Dear Annabella,

Although growing up in Soviet Union we were made to memorize poems by Pushkin, Lermontov, Onegin, read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, we weren’t taught anything about them — they were sort of worshipered, like dusty icons on a shelf, not like blood & bones humans they were. I had to learn about them on the streets, like everyone else. That Pushkin died ridiculously young because he was a womanizer in a duel — what a waste! Or that my mother hates Dostoyevsky because he makes her nearly suicidal with his own depressive writing, & that he had many mental health issues, including (but not limited to) hypographia. Now, I may have hypographia (an uncontrollable impulse to write), but most of the writing I will produce will be rubbish. In D.’s case, it was brilliant.

So, yeah, I completely agree with you. Independent research is vital when it comes to classic writers, to make them come alive, because they were human beings, not robots, not ideals, & certainly not perfect, but their works live on because the works they created resonated & resonates still as the characters are the people you recognize as your next door neighbors & yourself, feeling & thinking things we are all feeling & thinking.

PS. Except Shakespeare! I will never believe that we need to read Willie the Shake! He wrote plays! He wrote movies for the masses! Check them out from the library starting Emma Thompson & Kenneth Branough (sp?), see them on Netflix, at your local high school or college play. As an English teacher, I feel very passionate about this!

Writer and storyteller, immigrant, wife, mom, knitter, collector of jokes, lover of cheap, sweet wine.

Writer and storyteller, immigrant, wife, mom, knitter, collector of jokes, lover of cheap, sweet wine.