Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why are you telling me this, Mr. Tolstoy?

"The Death of Ivan Ilych" really cracks along.

As in "Family Happiness," Tolstoy is covering a lot of time, but he handles it very differently in this story. He's stepped back to the third person perspective, for starters, and has taken an omnipotent position over his subject.

Once more, the story is broken into several parts. The first deals with the aftermath of Ivan's death, and the second is the first of a sequence detailing Ivan's life and characteristics. If this all sounds mundane, it is. But I find it strangely compelling as well.

I'm reminded of Infinite Jest, actually. Not because Tolstoy is writing in a mode that could be considered hyper realism, but because the whole story is made up of mundane details.

It's not a story that's interesting because it's about a particularly interesting subject (unless civil servants who like a good a decorous time and find marriage to be a minefield are your cup of tea), but because you really wonder why it's being told in the first place.

It's like something that a random person comes up and relates to you while you're out in public.

That person needs to tell that anecdote or share that thought, but you're never explicitly told why. This being a short story, though, I imagine Tolstoy will reveal why the death of Ivan Ilych matters come the end. Until then, I'm definitely fine with reading on.

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