, page after page. I get the feeling that the author is not interested in showing off his writing skills, but in simply telling an important story. 

In the last few days, I read another story by Sarah Orne Jewett, the greatest of all Maine writers. It's called "The Flight of Betsey Lane", and it has the same truthful simplicity that I admire in all her stories. If some writers write like they're building spectacular palaces for all to admire, Jewett writes like she's building small, humble homes somewhere off the beaten path. 

No comments: