Tolstoy Therapy

If you follow the site know of my love for most things Tolstoy. I was surfing the web for something new and found this wonderfully readable site and recommend it as a nice place to hang out.

The site is titled Tolstoy Therapy and is written by Lucy, an English Lit and Spanish undergrad. She writes that,

I believe that literature is an incredibly useful tool to support good mental health, and I know for certain that it has helped me considerably.

She advocates a kind of literary introspection called bibliotherapy which she says is

all about feeling good with books: reading great novels, poems and stories to help us through difficult situations and feelings.

She recommends Lots and Lots of books for a myriad of emotional states. The recommended volumes come in all shapes and sizes and topics. Under the heading Finding Inspiration she lists both The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Great Expectations, two books I wouldn’t expect to find side by side on any shelf. Feeling low? You might read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius or Montaigne’s essays  or you can try the new autobiography of Stephen Fry titled The Fry Chronicles (which I intend now to read.)

tolstoy2Archives date back to 2012 so she’s been at this for a while and the number of posts shows it. Posts are mostly topical and mix advice and observations about well being, books, and personal growth. Kind of like self-help for the lit crowd. There is a lot of really good and thought provoking reading here. And lists! For people like me who add entries to a list just so I can cross them off? This is list nirvana. She reads and writes on purpose and manages to squeeze meaning out of what appears at first glance to be simple prose. I admit that I love this kind of reading. I simply cannot read without pen and notebook and my old books are marked up with conversations between me and the author. I will be visiting here often.

And how does Tolstoy fit into my post? I came here looking for Tolstoy’s Rules for Life. I just packed thirteen boxes of books – including my copy of Troyat’s biography of Tolstoy – and was looking for a reference to the rules which she lists here. Before you judge him, remember that The Count grew up in the early nineteenth century as a naive and idealist Russian aristocrat under the thumb of Russian Orthodoxy. What did the eighteen year-old Count have to say?

Here’s a chestnut: Do only one thing at a time. Good advice. I’m less and less convinced that multitasking adds value to anything. I say do one thing at a time, do it well, and do it through to completion. More wisdom from the one-day Greatest Novelist of All Time? Limit visits to brothels to no more than twice per month. I can live with that. Aging didn’t hone his list making skills. At twenty-five he expanded the list along the same themes: Help those less fortunate was one addition. Avoid lust through hard work was another. If tolstoy sonyayou read the excellent biography by Troyat or the biography of Tolstoy’s long suffering wife Sonya (by Anne Edwards) it’s no secret that Tolstoy was a poor juggler of competing desires for holiness with that of naked women for his entire life.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with competing feelings and are confused about your human condition, I suggest – as always – a few hundred pages of Tolsoy. Or you can visit Tolstoy Therapy for something more tailored for just what ails you.


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