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Monday, November 12, 2007

Assignment: "War and Peace"

My reading patterns are hardly fixed, but in general I read more serious works in the winter. There's something about snuggling on the couch with my favorite sweater, blanket and book that lends itself to meatier material. Weekends seem not quite so hectic and therefore afford more time for digesting big themes.

Yesterday afternoon, I made my choice for this winter. My general rule is that books don't get shelved until they've been read (hence the stacks found in my bedroom and my office). I've read most of the books in the various bookshelves of my home with one big exception.

Sitting behind the glass hutch of an antique writing desk is a yellowed copy of Count Leo Tolstoy's, "War and Peace: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume." I picked it up a few years ago at a library book sale (one of the best sources of good reading material).

It's inscribed: "To Bob, With Love, Mother & Dad (Christmas 1960)." I'm not so sure Bob ever bothered to read the book. The pages are not dog-eared, passages are not underlined and it displays no evidence of having been read or even handled.

But it soon will.

In the absence of a book club at which I can openly discuss the work, I've decided to write about my progress and thoughts here. I do have some preliminary thoughts.

1) Size alone does not intimidate. My Modern Library version is 1,136 pages of tiny type. Besides I read Hermione Lee's epic biography of Edith Wharton this summer.

2) Russian themes do not intimidate. I've long been a fan of Russian literature: Chekov short stories, "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," "Dr. Zhivago," "Crime and Punishment" and, of course, "Anna Karenina."

3) Sweeping landscapes, war and politics, social mores and human love and folly make for fascinating storytelling and I do love a good story.

So I'm off, having read the first three chapters during which I'm trying to figure out who are all the main characters. If you'd like to join me in reading, I'd be happy to host discussion at Creative Ink. If not, I'll still be writing about and sharing along the way. Or if you've read the book and want to share your thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.

Happy reading!

(Note: The cover shown here is not the same as my book. I got it from Amazon because my copy is too fat for my scanner.)


virtuallori said...

Sorry, but I'll be the fly on the wall for this one -- not nearly enough time in my schedule for a big read this year. The last doorstop I picked up -- Infinite Jest -- took me six months (!!!!!) to finish, and four years later I'm still trying to decide if it was worth it or not.

Wendy Hoke said...

You certainly have a lot on your plate with the move and all. :)

I hope you'll check in on my progress. Wouldn't Ms. Strawser be proud? It was that darned Senior Honors Seminar class that sparked my interest in Russian literature.

Still have my copy of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" with Wendy Lewis written in what was then my lovely handwriting (before college and a career involving rapid note-taking ruined my penmanship).

virtuallori said...

I think I finally donated Ivan on this last round of shelf clearouts. Then again, maybe he'll show up in one of these boxes; I don't recall. That was a great class.