This is probably the longest I’ve gone without writing anything for this blog. For the eight people reading this, my apologies. Blame Leo Tolstoy. Or, any of my other various hobbies.
I will offer only a few thoughts here. When I finish it (I’m about 625 pages in), I’ll most likely write a fuller account of the experience. I call it an experience because reading a book such as this isn’t quite like plowing through whatever predictable plots Dean Koontz might be churning out this week. It’s the kind of book that you carry with you everywhere. You read it in 10-20 page chunks whenever you get some free minutes. You reread certain passages to make sure you catch the meanings. You put off reading anything else, for if you try to juggle two or three books at one time, “War and Peace” may never be completed, or at least not this decade. It seems to require a religious-like devotion (for lack of any better word). And when you are engaged with the text, you know that you are far, very far removed from the social and political climate described therein, but you are drawn back to that time by Tolstoy’s godlike ability to bring you inch-close to the dirt under the warhorse’s hoof or the fire inside a lover’s gaze. He tells you, not only what the main characters think, feel and dream, but even what various animals might be thinking at certain points within the plot. For instance, what a wolf may be thinking when it pauses to weigh its options on a hunt or what a horse may be thinking on the battlefield as bullets whiz by.
For someone who may undertake “War and Peace,” the first 200-300 words will be the most difficult, as you will be immediately hit with a barrage of characters, some minor, some major, and in the early going, the reader is not quite sure which is which. Tolstoy crafts the opening beautifully with one of numerous soirées related throughout the book, which gives the reader the opportunity to, first, become acquainted with many of the characters, and second, become familiar with the type and content of the conversations that will be prevalent throughout the novel. I attempted to read “War and Peace” about a year ago, but the endeavor ended only after about 150 pages. But I am resigned this time to soldier on. And soldier I will … until the Great Man, Bonaparte, falls in 1812.
As it happens, I was scanning the Web for something to write about this evening and came across this piece about our brains’ ability, or not, to understand what’s real and what’s figurative. It was literally the first thing my eyes glanced at when I went to The New York Times’ site. I decided to feature this because of this coincidental “teaser” that accompanied the column:
This Is Your Brain On Metaphors: Our brains are wired to confuse the real and the symbolic. And the implications can be as serious as war and peace.