Driving in the Car with Anna Karenina

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” -- Leo Tolstoy

Trying to call up an old memory is like checking my wrist for the time and realizing I haven’t worn a watch in years. I stare blankly, trying to remember what I was looking for, but it’s not there anymore.

Lately, though, I have been awash in words to describe the snippets and fragments of my past.

It started in my car.

I commute at least an hour each workday, a grind that makes me regret the lost time; I’ve been doing it for 20 years, though, so any day now I should start getting used to it.

At least I figured out a way to finally finish Anna Karenina, which I started two years ago for a book club meeting but had to return to the library way before I finished its 800 pages. By getting it on discs (count ‘em, 30!), my terrible commute became a pleasure with time at last to read.

I always read at bedtime, but on most nights I get about six minutes in before my head starts to nod. It’s a blessing to be able to fall asleep so easily, but it sure doesn’t help the carriage wheels turn through the cobblestoned streets of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

The miles roll by while I am listening in the car, and I have more ideas for writing than ever before. Seeing these sentences lingering by the dashboard somehow triggers half-forgotten memories, and they rise up in vivid sentences. It happened with an Ernest Hemingway book, too. The odd thing is that my ideas are completely unrelated to the book being played. I have just as few memories in 19th century Russian drawing rooms as I have hunting on the Green Hill of Africa, but my mind starts writing vignettes from my past.

As the CD spins, I’ll get lost in a daydream and unconsciously compose a few paragraphs about my own life. I’ll rewind the disc to find out what’s happened, but these called-up memories are captured like perfectly pinned butterflies until I have a chance to jot them down.

In my commuting switch to literature, I abandoned the news on NPR, at least for now. I am not as up on the sequester as I would have been, but I have bits of memoir scribbled on my scrap paper and Russian patronymics rolling off my tongue.

#41 Read Anna Karenina #41 (101 things in 1001 days): Read Anna Karenina.

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About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days, and writing my memoirs. I am a teacher and writer living in Connecticut.
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41 Responses to Driving in the Car with Anna Karenina

  1. Pingback: Join a Classics Book Club | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

  2. ilene says:

    Great writing begets writing – does it not? And I agree that we can read or listen to great words and be inspired to write more of our own – even if the ideas that flow are different in nature. That’s great that you use your commuting time for books. I commuted for 15 years by car and never got used to it!

  3. I never had enough time in the car alone to read, but always wish I did. Good use of your time. And wonderful that it’s helping you write more!

  4. What a great way to pass the time! I once had a 45 minute commute and that was hard enough. An hour is long, especially if you are concentrating on driving.

  5. being inspired is so…. inspirational!! ;) maybe npr was killing your creativity. haha.

  6. Dawn says:

    I love to listen to audio books while I drive. It makes the time pass so much more quickly. And for those quick ideas? Pause your CD, hit the audio record or speech-to-text feature on your phone, and talk it out. :) Then unpause and get back into your story.

  7. I used to be all about NPR, but now that I have a long commute with poor radio reception, audio books keep me sane. I probably shouldn’t keep up with current events via Twitter, but I’d rather listen to books.

  8. Kiki says:

    I love this! I had a long commute once, and as someone who falls asleep behind the wheel, I found that books on tape (or CD) kept me awake. It’s neat to see how hearing what we usually read affects our minds and gets wheels turning. Now sometimes I can write in my head and it keeps me awake, but I haven’t found a good way to capture the thoughts, so I often lose them all. Boo!

  9. I enjoy audiobooks in the car as well.When my kids were younger, we listened/read the whole Harry Potter series in the car. My in-laws are a 5 1/2 hour car ride away.
    I enjoy reading your blog. Your ‘scenes’ are great!

    • Marcy says:

      My kids used to listen to the Harry Potter books too. One of my sons got so hooked, he played them over and over, and he picked up a British accent for a while. Thanks :)

  10. christina says:

    i SO wanna do this as my commute is long, too–but i got a 3 year old who just wouldn’t go for anything other than Yo Gabba Gabba or Laurie Berkner. ;D

  11. iasoupmama says:

    Hubby and I once drove around a block seven times to get to the end of a chapter in an audio book. Which would seem almost normal if the block we were driving around and around wasn’t the one where our dear friends live — 800 miles from our home. If I get a job with a commute, you can bet I’ll be all over audio books!

  12. gosh. This post almost makes me want to have an hour long commute. My husband does and he listens to Danielle Steele or whatever novel is on Book Radio. (seriously. That has become our big joke.) I’m like you. I try to read in bed and I don’t even make it two pages most nights. Pathetic. Interested to hear what will be your next read.

  13. Joe says:

    You may be on to something. My copy of Anna Karenina is probably over 30 years old and it only recently found it’s way to the top of one of five stacks of books I plan on reading – eventually. I like the audio book idea but I’m retired and I don’t think I’m going to go back to work just get through some Russian literature. I’ll have to come up with plan B.

  14. I’ve never listened to a book on tape (or CD?) – but this is the second time today that it’s come up. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something…

  15. Vanessa says:

    I have family members who love books on tape/CD. Many libraries also have the ability for you to download audio books.

    I usually come up with my better posts when I’m doing something other than sitting at the computer.

  16. beverlydiehl says:

    Don’t hate me because I commute locally. Pity me, instead, because I only live a mile from work and don’t have time to get through more than a handful of pages at a time of ANY audio book.

    Okay, I can see you’re not buying it, but honestly? I’ve gotten a couple books lately via Audible as gifts and though I’m a visual person, listening to them has been a very interesting creative experience. But I find it hard to make time to sit down and listen – if I’m home, I “should be” at the ‘puter, writing, right? Guilt, guilt. Took me weeks to get through them (Heart’s autobiography, Life of Pi) but I am so glad I did.

    • Marcy says:

      I would love to work closer to home (or at home, but I wouldn’t get anything done then, it’s almost certain). It’s weird, but I can’t focus if I try to sit and listen. My eyes try to find something to do, and pretty soon I am checking web sites and not quite listening anymore.

  17. Anna Karenina – a feat I’ve been meaning to tackle, but let’s be honest: I’m intimidated.

  18. I always enjoyed the solitary hour of a commute. Listening to a CD or NPR, cleaning the cobwebs out of my mind. The off part is I rather take a long walk. Enjoyed your post. http://annbennett2.blogspot.com

  19. tua1992 says:

    What is thoroughly impressive is your knowledge of books. Nice post.:)

  20. Here from SITS Sharefest. That is such a great way to make the commute go by- sounds like it has even more pluses for you than that. Nice!

  21. Love this! I’m almost jealous I don’t have a commute! Thanks for Rewinding!

  22. I am jealous that I’ve just shortened my commute for next school year (I’m a teacher!) because I could have really used this idea this year! I love Tolstoy but he really is quite wordy.
    **visiting via the rewind**

  23. Lani says:

    Funnily enough, I envy your alone time commuting… A whole hour, wow, I’d love that time just to THINK. I usually compose my blog posts in a darkened room while breastfeeding… And then I have to remember how they went some time later… Pity, they always sound better in m head!

  24. Rae Hilhorst says:

    I listen to Audio Books when doing my country trips for work and have on one occasion been so engrossed in the story, I didn’t take the right turnoff and added an extra half hour to my trip. I to read before bed and try really hard to read at least a chapter before nodding off, not always successful either. xxx

  25. mjaj74 says:

    My husband is a fanatical audio book listener. Congrats on finishing Anna Karenina! I think I’m still on page 150 or so – the same place I left it as a senior in high school.

  26. kelley says:

    what a great idea!

  27. Pingback: Reading the Classics | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

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