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Saturday, February 5, 2011

War & Peace


I finally finished reading War and Peace. It took me a little over four months, but it's done! When I say reading, in this case I mean reading with my ears. It was a two-volume audio book comprising something like 52 audio CD's. They are narrated by Neville Jason who does an outstanding job (and what a marathon those recording sessions must have been for him!).

It takes considerable dedication and commitment on the part of the listener but I"m so glad I stuck it out. Yes, the style of writing is a lot different then what we see today, but that's what makes it so refreshing. Sometimes writers in this modern age can get a bit arrogant, feeling their ways of writing are superior to those of the writers in the past (and probably this happened to writers who were then current back in the day).

I would like to read this in actual book form at some point to reasborb the whole thing. My favorite thing about this book is that Tolstoy does a very fine job of capturing the workings of the human mind, perhaps capturing it better then anyone I've read. We humans are bizarre, manipulative creatures.

Oh yes, I know we don't like the word manipulative because the mere sound of the word has negative connotations. But as babies, when we learn that a smile or a cry can get us what we want, that's manipulation. It comes as naturally to us as breathing. And this is what Tolstoy, to me, expresses so well in War & Peace. Not just manipulation though. Humans are strange. After all, half the time, we don't even understand ourselves. So to watch an author bring those strange workings of the mind to the page is quite entertaining and I think it's a good lesson for all authors to learn.

I don't know how the original printing of the book was arranged, but in this audio version, a very very long epilogue follows the end of the story. I was ready and willing to listen to the epilogue. But it was too long to the point that I think the reader fails to absorb some of what he is saying because the info is clumped all together. I'm not quite sure why it was done that way since, throughout the book, he takes time to do epilogue-like pauses before picking back up with the actual story. Perhaps he just didn't feel the final epilogue information fit anywhere else.

At any rate, while I realize this book will be a very difficult challenge for today's attention deficit readers, I would still encourage you to give it a go and see what you get from the experience. To me, it was worth the four plus month investment.

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