War and Peace Readalong, Part 1: An Indictment of Love

This is the first of eleven posts I’ll be making about War and Peace over the next eleven Mondays, thanks to the War and Peace Newbies Readalong, hosted by Laura at Reading in Bed. Since this is the first week, it’s definitely not too late to join in. Just head here for the intro post, and get to reading. If you’re intimidated, then think of it this way: reading a 1500+ page book is hard work, in that it’s literally, physically difficult, so your reading time is basically workout time, too. Two birds, one stone. 


1. What Went Down

As expected with a 1500-page book written in 1865, a lot happens even though almost nothing happens. Part 1 (in my Everyman’s Library Edition) is 137 pages and much of it is about establishing the characters and placing the chess pieces on the board before they’re moved around for effect later. Long story short: Part 1 is about about lining people up either for Napoleon or against Napoleon and for Pierre or against Pierre.

At a society party at her home in Petersburg, Anna Pavlovna Scherer discusses the war with her friend Price Vasili Kuragin (great name, and one of about 1200 princes and princesses in War and Peace). In the opening paragraph of the novel Anna calls Napoleon the antichrist and declares that Russia is the only nation on earth capable of stopping him. Talk of the war dominates much of the party. People casually throw around words like “virulent” and “chimerical.”

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Who Would Be On Your Country’s Literary Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore was sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln, between 1927 and 1941. It features four of the most well-known American Presidents of all time — Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, and Lincoln — and is probably the coolest thing about the United States (ranking just ahead of rock n’ roll, Mark Twain, and alley-oop dunks). The four men depicted were chosen because they represented, for Borglum, the four most important events in the history of the country (the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the construction of the Panama Canal, and the Civil War).

While thinking about who would grace Mount Rushmore if it was constructed today, I started to think about other theoretical Mount Rushmores: the Mount Rushmore of the NHL (Gretzky, Orr, Lemieux, and Howe), the Mount Rushmore of One Direction (Zayn left and I’d still kick out Louis), and, naturally, the Mount Rushmore of Canadian Literature.

If we were to carve a bunch of giant literary luminaries into, say, Mount Robson, who would those four be? For fun, I thought I’d take a stab at it.

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The War and Peace Newbies Tag

July is officially go time for the War and Peace Readlong at Reading in Bed, but Laura has a few questions in advance before we all abandon our friends and families for 12 weeks.

It’s the War and Peace Newbies tag, in reference to the fact that everyone doing Laura’s readalong will be a W&P virgin.

Hot, right?

Here we go.


Have your read (or attempted to read) War and Peace?

Not even a little bit. I’m not a big classics guy, to be honest. But for whatever reason, I was one of the people who pressed Laura into reading War and Peace for her readalong this year (she does one every summer).

Despite the fact that I essentially haven’t read any of it, Russian literature is fascinating to me. The grandiosity is nothing if not commendable, and these guys–Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov–tackled some pretty big themes. War, death, existence, God, family, love, hate, etc.

In short, these guys didn’t fuck around.

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A Novel for the Judd Apatow Generation

It’s something of a paradox, but the thing that first intrigued me about Domestic Violets—its cover—is the one thing I’d change after reading it. I mean, look at that thing: it’s bright, it’s simple, it has commercial fiction written all over it. It suggests a lighthearted rom-com full of domestic friction. When I read it I was looking for something light, the literary equivalent of a Paul Rudd movie. Which is what Harper Collins wanted me to think I was getting.

However, like the best romantic comedies, Matthew Norman’s debut novel has a lot going on under the surface, so much that its cover actually does it a disservice. This is more than just a fluffy piece of entertainment. Domestic Violets is smart and insightful, and paints a wonderfully muddy picture of love and passion in the 21st century.

This is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.

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The Burden of Childhood Friendships

For the past fifteen years I’ve been saddled with a disturbingly incessant childhood friendship. Despite my best (or, rather, worst) efforts, I cannot seem to shake it. We’re now in our thirties, live drastically different lives, and have not a single unifying hobby. Yet, this person persists. She will not let things go. Whether I like it or not, I am bound to her forever.

Oh, I should mention I cannot stand this person.

For reasons that escape me, she is blissfully unaware of my utter indifference towards her. I am checked out of every conversation. I make no effort to see her. Her husband is one of the most annoying people I have ever met and have said this to her face. Still, she remains.

As when faced with an undying lich, my only means of survival is avoidance. The game, then, is to stay away as long as possible. In the end, I always lose.

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Book Bingo: An Update

Back in January I wrote a 2017 preview post that included a game of Book Bingo: 24 themed reads I wanted to tackle over the course of the year. Now that we’re entering June, it seems a good time to check in and see how I’m doing (since I haven’t paid the slightest attention to my bingo card).

The results: not great.

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Franzen in February in May

Every February, Laura Frey takes a pause from her regular book blogging to “love, hate, and love-to-hate that great American novelist”, Jonathan Franzen. The event, aptly titled Franzen in February, is hosted at Reading in Bed and attracts a delightful array of guest writers.

I promised to supply an article this year, but, as I am wont to do, I didn’t write one.

Why? I’m enigmatic AF, that’s why.

Instead, I reserved the right to submit my piece 84 days late. As everyone knows, the number 84 resonates with creative expression, making today the perfect day to write about Franzen’s not-exactly-awesome sophomore novel, Strong Motion.

And yes, I totally knew about the 84 thing before I wrote this, and no, I didn’t just Google “significance of the number 84” mere seconds before writing that last paragraph. Who would do that.

So without further adieu, I present Franzen in February in May. Now get off my back, Laura. Gawd.

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