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So. I’m reading War & Peace.

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It’s, well, a really big honkin’ book, filled with very intense things, like war, & peace, & the most unusual placement of vowels that I’ve ever had to deal with. Tolstoy uses French at whim, in spite of the fact through most of the book the French are trying to kill the Russians, & it is generally assumed that all readers have a full working knowledge of pop-culture during the Napoleonic-era, including (but not limited to): turns of phrase; lengths of overcoats; fabrics of bags in which embroidery might be transported, & number of skirts to be worn at formal events (because, apparently, before Valley Girls twirled their hair, Russian princesses fluffed their petticoats).

I opted for Tolstoy’s War & Peace over Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past out of convenience: W&P was available at Barnes & Noble in one complete tome, while RoTP required the purchase of a multi-volume set. I’d rather deal with one tree-razing behemoth of a novel than lug about three of them. While I was checking out, the clerk & I made predictable banter (Him: “Oh, a little light reading?!” Me: “Oh, you know. Just something to tide me over till the next Pynchon.”), which was all well & good until, after passing on plastic, I discovered that my new book was too big to fit in my messenger bag. Har har to you too, 157 other New Yorkers who felt compelled to make the same “light reading” remark on the subway ride home.

Though I’m only sixteen chapters in on the first book, the outrageously long introduction (replete with timeline of Tolstoy’s life, timeline of the Napoleonic Wars, maps of Napoleon’s invasion & retreat of Russia, & one drawing of the spectacularly bearded author himself*) makes it look as though I’ve put a significant dent in the work – WHICH IS A LIE. At 58 pages, I’m only 5.2% of the way through the book. That’s like thinking you’ve really gotten into an Eagles reunion concert when the opening act is still just tuning up. The hacking through it can occasionally be a challenge – W&P is not subway reading. When the text on your page looks like a swarm of angry bees, losing your place is not hard. There is, however, something remarkably satisfying about turning each page, knowing that yes, I’ve read it, yes, I even understood it. Maybe that sounds a little haughty for the simple reading of a book, but I can tell you that all the Klosterman in the world hasn’t provided that sort of satisfaction, & I doubt it ever will.

*rigorous searching of the internet turned up
no nicknames, zero sobriquets, and nary a
nom de plume. internets, you have failed me.