I finished War and Peace the other day. I was thoroughly unmoved. Although the book certainly had its strong points. Tolstoy was examining relatively recent events that shaped his world and he did so with grace. I actually found the War sections of the book more interesting than I thought I would. Regardless, I was more drawn to the Peace parts and the interconnections between various families. At the same time, I didn’t find either topic particularly moving. I much prefer Dostoyevsky's proletariat people to Tolstoy's aristocrats. If you haven’t read this book and plan to please be aware that there are some spoilers ahead. They come very soon in-fact. Stop reading unless you don't care.
In the footnotes of one of the first chapters, I was told that Pierre and Natasha would be the main characters in the book. Knowing how Russian Literature of the period tends to work, I assumed that this meant they would be love interests. I wasn’t surprised to find that the entire book led up to them getting married. The sad thing was that their marriage seemed to ruin both of them as interesting people. However, since they get together at the end of the book, you don’t have to suffer through much of their downfall.
Natasha was a trip in her own right. A beautiful wonderful girl whom everyone loved, she found her stimuli in singing, dresses, boys, and the occasional hunt. She was boy crazy from the beginning and, I believe, was about 9 or so when the book started. I think the boy was at least 16. I don’t really remember; it was thousands of pages ago. I think Pierre was in his late twenties at the beginning of the story. I know that differences in age were a different story in those times and that in some places they still aren’t as big a deal as I think they are. Even so, it grossed me out and made me hope that my supposition that they were to be wed would prove to be false. Throughout the book this girl did nothing but talk about boys, fall in love with Borris, go to balls, fall in love with Andrew, wait for Andrew to return, fall in love with some other Prince whose name I can’t remember but he got limbs cut off and then died, fall into a deep depression because Andrew left her, Reunite with Andrew on his deathbed and rekindle their affection, mourn his death (which was necessary so her brother could marry his sister), and fall in love with/marry Pierre (Andrew’s best friend). Those happenings took about seven hundred pages.
The other eight hundred pages were about the Napoleonic wars. While that information was relatively interesting, I could have read a history book and been spared some of the fluff. Then again, I wouldn’t have got the philosophical discussion about the nature of man and the nature of war. The idea that I found the most fun was how the people who plan for and execute wars never are truly in charge of them because victory depends primarily on the mood of the people on the front lines. It is a rather obvious premise, but interesting to explore nonetheless. The discussion of why certain battles were won and others lost was also of interest. Those looking back on history claim to see the planning and foresight that goes into turning the tides of war and tend to give generals too much credit and ignore all the chance occurrences that truly drive the course of action. It made sense to me.
I could have got all that in about three hundred pages or so. Maybe four if I want a lot of detail. No matter, I’m done now and I never have to read it again. After my first attempt succumbed to boredom I was determined that my second would be a success. I refuse to be conquered by another piece of literature. I will not have another Ulysses.
I am now reading The Areas of my Expertise, by John Hodgeman (sorry Monica I know I was supposed to give it to you). Something totally made up that I don’t even have to read in order sounded pretty good. It is.
1. Down in the cellar in the Boho zone/ I went looking for some sweet inspiration/ Oh well, just another hard time and with Negro affectations
2. I just wanna fuck bad bitches/ all them nights I never had bitches/ Now I’m all up in that ass bitches/ Mad at your boyfriend ain’t you
3. Well showing how it used to be/ So hard/ This hard /Used to get those kicks for free/ But now I’m towing the line
4. Oh we could rock/ Or we could bomb/ Or we could try/ Like super hard.
5. Waiting/ On a Sunday afternoon/ For what I read between the lines/ Your lies. Interstate Love Song, Stone Temple Pilots. Identified by Johnny Yen