War and Peace

I’ve just gotten dressed so I can do Lisa’s questions about reading in style, liking to imagine that I’m being interviewed on television while I answer questions like that, or maybe that I’m at a really good dinner party, where the food’s great and the wine even better and people are laughing and talking and my husband looks so happy because he’s sitting next to his friend Olivier and they’re talking about soccer or skiing and he doesn’t actually have to discuss anything that doesn’t interest him. And then the gorgeous man or woman sitting next to me, the one with the dark brown eyes (or maybe they are green or blue or grey) and the nice smile turns to me and after telling me how great my outfit is, asks me……

What are you reading these days?

I consider saying that I’m not doing much reading these days because I’m trying to write as much as I can. And maybe I do say that, but my companion’s eyes don’t glaze over and they murmer, Oh, I’ll bet you’ve got something on your nightstand that you’ve been reading a bit of.

And they would be right, because they are generally right (and it is a good outfit, by the way, the one they’ve admired, consisting as it does of these really gorgeous microfiber thigh high boots (let it never be said that we neglect fashion here on bloglily), and a short-ish black pinstriped wool pencil skirt and a nice plain black v-neck sweater, which sort of compensates for the slightly bad girlness of the boots and skirt).

I am reading War and Peace, in the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. It is a really, really good translation, and it has fabulous notes, including notes right at the bottom of the page that translate all the French party talk the Russian nobility indulged in. I am on page 94 and have just finished the part where one of the heroes comes into his inheritance, despite the machinations of his half-brother. Yay! My feeling about War and Peace, by the way, is that although it weighs in at 1215 pages, it is best thought of as four novels (it is written, in fact, in four parts) — four big, sprawling, wonderful novels, full of life. I think more people would read it if it came in four actual physical volumes.

And then I ask my dinner companion what they are reading, and how far they are, and what the book is about and whether they would recommend it. And who might that dinner companion be, you ask? Why, any of you, of course.

17 thoughts on “War and Peace

  1. I’m dying to read the new translation too–but this definitely won’t be a library book. This is one to savor over a long, cold winter, two months of immersion in a world I’ll never know, detailed with precision (and venom) by Mr. T. I’ll add it to my Christmas list…

  2. Hello Cliff, and welcome! What a great site you have — I’m looking forward to reading your essay on the writer’s life (the one that’s in your non-fiction tab.) As for W&P, I think two months is about right, which makes this the ideal winter read.

  3. How nice to be having dinner with you. I’m reading Phillip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, because I loved The Golden Compass, which I was told about by Dorr and Hobs, long before the movie created all this buzz. I’m also finishing up Gone with the Wind, which I’d never read and which is sort of America’s War and Peace, isn’t it? I’m absolutely loving it, much more than I thought I would. I got the new War and Peace translation for Bob for his birthday, so maybe I’ll get to read that in the not-too-distant future. He gave it to me his favorite translation as a Christmas gift for our first Christmas together.

  4. War and Peace is so accessible isn’t it? I read it during my horrible year of unemployment when I was 25 (16 years ago) and it was my big accomplishment for the year. Currently I’m reading 2 books. Tolstoy’s Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, which is a semi-autobiographical account of his early years. Each short chapter contains fascinating snippets about his family written in his gorgeously chatty prose. The other is Circle of quiet by Madeleine L’engle; another autobiography. The first in 4 about her life – including writing experiences – at her Crosswicks farm in New England. I’ll have another glass of red please.
    Those books are fabulous, though I’d look like a hooker in them!

  5. War and Peace is a good book for long winter nights. I read it while pregnant with the Largest Baby Ever (well, largest for me), and reading the Big Tome seemed to fit the theme. I admit to skimming over the War scenes, while lingering over Peace (parlor talk, family squabbles).

    And now on to meatier matters: thigh high boots. I was privileged to view those boots in person on my way to transporting boys to the skateboard park. hothothot. I went to the link on Zappos, and read some of the comments of other thigh highers. One in particular caught my attention:

    Ordered this boot because face it; everyone should have a thigh high boot in her possession. This one was a good one for the price, but not as sexy as others may rave. It’s not a bad boot, but not a great boot. It’s office sexy, not bedroom, girl’s night out sexy.

    I loved this author’s voice. First, the certainty that EVERYONE should own thigh high boots. Second, I was intrigued by the notion that she seems to have a volume knob for sexy that has many, many settings. I tend to think of sexy as a yes/no question. Just what is “girl’s night out sexy”? It’s probably a far cry from “driving the boys to the skateboard park” sexy, which is, in fact, not at all sexy. What a limited life I lead.

  6. I’ve got the new “War and Peace” translation lined up to read as well. I’m going to begin reading it on January 1st. It seems somehow like that will get the new year off on the right foot. And speaking of feet, those are indeed fabulous boots. I have a pair of knee-high red suede boots the wearing of which make me feel the way I imagine the wearing those ones would make you feel.

  7. Book 17 (!) of the Agatha Raisin crime series. Matthew of Crockatt and Powell Booksellers in London put me onto this addictive series and I am gulping down one after the other.

    One that is over, I am onto either Snake by Kate Jennings or We are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg.

  8. THIGH HIGH BOOTS! Whilst reading War and Peace!!! Oooooh, Bloglily, you should be arrested. Or on book tour. I will look for that translation. I have Stephen Mitchell’s Gilgamesh translation on my bedside table, and LBJ, The Senate Years. And checked out the last Harry Potter on cd for listening on the long vacation drive. I hope to see you early and often in the Ney Year.xxoo, m

  9. I loved W&P, I read the Modern Library Giant edition two years ago, and I got great arm muscles from lugging it around with me everywhere.

    Now I am reading a Joseph Conrad anthology. It’s the most manly book I have ever tackled, what with the ships and storms and insanity and so forth, and I keep taking breaks to go wash tiny pink pajamas, which makes it kind of an odd experience.

  10. I’m not reading anything quite so “academic”. I’m reading “Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Companion” by Neil Gaiman.

    The books deals with Douglas Adams and all that went into the creation of
    Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in all it’s forms. I haven’t read much non-fiction lately, but I really enjoyed this book.

  11. Should I admit to not reading War and Peace? I did read Anna Karenina three months ago and loved it. I finished reading Searoad by Ursula K. Le Guin. I am presently reading Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs by Barbara Mertz.
    If I wore those lovely red boots to a party the last thing anyone would ask me is what am I reading. They would be more interested in where I obtained the boots.

  12. Why, Welcome, Ms. Boop! You should totally admit to that. In fact, it’s not really an admission at all in the sense of having sinned in some way (not like a confession, where you’d have to have a mantilla on your head and be wearing some nice Spanish perfume while you make it) because book reading is one thing that’s so purely voluntary.

    SW — That sounds like a fun read!

    Hey Ella — Tiny pink pjs! How exciting is that??!! Yay. And why shouldn’t a reading experience involve some weight training?

    I’ll expect you to defend me, then, Mary, in the event I’m apprehended for impersonating Johnny Depp. Temporary shoe insanity. Your reading and listening for the vacation sounds nice, Mary. See you soon!

    Lilalia — I’m going to be in London in January and that bookseller sounds like it needs to be on my list of things to do. Isn’t it wonderful when there’s a series of something you like, and the series is really, really, really long?

    Oh Kate — Red suede knee high boots! My goodness. And I do like the idea of beginning a book like that in the new year.

    Carrie, I agree — that there would be a volume knob for sexiness with a lot of settings astonishes me also. I don’t think that woman is doing much carpooling. But I have been thinking about girl’s night out sexiness vs. work sexiness and think we should do a little research about the former soon, to take some of the edge off the carpooling.

    LC — I know what you mean about looking like a hooker. Fortunately, in the neighborhood where I work in San Francisco, just a block away from my office, the hookers are way, way more outrageous than I could be, even on a short skirt, thigh high boot day. Your reading sounds wonderful, and don’t you think this pinot is gorgeous?

    Emily, I’m so glad you could make it, and really you look amazing! We just checked Subtle Knife out of the library, so the two boys who haven’t read it can — the movie definitely left you wanting more. And what a wonderful way to think of Gone With the Wind.

    Hi Charlotte — Yes, Anna Karenina was such a good book — I think the pevear/volokhonsky team is amazing.

  13. I’d love to read W&P again – it was one of my favourite books at school (in the classic old Constance Garnet translation). I think I was thirteen and very precocious in a lot of my reading, though just as likely to curl up with an Isaac Asimov, usually Foundation. The two (War and Peace and The Foundation Trilogy) had a lot in common, if you think about it – huge historical events narrated through the actions of an array of individuals. Both had an epic scale that my teenage (and current) self loved,

    Current reading? A lot of academic stuff! But I’m starting to let some other books force their way in – Murakami’s recent collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. It covers two decades of activity and some stories grab me more than others but the never-far-from-the-surface melancholy of his work is very explicit in many of them whilst some (like ‘Man-Eating Cats’ about an adulterous couple’s exile in Greece mix his trademark surrealisms with an awareness of the capacity for solipsistic ennui worthy of Richard Ford. And I’ve started another book on Tibet – “Virtual Tibet” by Orville Schell.

  14. All this talk about W&P inspired me to order this new translation. I don’t know why I’ve never read it, since I’ve read Anna K. several times. It arrived today, and what a beautiful, weighty book, with lovely slick pages! But, I agree with Kate S. ~January 1 seems an auspicious date to begin, so we’re waiting patiently for the calendar page to turn.

    In the meantime, I’m reading a very fluffy little novel called Love, Rosie, by Cecilia Ahearn. It’s perfect beach reading, and since that’s where I’m spending my winter vacation, it’s quite appropriate.

  15. Sorry I got here late. I hope I’m still in time for dessert. Damn, those boots are hot. (pausing to admire and envy them…) Reading? Dr. Strange and Mr. Norell. But hardly really reading it with all of the Norwegian in-laws interrupting me for the gazillionth time with a question about how I’m liking Norway…

  16. I waded through War and Peace lo these many decades ago, and I was not wearing thigh high boots. I have to admit that I hated the book, found it boring in the extreme and only forced myself to read it because it was “a classic”. Perhaps a new translation would make it better??? I don’t know that I want to put myself through that sort of torture again just to find out.

    Most everybody that has been reading my comments and blog for a while knows my position on footwear with heels, so I won’t bore you with that rant again. By the way, Bloglily, how are your lower back, hips and knees feeling these days? Healthy and pain free? Good, I’m glad to hear it. Hope they stay that way.

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