Friday, September 21, 2012

Suck It, Tolstoy: Reminscing Reading War and Peace

Last year at this time, I was just over 400 pages into War and Peace. I thought of that randomly this morning, as today is the last day of summer and I think of War and Peace as the anti-summer read. Last year, I started it on Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer. Make sense, right?

And so, this morning, I sat for a few minutes reminiscing about conquering that monster — it's probably not unlike some people reminiscing about climbing Mount Everest or swimming the English Channel (not to be overly dramatic.) But I remembered the following post I had a lot of fun writing for Book Riot soon after finishing — it's a sort of running diary of my random thoughts while reading. Enjoy! 

Sept. 5 — It’s Labor Day. I’m a little hungover after a rare Sunday night out, but I’d promised myself all summer I’d start today, Labor Day being the unofficial end of summer, and War and Peace being the polar opposite of a summer read. Makes sense, right? Let’s do this! Bring it, Leo! Confidence: 100 percent!

Sept. 6 — Kit, a Book Riot contributor, and War and Peace conqueror, leaves a comment on my Goodreads page congratulating me on starting the novel, but castigating me for the translation I’ve chosen. Some British wanker named Anthony Briggs translated the version I’m reading. Apparently, that’s a bad thing. I decide to keep going. Confidence: 75 percent.

Sept. 12 — One of the main characters, Pierre, and his buddies play a drinking game whereby a fellow has to balance himself on a window, pound a bottle of booze, and not fall out. Later, they’re all faced, and they tie a policeman to a bear and throw him in the river. This book is speaking to me. Confidence: 100 percent.

Sept. 28 — I’m on page 441. There’s a lot lately about a Russian officer named Denisov, who talks like Elmer Fudd. All his r’s are w’s. So if he were exhorting his buddy Rostov, he’d say “Wostov wules!” as opposed to “Rostov rules!” I spend more time thinking about the linguistic technicalities of how, precisely, this quirk would’ve manifested itself in Russian than I reasonably (or sanely) should. For three seconds, I consider learning Russian to understand better. But I don’t. Confidence: 70 percent.

Oct. 13 — I’ve slowed to an absolute crawl. I’ve only read 90 pages in the last two weeks. But I did traverse the first major “war” scene, which wasn’t bad. Need to refocus. This novel needs more sex. It should be War and Peace and Sex. That would rule. Confidence: 50 percent.

Nov. 1 — And here we go…Sex-kitten Natasha is questioning her engagement to the dashing Prince Andrey, and thinking of running off with another dude. I kind of have a crush on her. Confidence: 75 percent

Nov. 13 — Finally, the good part! I’m on page 911 and Napoleon’s invading Russia — and Mr. Tolstoy’s giving him an all-time tongue-lashing, just barely stopping short of saying outright that he has a small penis. Good stuff. Confidence: 85 percent.

Nov. 24 — It’s Thanksgiving Day, and I’m not watching football. Instead, I’m reading War and Peace. You better never question my literary credentials ever again. I’m on page 1,195. Rounding third and heading for home. Confidence: 95 percent.

Dec. 5 — Holy shit, I’m finished! Well, to be precise, I’m finished with the main story.There’s still about a hundred pages of epilogue. That should be no big deal, though. It’ll just wrap up the loose ends and I’ll be done. Done! Confidence: 100 percent!

Dec. 7 — Holy shit, that was brutal! The last hundred pages (two epilogues) were an absolute test of wills — Tolstoy wraps up the characters’ stories eight years in the future, and then spends another 40 pages philosophizing on history and war and whatnot. It was rough going. Of course, the last bit has to be the most difficult. But now I’m done. DONE!

Jan. 3 — I’ve spent a month thinking about this novel, and with the exception of this pithy blog post, I’ve been unable to come up with anything even remotely intelligent to say about the book. I need to read it again, I guess. Anyone else in?


  1. Now I'm totally terrified of War and Peace (Again? Still? More so than I was? Not sure which.). I am 50 pages from the end of Anna Karenina and thinking to myself, "Ok, I can do this!" But the idea of the last 100 pages as pulling teeth... that's like running 10 miles only to have the last mile be all uphill.

    So... is it worth it?

  2. Read it again?! Are you crazy after what you just went through. I enjoyed your diary of random thoughts on it, funny!

  3. Thanks so much for this great post! I laughed and laughed I don't need to spend my precious reading time with War and Peace!

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