Just now, I’ve finally finished Anna Karenina. It took me long enough, I started it over the summer, read other books, and then came back to it. It was long, but it was also beautiful, and I’m glad I read it. Being an aspiring Christian novelist myself, it had some personal significance.
The most memorable and famous in popular culture is the plot about Anna, the namesake, and Vronsky. But personally, I was a little more interested in Levin and Kitty. Really there was a lot of intriguing stuff outside of the main story, about history, religion, and society. They seemed to be sort of the antithesis to Anna and Vronsky, who were plagued by senseless suffering. Sure, they too quarreled and gave way to jealousy and other passions, but Kitty was always grounded in her faith, and Levin too, sort of, apparently, whether he knew it or not.
Upon reading other Christian novels, I always find myself getting all critical. I like to think that someday I will write the next great American novel that people will be talking about long after I’ve kicked the bucket, both clever and Jesus-loving at the same time, but I realize that this is a far fetched and absurd expectation, and a little arrogant at that. Perhaps God will give that pleasure to someone a little more modest and realistic so they can really have a ball when they make it big.
Anyway, my main criticism/wondering is related to the overall philosophy conveyed towards the end. I thought it was a little spiritualist, not really relativist, but something of a more tolerant variety that I can’t easily describe. So it had a slightly different spin on it than the one that you usually hear at church. Whether it’s wrong or not, I can’t easily say. Maybe it’s partially wrong. I thought Levin’s conversion was interesting, how Tolstoy claimed that, in a sense, he had always sort of believed and done right even though he wasn’t all that conscious of it. I also thought that Levin’s conclusion of what I call “the problem with all the other religions” was interesting. He took the humble stance, concluding that it was a complicated matter above his understanding. But that almost seems like a two-edged sword. To say that there are things beyond human conception that we cannot make the pretense of knowing is quite reasonable. But to concede that it may be possible for people who don’t worship the true God, and consequently, idols, to say that they can be saved? I believe that there is only one way, cruel as it sounds in our relativist culture. But I don’t want to be too hard on Tolstoy, I admire his writing and his lofty intentions.
I always wonder what I’m going to bring to the world of writing. Will I revolutionize? Can I use all the modern techniques, can I convey the seemingly absurd nature of life itself without being blasphemous? But most important of all, can I paint a portrait of the Christian life that isn’t overly preachy? But why is being preachy always a bad thing? Can I be fresh, raw, edgy, exciting?
But these questions are secondary. Here’s the real question: can I bring God glory? There’s no reason why I need to make it much more complicated than that, and there’s no reason why He can’t take on the burden for me. And on that note, I end my deliberations for the day.