Monday, June 30, 2008

For the Love of Figure Skating

Today yours truly stepped on to the ice for the first time since I quit my childhood skating career, nearly twenty years ago. I always loved skating and I took lessons when I was a kid. But, as the demands became greater, and it was becoming clear that I was NOT the next Kristi Yamaguchi, I quit, and focused more on school. (Just look where that got me! Too many years of education and too much debt). Anyhoo, today was my first time back on the ice and it was absolutely, postively, exhilirating. I love figure skating, it's one of my favorite things. All that said, when I first stepped on to the ice I could barely stand up. It started to come back a bit during the hour or so in which I skated, and it was absolutely, tremendously fun. I'm headed back out tomorrow.

So, in honor of my return to the rink, we'll focus on something tangentially related to my figure skating "career."

Today's Book:

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

One of my favorite routines in the recent history of US figure skating is Nicole Bobek's free program to the Dr. Zhivago theme. The music, the costuming, and of course, the skating, were absolutely beautiful. So, two years ago, I took it upon myself to read the book. There's a bit more to it than just figure skating. I love Russian history, took several Russian history classes in college, and all of them used a significant amount of literature. So, I already knew that I liked to read the Russians. But reviewing a classic is always difficult business. Most people are likely familiar with the storyline, if only from the Omar Sharif film. Pasternak tells the story of an elite doctor and his family whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the Russian Revolution. During the revolution Zhivago loses his connections to his family and his wealth. But weaving throughout this undeniably tragic tale is the real focus, Zhivago's blossoming relationship with a young woman, Lara. The two come in and out of contact during the war, due more to the vagaries of circumstance than to careful planning, knowledge, or ability to execute travel plans. What results is a deeply tender and moving relationship formed in the crucible of wartime. Pasternak had a clear political agenda in Zhivago, to show the cruelty and violence of the Bolshevik regime, and to highlight the dangers of a corrupted regime. The suffering and misery of the Russian people are clearly acute, and Pasternak presents a vibrant portrait of life in Russia at war. In many ways this reads like so many Russian classics-- deep moral themes, dense plot structure, and a brilliant recreation of environment. It's difficult to review a work of great literature, but I much enjoyed Zhivago. I got the message, I felt the pathos, and I soaked up the Russian environment.

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