Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

AK and Magical Thinking

I'm afraid my experience of AK is limited only to the adaptation and that I saw a very long time ago. I always felt annoyed by the story as I felt that Tolstoy wanted the reader to feel sympathy for AK and yet I could not. She chose a hedonistic lifestyle at the expense of her husband (not a great loss admitedly) and her son and paid the price. Harsh maybe, but that is perhaps the result of seeing the 'bare bones' adaptation rather than reading her inner monolgue which, I am guessing, is what the book gives you. That said, I loved the Levin and Kitty storyline and thought there were some truly memorable scenes (the proposal, the confession) which were movingly portrayed.

Regarding The Year of Magical Thinking, I thought this was a very good read. I found it refreshing that someone had seen fit to tackle, what might arguably be considered, the western world’s final taboo subject. I thought she struck an excellent balance between her personal story and a more objective study of the subject. Had she erred too much on the former then the book could have become a very depressing read, which is what I came to the book expecting. However, the forays into psychology, anthropology, medicine etc, swept you along and enabled the reader to move on, which is afterall what happened to JD through the same process.

I recently found out that the term ‘magical thinking’ is a technical term used in psychology and anthropology. CBT works in identifying where a person has become dependant on magical thinking, for example in cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and create alternative thought patterns. All of which agrees with her point that grief is a form of mental illness.

I thought that, unlike the blurb on the front cover (“will speak to and maybe comfort anyone who has lost for ever the one they loved”), the book can appeal to anyone, regardless of whether or not they have known a major bereavement. I found myself identifying with the feelings and emotions she describes from drawing upon broken relationships, homesickness etc.: the minor ‘griefs’ one encounters.

My only real struggle was with the Americanisms in the book. The references to places, people, organisations, culture, food, idioms, geography that I am not familiar with (and is not explained) interrupted the flow for me. I wondered if I might have overcome this had I been listening to a reading of the book, where accent/inflection/tone might have better contextualised these references.