Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Adams and Leibovitz

by cheri block

I tend to see the world horizontally (like Tolstoy), rather than vertically (like Dostoyevsky).

This vantage point has gotten me into trouble, even recently.

When I hold my camera, equipped with a wide-angle lens, intending to replicate the grand scheme (a panoramic shot of the sky, and thus the power and scope of creation), it seems right to place my elbows down, in a symmetry, and take the photograph.

A vertical shot forces me to reposition the camera, sticking my right elbow up, in an uncomfortable position. I  must change my wide-angle to a zoom lens which affords a deep and close look at the subject.

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
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29 Responses to Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Adams and Leibovitz

  1. That top picture must have been taken in Arlington, unless it is graphic illustration of Hannibal’s ambiguity post. Nonetheless lovely and a hint of eternity.

  2. jenny says:

    I am trying to deal with this latest obsession (blog reading), by allowing myself to read and comment only once a day, in the morning before work. But, now, Cheri, you are making that quite impossible with this siren call of a Russian-themed title.

    What I remember about The Hedgehog and the Fox is this: Tolstoy is, according to Isaiah Berlin, by nature a fox (knowing many things: horizontal) who wants to be a hedgehog (knowing one thing: vertical). So, I looked at your picture of the American cemetery and thought about it from that perspective. This horizontal photo has a distinctly vertical element right down the center.

    You could do worse than be like Tolstoy.

    • Cheri says:

      As we used to say when our son was up to bat and didn’t take a swing at a bad ball, “Good Eye !”

      That was exactly my intent in selecting that particular photo: to use a horizontal picture with a decidedly vertical thrust; thus, (questions the reader), is she a Hedgehog or a Fox?

      I heard a wonderful lecture on the Hedgehog and the Fox back in 1992; I’ve never forgotten it.

      My heart/intensity/intention are Fox. My knowledge base is, well…Hedgehog.

      And regarding your discipline about blog reading…yes. Keep it up, especially since you have a family/day job. 🙂

      I am at the end of my career, so here in my office, I distract myself by reading everything but what I am supposed to be reading.

      The old stalling technique…

  3. zeusiswatching says:

    Thinking upon War and Peace and the top photo, I think Tolstoy did see horizontally, even when one could argue that it would have been better perhaps to have perceived, and penned the same scene vertically. Yet, how magnificently could he describe that scene horizontally!

    My favorite work by Tolstoy is Anna Karenina. It is perhaps my favorite European novel.

    • Cheri says:

      I read Anna Karenina in college, but after my fall quarter coming up ( in which there are 16 books on the reading list (damnit), I am considering rereading it.

      I’d love to know why you loved it so much.

      I could read your ideas all night.

  4. Cyberquill says:

    Dostoyevsky’s name is so long, I would have pegged him as the horizontal one.

    Why don’t you just pick up painting instead? Simply use square canvasses, and then you won’t have to worry about horizontal versus vertical.

  5. jenny says:

    No, Tolstoy has to be the horizontal one because his name (with just one stress shift) means fat.

    (Will the offering up of such specialized knowledge redeem me after my misspelling of cemetery? Cheri, please correct it before CQ takes a sharpie to it, or, even worse, disdains to take a sharpie to it because of my chromosomal status.)

  6. Cheri says:

    Just in time, jenny.

    • Cyberquill says:

      Nice job. While you were at it, you might as well have nuked the comma after (blog reading). However, for chromosomal reasons, I shall refrain from “taking a sharpie” to it. I hate it when they start bawling uncontrollably.

  7. jenny says:

    I knew this was coming next. Damn. I may cry, but it will be a controlled event.

    (Alternate, sisterhood-style ending to this story: Cheri “nukes” the comma, deletes this message, and reponds: “What comma?”)

    • Access to your blog is blocked because you seem to have been infected with some malware. The source seems to be, and AS21844(theplanet).
      Hope you read this since I have no other way to warn you.
      My apologies to Cheri for using her blog in this way.

  8. Man of Roma says:

    Tolstoy was to me the best novelist ever. I wonder if by horizontal you mean Tolstoy provided vast pictures of an entire society, while Dostoyevsky was more introspective, psychological, hence vertical. If this is what you mean I would say also Tolstoy was very introspective since his characters have great depth, although his introspection is totally different, more sunny, or positive, I would say.
    I dislike Dostoyevsky’s dark introspection.

    • zeusiswatching says:

      I will probably blabber about this topic in a little while. Not on Cheri’s blog. I enjoy both authors greatly. Tolstoy wrote my favorite novel, but Fyodor is my philosopher and theologian of choice and Crime and Punishment one of works that deeply changed me, I don’t really claim for the better.

  9. Man of Roma says:

    And, I didn’t know Paul was your ‘liege’ 😉

  10. Cheri says:

    You have to go back and follow the story and Paul’s wonderful comments.

    He’s a great guy ( as my dad used to call such men).

    And regarding your accurate interpretation of my horizontal/vertical sense, I sometimes lament that I am not an expert on anything except maybe directing Judge Blah to fix this and fix that, do this and do that…tee hee.


  11. Man of Roma says:

    Yes, Paul is a great guy.

  12. Man of Roma says:

    Cheri, you underestimate yourself, and, yes, I forgot to wish your mummy a good guarigione.

  13. Chourou says:

    Hi,Cheri! I’m back. Long time no see.
    Well I guess I kind of am not able to leave any proper comment out here but I’d say I like this short essay and would like to mention that Dostoyevsky gave me a great impact to read. I like “The Idiot” best.

  14. Cheri says:

    I love it when you stop in Chourou. What impact did “The Idiot” make on you?
    Hope all is well with you and your family in Japan.

  15. jenny says:

    I imagine that you have read the recent Apollo/Dionysus post on the HB. It has made me think about two famous scenes in War and Peace (Natasha’s dance and Natasha at the opera) in a new way.

    We generally think of these scenes as expressions of Tolstoy’s admiration for all things Russian (Natasha’s spontaneous peasant dancing) and uneasiness about European cultural impositions (the opera).

    Both, though, are explorations of Dionysus. And Tolstoy concludes: Our homegrown Dionysian experiences are wholesome and good for the soul; your foreign Dionysus is phony and ends in a mésalliance with that good-for-nothing Kuragin.

    Maybe when you add foreignness to a Dionysian outlet it becomes super-Dionysian.

  16. Cheri says:

    I can’t wait for Zeus to read your comment.

    Russian peasant dancing is good for the soul.
    When I was a little scrub, I joined an adult square-dancing group at the local grammar school. At the end of several hours of this geometric swing, my little heart was bursting with Dionysian spirit!

    Then, I’d come home to Apollo, who made me sit down, practice the piano, and do my homework.

  17. Chourou says:

    I believe Dostoyevsky tried to illustrate a perfectly pure,innocent, good man through the story of “The Idiot” . Such kind of character might show us that this world where we’re living in is too much filled with lousy,awful. evil, contradictive, and unfair things to get along with, and how idiot we are, in contrast to his purity and honesty. That’s my point. and I’d say it looks like kind of “Forrest Gump”. What do you think,Cheri? (
    Oh, I’m afraid it looks so poor writing in English, excuse me!)

  18. Cheri says:

    Forrest Gump, among other innocent characters in world literature, is a perfect comparison.

    How about Lenny in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men? That last scene at the river where George is going to shoot Lenny, to prevent the mob and its violence/idiocy/cruelty from taking over.

    There’s a song from the Coen Brothers, Brother Where Art Thou called something like Stay on the Sunny side…, I try to do that but sometimes it’s hard.

    You might like visiting Richard’s blog very much. Click on the link from his comments.

    By the way, never worry about your English. I love hearing from you.

  19. Chourou says:

    Good morning,Cheri! It’s 7 am JST(UTC+9hrs) Wednesday.
    Well,definitly! I see your point.
    I guess I lmyself ike Steinbeck and his works. And I tell you actually I’ ve started The Grapes of Wrath which bought in Guam this summer 😉

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Chourou,

      I love it when you drop by and leave your energetic comments. They help revive me these days.

      I am so excited you are reading The Grapes of Wrath. You know, I taught that book for 16 years.

      What were you doing in Guam this summer? and what were your observations?

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