Archive for May, 2010

I just now — 2 minutes ago — finished reading War and Peace. All 1455 thin paperback pages of it. Sigh.

As I’ve mentioned, I started this little undertaking in September 2009, and have been progressing in dribs and drabs, mostly at bedtime, ever since. I’ve carried this doorstop with me to Argentina and Brazil and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Moscow, Russia, poking along. In October, just after I started, Philip Roth said, in an interview with The Daily Beast, “If you read a novel in more than two weeks you don’t read the novel really,” so put an asterisk by the accomplishment — I’ll take it any way I can get it.

The last 50 pages or so was a king-hell slog. Tolstoy completely abandons the plot of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia (the French had been beat back already, so…), leaving Pierre and the various Rostovs to their semi-restored estates, then embarks on a long and dense essayistic consideration of  free will, power, and the nature of history. Sample chapter-opening sentence:

History examines the manifestations of man’s free will in connection with the external world in time and in dependence on cause, that is, defines that free will by the laws of reason, and therefore history is a science only insofar as this free will is defined by these laws.”

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that he disagrees with Neil Peart.

In keeping with this blog’s frequently obscured raison d’être, a certain personal peversity, and the aforementioned homestretch slog, I seriously considered not finishing it, just setting it aside at, say, page 1449, and in fact I saved the last chapters for days, savoring the unreached end of it, trying to decide which, ultimately, would be more interesting: to be able to say yes, I’ve read War and Peace, or to say, at some imaginary dinner party in my head, yeah, I read the first 1449 pages, but then I got bored and quit. I’m pretty sure the second would have been more interesting, but ultimately I just couldn’t help myself. And so now it’s over. And I can turn my attention back to the most dissimilar literary experience I can imagine: reading Game Change on my iPhone.

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