2006: HBO's ANNA KARENINA (Essay)


unhappy in their own ways

Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends.”: in an ever-growing tradition of family narratives, pointless deaths and random acts of tragedy challenge both the dynamics of chance, fate and coincidence – and the established structures of storytelling.
An examination of life, loss and dysfunctional families in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under.

In fiction, there is no such thing as a meaningless death. For narratives take place inside a densely constructed netting of cause and effect: things happen for a reason. Everything can, or, most of the time even has to be deciphered, translated into a philosophical or socio-political statement of both the author and his times. Thus, the fable – the series of events an author puts his protagonists through – often is read like the very same moralistic, inspirational allegory the term got its’ name from: a fable. It may sound almost too trite to write it out, but approaching a narrative, we automatically expect it to make sense. And, by interpreting it, we probe the plot for a message (or, at least, a central question): a second story, an elaborate statement, that, in retrospect, reduces plot and character to mere illustrations of a line of thought that is not explicitly verbalized.
And truth is: it is there. Always. As blurry, subtle or incomprehensive it might appear at first glance, behind every fable there is an author’s intention, his personal belief system, there automatically is – in his selection, emphasis and style, and in the way his work mirrors the reality that sparked it – a wide array of individual and cultural paradigms. And while there is an ever-growing notion about the openness of a work of art, and the cultural studies’ argument that subversive audiences defy the predominant reading to construct their own, subversive meanings, the conception that all narratives can be raided for a set of values, ideologies and deeper meanings buried underneath the plot is undisputed.
Alas, things get thoroughly messy as soon as the idea of randomness, plain chance, comes in: things that just happen, for no higher (that is: meta-fictional) reason. Once these incidents – deaths, childbirths, illnesses – that can’t (and, what is more: shouldn’t, even!) be interpreted occur, the whole act of understanding texts is put at odds. Of course, what I am not arguing here that interpreting a text is misleading, or futile. Or that every story should be understood as a procession of topsy-turvical, and ultimately meaningless, coincidences. Also, I don’t want to propagate the idea that there is a dichotomy, with moral-loaded, easily apprehensible texts opposing more subtle and open narratives that offer a multitude of possible readings.
But I think – and while this may be a very common thought, it has, for all its’ blatant obviousness, still managed to evade further investigation – that every time disaster strikes in narratives, every time the protagonists are faced with ‘existential’ matters such as death, childbirth or illness, we have to question anew what can, should – and, most importantly, shouldn’t – consequently be derivated about both the dynamics of the novel’s ideological microcosm and the perception of the everyday reality that sparked that microcosm. It is then, during these moments of chance and randomness, when everything – not only our conception of narratives and hermeneutics, but our conception of reality itself – has to be re-evaluated.

In 2003, when the TV series Dawson’s Creek ended with a two-part finale set five years in the future, actress Michelle Williams expressed her anger over the demise of her character, Jen Lindley. A crestfallen, promiscuous New York high school girl, Jen was transferred to rural Massachusetts in the pilot episode, to live with her grandmother. During the show’s six seasons, she left her rampant sexuality behind, turn mild-mannered and rather tame, and, in the undepicted five-year-period, got married, pregnant and divorced. The final episode had her dying from a congenital heart disease. “I had some reservations about a girl who went through hard times, sexually speaking, having a baby and then dying”, Williams explained in an interview (Independent Daily, 11/13/03). “So I thought it sent a bad message – to kill the slut once she’s redeemed herself with a child.”
That message may not have been intended by the series’ creators, but after killing off Jen’s equally debauched best friend Abby in season 2 (following a drinking binge, Abby fell off a pier and drowned), it is hard not to read Dawson’s Creek as a commentary on adolescent’s moral conduct: whenever tragedy strikes in the characters’ lives, there is an odd feeling of “So they finally got what they deserved”.
This kind of ‘consistent’ death is not confined to TV melodrama, though: with adulterous Albertine dead, and stand-offish Gilberte revealed to be both overweight and unhappily married to secretly homosexual windbag Saint-Loup, the final chapters of Proust’s Recherche du temps perdu leave the characters in quite improbable, but strangely satisfying places.
And whether narratives are deliberately constructed that way – as in melodrama and most of romance fiction, where the constraints of genre establish a number of unwritten “rules” (gradually turning into clichés), they have certain actions invariably lead to foreseeable reactions – or whether the author actively tries to fight these pre-established patterns (as in, say, most of Haruki Murakami and Paul Auster), in narratives, every incident is read as a consequence, the logic upshot of a character’s development (or lack thereof). Thus, whenever fiction has someone dying – no matter how foreseeable or consequential the circumstances, and no matter how consistent with the narrative’s inherent logic –, we are asked to re-evaluate that person’s choices, beliefs and moral concepts. And when we conclude that their death was arbitrary, senseless, it is equalled with poor storytelling craftsmanship. For death has to make sense.
Consequently, we have developed two very different sets of expectations. An absurd double standard, regarding the dynamics of life and fiction: in order to be “true to life”, fictional universes have to unveil all the cogwheels of their probability’s mechanisms, provide us with extensive close-ups of every butterfly that could cause a hurricane later on. But, in narrowing down these utterly complex causal systems, the logical microcosms of narratives oversimplify reality, turn it into precious miniature clockworks that can easily be overlooked, comprehended, and even calculated.
To make things worse, there is not even the idea of a common vocabulary that enables us to really assess these mechanisms from a hermeneutics’ perspective: We neither acknowledge that the “reality” we are searching for in fiction is completely different from our reality, nor do we know how to evaluate this surrogate reality without resorting to emotions, praising fiction for its’ “grip” or “slice-of-life”-qualities. And as long as the fable’s inherent logic is working, we detect realism in it – no matter how absurd the circumstances. But in the same time, every chance element of the plot, every random aspect of the fable, is searched for hidden meaning. Thus, the author becomes some sort of surrogate God, and is closely observed throughout his work for what he – the embodiment of the novel’s “fate” or “chance” – chooses to do with his protagonists.
But regarding these choices, even critics as elaborate as E.M. Forster have failed to explain what it is that gives them artistic value: what separates a “well done” random event from one that may be just as realistic, but still contrived. In his 1927 collection Aspects of the Novel, Forster argues that action has to originate in the characters, only to affect them in new ways later on, while the characters themselves have to be consistent and understandable throughout the narrative. The fable, on the other hand, has to surprise, even to shock. So, whenever fable and characters collide, the audience has to be astounded, only to realize later on: “Yeah, that was the right thing to happen” – but what is the right thing to happen?
We are constantly weighing out if these random, unforeseeable elements of the fable – the author’s choices, presenting themselves as mere coincidences, and thus being utterly senseless within the narrative – make sense. But how could they? Or how could they not? When, within the story’s logic, we are forced to simply accept them as tragic mishaps? Whenever we critically approach a work of fiction, we demand that it makes sense in a way life never could. And, even more paradoxically: if it actually does, we call it “realistic”. All the while, we cannot even verbalize our criteria more precise than “Yeah, that was the right thing to happen”.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy’s 1875-77 novel, takes a different approach to this dilemma. Set in Moscow, St. Petersburg and various rural estates in the Pokrowskoje region in the mid-1870s, the novel introduces us to three families whose lives are interwoven by both chance and affection. But despite the famous opening sentence – “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in it’s own way.” – Tolstoy does not present us with one nuclear family, spanning children, parents (and grandparents), but focuses on the relationships of half a dozen grown-up characters, raging from their early twenties to their mid-forties, with children and elders reduced to supporting roles.
Still, it is not the rather simple main plot, with beautiful, unhappily married St. Petersburg societé Anna falling in love with Vronsky, a demure army officer, that makes the novel so valuable for this examination. For all its’ complexity, Anna Karenina’s set-up resembles many other 18th-century novels focusing on adultery (Fontane’s Effi Briest, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, most of Maupassant). No: we have seen compromised women before, and while many other fictional heroines lack the accuracy and vigours of Tolstoy’s portrayal, it is not the conflict of two star-crossed lovers struggling against society that deserves further acknowledgement. Instead, it’s the way the story unfolds, the fact that every turning point of Anna Karenina seems erratic, arbitrary, accidental. The main force driving this novel is not its’ ensemble – but sheer randomness.
Examples are over-abundant: The opening has Anna’s brother’s marriage at stake after his wife Dolly stumbles upon compromising letters he wrote to the family’s former governess. When, simultaneously, the second major storyline opens with brooding landholder Levin proposing marriage to Dolly’s sister Kitty, it merely is a matter of bad timing, for Kitty is becoming increasingly infatuated with Vronsky and may have said yes if Levin had asked her a few days earlier. And finally, it is a chance meeting fifty pages into the novel that brings Vronsky and Anna together for the first time.
Throughout the narrative, conversations between the characters spring from un-planned encounters and sudden changes of mind, as do arguments, break-ups, even marriages. And while Tolstoy maintains a strong coherency in his characters’ personalities, their relationships are troubled by violent mood swings and estrangements. Rather than using his ensemble like chess pieces, with every move automatically resulting in a number of consecutive new possibilities, the characters of Anna Karenina often find themselves in veins and places they could not have foreseen. Nothing seems to be fated or inevitable here, for every pairing, argument or demise comes with a strong element of randomness: the most ordinary of situations suddenly lapse into scenarios of utmost alienation.
Here is Anna, peacefully strolling her estate’s veranda, waiting for Vronsky: “Standing still, and looking at the tops of the aspen trees waving in the wind, with their freshly washed, brightly shining leaves in the cold sunshine, she knew that they would not forgive her, that everyone and everything would be merciless to her now as was that sky, that green. And again she felt that everything was split in two in her soul. ‘I mustn’t, mustn’t think’, she said to herself.” (Anna, 3-15) But not only the guilt-ridden heroine finds herself surprised with her own reactions: After Kitty gives birth to his child, “Levin sighed with mortification. This splendid baby excited in him no feeling but disgust and compassion. It was not at all the feeling he had looked forward to.” (Anna, 7-16) And later on, when Dolly, invited by Anna and Vronsky to their summerhouse, tries to relax from her motherhood duties, her mood is suddenly shaken: “All that day it seemed to her as though she were acting in a theatre with actors cleverer than she, and that her bad acting was spoiling the whole performance.” (Anna, 7-22)
Watching these characters act through their mood swings and half-admitted apprehensions creates an atmosphere that is fundamentally different from the chess-like set-ups of other ensemble pieces. Anna Karenina, for all the psychological meticulousness and coherency of its’ personage, resembles a game of billiard rather than chess, played onboard of a ship that is crossing rough waters, with all the balls being slightly off-kilter.
At the same time though, the novel uses subtle foreshadowings and hints that the characters themselves are unaware of. In his “Lectures on Russian Literature”, Nabokov studies the scene of Vronsky’s and Anna’s first (chance) meeting, that takes place at a St. Petersburg train station’s platform after the train has run over a railway guard: “With an artistic force and subtlety unknown to Russian letters before his day”, Nabokov writes (175), “Tolstoy introduces the theme of violent death simultaneously with that of violent passion in Vronsky’s and Anna’s life: the fatal accident of a railway employee, coincident with their first meeting becomes a grim and mysterious link between them through Vronsky’s quietly helping the dead man’s family merely because Anna happens to think of it. Married ladies of fashion should not accept presents from strange gentlemen, but here is Vronsky making Anna the gift, as it were, of that railway guard’s death.” A chance acquaintance following a chance death, setting the stage for a love affair that will end at another train station, under the wheels of another train.
Yet, despite all the toy trains and strange nightmares strewn throughout the novel’s 1200 pages, Anna’s suicide doesn’t appear fated, or inevitable, because the whole fable of Anna Karenina is deeply rooted in the concept of chance, and the way it affects its’ characters’ psyches. Everyone in the novel is obsessed with their inner feelings: moody Lewin, fighting his sense of nihilism invoked by the death of his brother; nervous Dolly, struggling to maintain her happy-go-lucky mother goose façade; and, most of all, Anna. Wikipedia describes Anna’s dillemma as the “tragedy [that] she could neither be completely honest nor completely false, showing a Hamlet-like inner conflict that eventually drives her to suicide.” The one antidote Tolstoy provides, if not for strokes of fate and unlucky accidents (these he seems to want his personage to face in the placid, pragmatic and reasonable way Kitty’s chance acquaintance-turned-confidee Warwara promotes), then all the more for the alienation that is so quick to happen even between lovers and members of a family, is communication. For, when describing Dolly’s anger over her husband’s infidelity, the opening paragraph depicts family itself as some sort of accidental assemblage: “Every person in the house felt that there was no sense in their living together, and that the stray people brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members of the family and household of the Oblonskys.” (Anna, 1-1)
While openness isn’t automatically rewarded by Tolstoy in the same way the Lindley character was punished for her premature sexuality in Dawson’s Creek, in the end, Kitty and Levin are the only characters who have succesfully learned to communicate their fears, desires and anxieties to each other, and thus find themselfes in positions they feel comfortable with. While Dolly, having decided to ignore her husband’s escapades for the sake of their children, is stuck in the very same place as before.
In the epilogue of Anna Karenina‘s Swiss edition, Austrian author Egon Friedell further analyses these narrative choices (or, rather, Tolstoy’s lack thereof, as the novel features a remarkably loose fable, driven mostly by chance or circumstances instead of the character’s interaction): “The work of art is already there, but noone can see it. The artist comes in and unveils it. His whole achievment lies in his ability to let us see the things in a way nobody sees them, that is: in the way they are. In Anna Karenina, one never senses a human being or a director plotting the events, or an alien hand toying with the storyline. It is as if life itself wrote down this novel.”
Pompous as that may sound, Friedell has a point here, for not once did Tolstoy use an act of fate to comment on the morals of one of his characters: “Anna Karenina is too good a book to patronize wives for marital missteps, and to state that Tolstoy is treating her conflict from a strict moralistic’s perspective is simply not true. [...] All he says is: here is a person suffering. And if there is one thing he wants us to learn, it is the unpredictability, inconceivabilty, yes, the pointlessness of existence.” (Anna Swiss Ed., 1240-1242)
Yeah, that was the right thing to happen”? No. It is this very sense of closure, retroactive signification, that Tolstoy denies his readership. Anna Karenina is one of the still rare examples of a narrative that manages to leave behind the mock-realistic cause-and-effect-mechanisms of mainstream fiction, to enter a fare more chaotic and unsettling realm instead: that of the real, instead of the realistic. Anna’s suicide is not bound to happen. And happy or unhappy alike, the families Tolstoy presents us with are facing acts of tragedy that are at once far more pointless and far more complex than the melodramatic incidents of commonplace fiction, with their lulling, anesthetic and often blatantly didactic denouments.

124 years after Tolstoy introduced us to Anna Karenina’s dysfunctional family circle, U.S. pay-per-view channel HBO launched Six Feet Under, a drama series that continued both the tradition of gritty family narratives and the questioning of fate and randomness in fictional realities.
When I as thirteen years old”, Alan Ball, the show’s creator, writes in the introduction essay to the series’ companion Six Feet Under. Better Living Through Dead, “my sister Mary Ann was driving me to my piano lesson when she pulled out from a blind intersection into the path of an oncoming car. It slammed into her side of our 1973 Fort Pinto, breaking her neck and killing her instantly and cleanly slicing my life in two: everything before the accident, and everything after. And the brief, eternal instant between those two lives where old, familiar possibilities end forever, and new, unimagined possibilities are painfully born.” (Ball 6)
The series itself starts with a fatal car accident, too. In the frenzy of pre-Christmas traffic, the hearse of Los Angeles funeral director Nathaniel Fisher collides with a bus, killing the patriarch and putting the lives of his wife and children on hold: carefree 35-year old Nate, who is working for a Seattle food co-op and initially has planned to stay only for the holidays; his closeted and uptight 31-year old brother David, working for their father; 17-year old Claire, a social misfit with artistic aspirations; and edgy, post-menopausal mother Ruth. Opening with a “death of the week” (often incidental or bordering on the grotesque, like a housewife working in the garden, only to get hit from a chunk of frozen toilet water that fell from an airplane), the show’s 63 episodes, spanning five years of the comings and goings in the Fisher household-cum-funeral home, shift violently between black comedy and bleak drama. The series is deliberately edgy, both in terms of language, drug abuse and sexuality, and concerning its’ subject matter: death, loss and family.
And just like with Tolstoy, it is the miscarrying communication attempts, the constant changes of perspective between the family members and the constant surfacing of new layers of repressed feelings that make out Six Feet Under‘s fable.
There are two scenes in Anna Karenina that are told from the point of view of Levin’s dog, and these may very well be the only two scenes that are too grotesque for even Alan Ball. Otherwise, Six Feet Under does everything to thwart the audience’s expectations: wounded, borderline characters that constantly snap at each other, gory close-up shots of bodies in various degrees of decay, moral dilemmas too messed up to be solved within the run of an episode (and, more often than not, within in the run of a lifetime). And, most important: tragedy, striking when least expected.
On a formal level, abrupt cuts, a minimum of score music and the subtle camera work (as Dana Heller (Reading SFU 77) points out: “The action is played in wide shots, a visual element that emphasizes the human insignificance and existential isolation of characters.”) further strengthen Six Feet Under’s emotional undercurrents. And at the same time, all these deliberate artistic irritations obscure the way we, as an audience, should feel about the characters’ actions. Basically, it’s a high dosage of drama – that never comes with any useful instruction leaflet.
Critics have focused on these ambivalent, open aspects of the series, declaring that “the Six Feet Under narrative operates as a liminal space and about a liminal time. In anthropological terms liminality derives from the Latin word limen, meaning “threshold”; it is a transitory place which is neither here nor there. Following the death of an individual, it threatens to erode the separation between mortal, quotidian existence and a frightening “other world”, transcendental plane or immaterial existence. And is in this transitional sphere in which Six Feet Under operates.” (Rob Turnock, Reading SFU 39).
While this concept of liminality nicely illustrates Ball’s notion of “the brief, eternal instant between two lives” he emphasized in his autobiographic note, and while this “brief, eternal” instant, in many respects, is stretched out into the whole of Six Feet Under’s five seasons, with one mourning period sluggishly flowing in another one, sparked by a new tragedy, this liminality can still be misleading. Because just like within the coarse world of Tolstoy, there is no “frightening other world” or “transcendental plane”, no metaphysical security net spanning Six Feet Under’s inner reality. The surreal elements of the series fulfil an artistic reason instead: whenever Nate, David ore Claire have a conversation with their dead father, or an occasional chats with the “dead of the week”, there is no spiritual background to it. Nor are these sudden reappearances of the dead mere post-modern frills to further increase the show’s “edgy-ness”. In Six Feet Under, there are no ghosts – only personal demons.
But of these, there are plenty: projecting their fears into bizarre imaginary scenarios, the Fisher family’s monologues often pose as dialogues with dead people. The end of the fourth season, for example, has David standing in a window frame, pondering a recent incident when a hitchhiker held him at gunpoint and threatened to kill him. Consequently, David is suffering from post-traumatic stress, when his dead father appears by his side: “You hang to your pain like it means something. Like it’s worth something”, he says. “Well, let me tell you – it’s not worth shit. Let it go! Infinite possibilities, and all he can do is whine!” – “Well, what am I supposed to do?” – “What do you think? You can do anything, you lucky bastard. You’re alive!” (SFU 4x12). A while later, following the sudden death of his brother from a brain malformation, David encounters his late father again: “You’re the one we thought we could lose”, David is told. “What with AIDS, picking up strange men at the side of the road and screwing a whore with no condom – you know, that sort of thing. You’ve been begging for some kind of annihilation your entire life. It’s like some cosmic joke. Your poor mother, she must be going insane! He was her favorite.” (SFU 5x10) Both times, it is David’s psyche we are emerging in – not some ‘other-worldly plane’. And both times, the disturbing qualities of the scene are further complicated by the fact that the “father’s” comments – while David may not be able to admit it to himself at other times – are consistent to both characters.
Once you put a dead body in the room”, Alan Ball says in the Season 1 DVD commentary, “you can talk about anything.” Thus, the liminality of Six Feet Under is not providing any additional (that is: just as fictional) level to the fiction’s reality, but instead, opens it up towards reality. In finding new depictions for anxieties and ugly truths TV has shied away from for more than 50 years, Six Feet Under makes us reflect on the troubled Fisher family not as illustrations of Ball’s personal beliefs about life and death (or, even worse, about his ideas as to who deserves tragedies happening to him, and who doesn’t), but as human beings: the fictional dead bodies are opening up the fictional rooms they are displayed in, enabling these rooms to host broader contexts, more vibrant discourses about chance, coincidences and meaningless deaths. Thus, the liminality lies in Six Feet Under’s ongoing eagerness to create narrative spaces that discourse reality instead of realism.
Why do people have to die?”, a customer asks Nate Fisher a few months after he joined the family business (SFU 1x13) “To make life important”, he answers. A similar line of thought is followed by Levin in Anna Karenina. While his wife is giving birth, Levin remembers the death of his brother one year earlier: “But that had been grief – this was joy. Yet that grief and this joy were alike outside all the ordinary conditions of life; the were loop-holes, as it were, in that ordinary life through which there came glimpses of something sublime.” (Anna 7-8) This insight doesn’t make him any less helpless, though. [Upon his brother’s passing, he had thought that] “for every man, and himself too, there was nothing in store but suffering, death, and forgetfulness, he had made up his mind that life was impossible like that, and that he must either interpret life so that it would not present itself to him as the evil jest of some devil, or shoot himself. But he had not done either, but had gone on living, thinking, and feeling, and had even at that very time married, and had had many joys and had been happy, when he was not thinking of the meaning of life.” (Anna 8-12) “What did this mean? It meant that he had been living rightly, but thinking wrongly.”

While in traditional narratives, deaths are rendered to be “the right thing to happen”, within the liminal spaces created in Anna Karenina or Six Feet Under, the accidental is stripped it’s moral “purpose” (in the series’ final episode, it is Claire, after a series of bad relationships, ongoing drug experiments and an abortion, who happily drives east, to work as a photographer in New York). Death’s prime function in these narratives is not to evaluate the characters’ choices, but to illuminate previously unseen layers of their personalities. The randomness makes us see them in ways we can’t see other fictional characters. That is: as disturbingly full-fledged human beings (pompous as this may sound).
Additionally, the family provides a perfect backdrop for these kind of musings: naturally creating a complex interpersonal history and a multitude of feelings, a family can’t be as easily escaped as as a love affair or a friendship. And finally, with an ensemble heavily triggered by death to rethink their positions in the world and their outlook on life, it takes randomness, pure chance, to transcend this scenario, turn it into something that goes beyond the restrictions of standard storytelling; beyond the limits of morality-haunted, “translatable” fables. Done well – that is: without dictating us what to feel, and without an author and his own beliefs messing around behind the curtains –, stories like Tolstoy’s or Ball’s can replace the hermeutic’s questions (“Why did that happen?”, and: “Was it the right thing to happen?”), with questions closer and more relevant to our own lives:
I cannot help seeing day and night going round and bringing me to death. That is all I see, for that alone is true. All else is false”, Tolstoy writes in his “Confession” (pt. IV), an essay about the times in his life when he shared Levin’s anxieties. Pondering his family, he continues: “Why should they live? Why should I love them, guard them, bring them up, or watch them? That they may come to the despair I feel, or else be stupid? Loving them, I cannot hide the truth from them: each step in knowledge leads them to the truth. And the truth is death.” (Later on though, he found a way to escape these questions, after embraced Christian faith.)
I’m not interested in writing characters who figure it out, and get it right, because I feel like that’s too simplistic”, Alan Ball concludes his five years of Six Feet Under (Havrilesky/Salon.com, 08/20/05), “Then, you’re writing about something that vaguely resembles life instead of writing about life [itself]. Because even if you figure out something, something bigger is going to come along that confuses the hell out of you. […] Life is infinitely complex, and I feel like we live in a culture that really seems to want to simplify it into sound bites and bromides, and that does not work.”
In the cause-and-effects-microcosms of fiction, it does work. But it is high time to not regard these microcosms as successful depictions of full-fledged humans interacting anymore. For it is not answers that we need from fiction, but new ways to invoke old, existential questions. And as soon as literature feigns an answer, tries to make a point on cost of its’ characters, it loses its’ relevance: as soon as we ask ourselves if a fictional death was “the right thing to happen”, we are studying the inner mechanics of narratives again, evading the real questions. Fiction should be about life. The real one, though. Not the tidy miniature version that has all of its’ butterflies neatly in focus.

STEFAN MESCH, born 1983, is a major in Creative Writing and Culture Journalism at the University of Hildesheim, Germany. He works as a freelance literature critic for various media, and attended the Cornell University’s German Department’s postgraduate student conference ‘Amusement Total… Sans Regret!?’ earlier this year. Online portfolio (German) at: www.stefan-mesch.blogspot.com

works cited

Akass, Kim / McCabe, Janet eds.: ‚Reading Six Feet Under’. London / New York: I.B. Taurus 2005.
  • Heller, Dana: “Buried Lives: gothic democracy in Six Feet Under
  • Turnock, Rob: “Death, liminality and transformation in Six Feet Under

Ball, Alan ed.: ‚Six Feet Under. Better Living Through Dead’. New York: Pocket Books 2003.

Forster, E.M.: ‚Ansichten des Romans’ [“Aspects of the Novel”] Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag 1949.

Havrilesky, Heather: ‘An Alan Ball postmortem’ (Salon.com).
archive.salon.com/ent/feature/2005/08/20/alan_ball/index_np.html, 08/20/05.

Hennefield, Maggie: ‘Michelle Williams Interviewed’ (The Independent Daily).
williamscenter.mediablvd.com/media/art_indiedaily03.shtml, 11/13/03.

Nabokov, Vladimir: ‚Lectures on Russian Literature’. Harvest HBJ: Fort Washington 2002.

Tolstoy, Leo: ‚Anna Karenina’. Novel. Translated by Constance Garnett. Project Gutenberg, 2005.

Tolstoy, Leo: ‚Anna Karenina’. Novel. Translated by Arthur Luther. With an epilogoe by Egon Friedell. Zürich: Diogenes Verlag 1985.

Tolstoy, Leo: ‚A Confession’.
worldebooklibrary.com/eBooks/WorldeBookLibrary.com/confessiontolstoy.htm, Project Gutenberg, 2005.

Six Feet Under’. TV series. dir. Alan Ball et al., HBO 2001 – 2005
  • Episode 1x13: “Knock, knock”, dir. Alan Ball, 2001
  • Episode 4x12: “Untitled”, dir. Alan Ball, 2004
  • Episode 5x10: “All alone”, dir. Adam Davidson, 2005