Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ON BOOKS ~ War - What Is It Good For?..

Elaine: Oh! Don't you know what this means, it's like working with Tolstoy!
Jerry: Hey. Ya know what? I read the most unbelievable thing about Tolstoy the other day. Did you know the original title for "War and Peace" was "War - What Is It Good For?"!
Elaine: Ha ha.
Jerry: No, no. I'm not kidding, Elaine, it's true. His mistress didn't like the title and insisted he change it to "War and Peace"!
Elaine: But it's a line from that song!
Jerry: That's were they got it from!
Elaine: Really?
Jerry: I'm not joking!

Seinfeld was great wasn't it? In this particular episode, Elaine goes to pick up a famous Russian author from the airport and excitedly makes small talk - trying to break through his crusty exterior. And so gullible Elaine takes Jerry at his word and tells the author Tolstoy's original title was "War - What Is It Good For?" Instead of impressing the author she makes a fool of herself.

Lets see...what do I know about War & Peace?
1. It was written by Tolstoy
2. It was not originally titled "War - What Is It Good For?"
3. It is incredibly thick

That's about it. So why, may you ask, has the above book been sitting on my kitchen island for the last two weeks? Because I felt sorry for a fellow blogger. You see, Stacy of Stacy's Books decided it would be fun to take a photo of her library shelves and let her readers pick the books she would read this year. Silly Stacy must have forgotten that her dusty copy of War & Peace was pretty large and easy to see in the photos. And enough of her readers noticed it and voted for it. I offered to read it with her - so she would have someone to nudge her along to make it less foreboding.

What the hell was I thinking?! I read Tolstoy's Anna Karenina a year ago with a group on Goodreads. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Russian master was not all that difficult to read and finished the shorter Anna K. (about 850 pages) in two weeks. But I forgot that I struggled most with the historical references. Well duh. It seems that War & Peace is all about the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800's. GRRREAT.

But then I thought about how much I admired Irene Nemirovsky's discovered novel, Suite Francaise, and that she was trying to emulate Tolstoy's style in his masterpiece - War & Peace. So if she appreciated it that much, I bet I would enjoy it too.

I also thought that while Stacy & I were subjecting ourselves to this classic, that we could get a good two months worth of weekly blog content out of it if we shared the experience. Less original post topics for us to think up!

And - it fulfills my desire to learn and share - getting back to my teaching degree roots. So bonus for all of you guys is that each week, Stacy and I will be posting our summaries of what we have read as we go along. You get to experience War & Peace in weekly blog installments without having to read the whole thing yourself. And, though we may not be as talented as Tolstoy, I'm pretty sure our versions will be entertaining nonetheless.

We consulted with some people who have read the book before and they were kind enough to create two groups of characters - one set of 4 for each of us. I have some troublesome guy named Pierre, a very Russian sounding Niokolai, an orphan named Sonya and a pretty young lady named Helene. Stacy gets to share insight on some royalty - a Prince named Andrei, his sister Maria, some young lady named Natasha and an officer named Vassily. Each Thursday we will each provide a summary and our thoughts on the epic tale. But we will have our own set of characters to focus on. So you can visit both of us to get the full scoop.

My goal in this little project is to show people that the classics, and Tolstoy in particular, are nothing to fear. In fact, they can be quite enjoyable. I'm not expecting any of you to run out and pick up your own copy to read along. But I do hope some day you will each step outside of your comfort zone and try something that on the surface seems a little off putting. After all - you can't judge a book by its cover.


Melody said...

I still don't have the courage to pick up this book and read it, haha. I look forward to reading your and Stacy's thoughts on it. Happy reading!

Kathy said...

I'm just visiting from Stacy's blog. I want to wish you good luck reading War & Peace and I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

Anonymous said...

I know the same things you do. And that's it.

But it was an awesome Seinfeld episode.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Stacy sent me over to wish you good luck - I may even jump in and read with you - if you two can convince me : )

PS I'm following you now (#100!!!)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well, you two just go and read that thing, so I don't have to! You have more conjones than I. I haven't even worked up the nerve to read A.K.

Unknown said...

I started War & Peace awhile ago but didn't finish it. I started losing track of who was who. Hope you enjoy it, though, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Well, Molly, we'll have to see if we can entice Mary to join us :)

Matty said...

It's a stretch to get me to read a short book, let alone something like that. I'll have to stick with the shorter ones unless and until I can get up the gumption to tackle that one.

LJ said...

War and Peace is intimidating to me. I tried to read Anna Karenina once, but couldn't get past trying to pronounce the Russian. From that point onwards I vowed never to try Tolstoy again.

Kathleen said...

I'm waiting to be convinced that I have nothing to fear!

Phyl said...

Oh boy, good luck with reading that! I took entire courses on some of the Russian novelists, but I never did get around to reading War and Peace. The Russians can be hard to plow through sometimes. But it's usually very rewarding once you've accomplished the task. Good luck!

Susan said...

Better thee than me, my dear! You know my experience with Anna Karenina went nowhere fast and if War and Peace is more difficult than that, fuhgeddaboutit! I may as well get rid of that copy which has been sitting on my bookshelf for nigh on fifteen years!

I do look forward to reading Stacy's and your synopses on it though! Brava to both of you!

kayerj said...

I've never read it--so I'll see what y'all think :)

Beth F said...

Have lots and lots of fun! LOL. I will remember to cover up large and difficult books before I ask people to choose for me.

Margot said...

I can't judge a book by it's cover but I'm judging this one by how many pages it has - ugh. I told Stacy I'd read with you if there were a Reader's Digest Condensed version. Otherwise, I will read your posts and cheer you on.

BTW, in this post you mentioned a read along group on Goodreads. I have no idea how that works (how or where to join one, etc.) and wonder if that is a possible Blogging Anonymous topic?

Clarity said...

Hahaha "Subjecting ourselves to this classic".

I think it ought to be required reading and I intend to finally read the copy that has been sitting in our library for a while.

What's it good for ey?