As Bon Jovi once said “OHHHHHHHH WE’RE HALF WAY THERE OH-OHH”. I admit I wasn’t around when Jon said it, but I have this feeling deep inside somewhere that he was talking about hitting page 541. Just a hunch.
“Better stand tall when they’re calling you out”, Emperor Alexander wrote, with slight rephrasing of my own, in his message to the Russian people. “Don’t bend, don’t break, baby, don’t back down”, they all shouted back. It’s 1812. Time for war. Except this time everyone seems to have switched places.
This week I read eighteen pages. Eighteen. Slightly less than my 140-page-per-week plan. I had a tough week in terms of my general mood. Spending six weeks at home seems fun at first, but eventually it gets old. Old and tiring. Old and tiring is not a good mood for some intensive reading.
So I’ve hit reader’s block and I have nothing to discuss. Instead, I spent the day wondering how I get out of it. I’ve made it this far, and so some self reflection seems like a worthy investment.
- Don’t give up. It takes me twenty minutes to walk half a kilometer on crutches. My dad always takes the wheelchair with us just in case. In my high school gym “finals” we had to run two kilometers. Not a complicated task for people who run. Needless to say, I don’t. I set myself one rule. Don’t stop running. Even if you find yourself running at a pace that’s slightly slower than walking, run. And I did. So I walk alongside him as he wheels the empty chair home. Eighteen pages is less than one hundred and forty, but it is definitely more than zero.
- Change your goals. I can’t walk one hundred meters without stopping. I actually need to rest about once every fifty meters. Otherwise my palms burn, and then I’m stuck, because my hands have turned into another leg for the time being. One hundred pages a week is just as good. So it’ll take longer to get to the finish line. Who cares? It’s not a race. It’s just me. The gold medal will be waiting for me when I get there.
- Find new ways. At first I had a cast on my left arm. I’m left handed. A person can’t just not shower for a week. So I did. Somehow. Maybe reading this type of thing doesn’t work for me past sunset. Maybe I should try hanging out with the Rostovs and the Bolkonskis at lunch instead.
- Forgive yourself. Who knew you could break a bone just accidently slipping? And now you can’t play soccer for months. Your greatest skill is pointing your toes, flexing them, and then back again. Don’t look for the goal, the goalie, the net. Focus on the next move. Not every week is going to be a fancy analysis or a pat on the back. Go back to the small things. The joy of reading. The story.
- Just relax. That goes for everything. Just a generally good rule.
Maybe I’ll start a workout blog once all of this is over.
previous entry here
* translation: Louise and Alymer Maude (for page # references)
So this week, instead of war and peace between countries, we had some war and peace between hearts. Lots of proposals, engagements, disapproving parents. In a world with issues of class, hierarchy, and not much gender equality love can become a very unpleasant game. But let’s start at the beginning.
* translation: Louise and Alymer Maude (for page # references)
Well, hello everyone. We’ve officially finished Volume One. Good job folks. Only two more to go!
We’ve tackled tips, we’ve discussed philosphy, and now it’s time for the little humans roaming around Europe. When thinking of War & Peace one tends to imagine thousands of pages describing terrible battles, people in medieval style clothing (because anything before World War 1 is basically the Middle Ages) and lots of descriptions of noble men on horses in indecipherable English. In reality, Tolstoy actually puts a serious emphasis on the humanness of his characters – their relationships with others, their own personal thoughts, humor, sarcasm, joy and sadness. It’s still a bit weird for me. I never expected to find myself laughing. Wanting to hug these people. Or just give ’em a high-five.
“The universal experience of ages, showing that children do grow imperceptibly from the cradle to manhood, did not exist for the countess. Her son’s growth towards manhood at each of its stages had seemed as extraordinary to her as if there had never existed the millions of human beings who grew up in the same way.” (pg. 181), Tolstoy says of Nicholas Rostov and his mother. Something in the way this was phrased made me grin from ear to ear, and Rostov, a 19th century way-too-patriotic-for-my-taste soldier, who seemed so far from anything I could ever understand, became just a kid. A twenty year old kid who comes home to his worried mother.
He’s also just a kid who takes the car on the weekend, and sometimes gambles away all the money his parents gave him. “And suddenly, in the most casual tone, which made him feel ashamed of himself, he said, as if merely asking his father to let him have the carriage to drive to town: […] ‘I need some money.’ ‘Dear me!’ said his father […]” (pg. 267). 43,000 rubles of it. He then tells himself he’ll start saving up 80% of his salary every year to pay it back. Yeah right, man. Let’s be real.
On one evening, Rostov finds himself relaying his battle story to other men he seeks to impress. “He began his story meaning to tell everything just as it happened, but imperceptibly, involuntarily, and inevitably he lapsed into falsehood. […] He could not tell them simply that everyone went at a trot, and that he fell off his horse and sprained his arm and then ran as hard as he could from a Frenchman into the wood. Besides, to tell everything as it really happened it would have been necessary to make an effort of will to tell only what happened. It is very difficult to tell the truth, and young people are rarely capable of it.” (pg. 186). Without even noticing I find myself there, in that room with him, feeling his almost childish desire to be a hero, embellishing reality. During the beginning of his service Nicholas’s bubble is burst, as he discovers that war is not at all what he expected. It’s bloody and messy and painful, and sometimes when you finally find yourself facing the enemy you accidentally fall. It’s not always marvelous or magnificent, and Lieutenant Count Rostov is just a kid who wants his friends to think he’s cool. And all of a sudden we’re not in 1805, Olmutz, Moravia (now Olomouc, Czech Republic), visiting friends from the Ismaylovsky Regiment, discussing the war. We’re in 20th century high school or middle school or elementary school, telling everyone about the crazy, incredible things we did on summer vacation, hoping we’ll finally become the popular kid this year.
And now for a question. As I write, I wonder what brings you guys back (since I’ve noticed it’s the same few every time – thanks, by the way). Are you reading the book as well? Have you already read it? Are you planning to? Should I be avoiding spoilers? (Character-wise of course, because history, well… it’s already sort of spoiled itself.) Feel free to say hello, share your own experiences, questions, thoughts. I’m always here. (Not much you can do with a broken ankle.)
previous entry here
Another week! I think I’m going to stick to this sort-of-Tuesday-technically-Wednesday routine. It’s consistent, yet still allows me to cover enough ground to provide some interesting content here for you all. Let me know what you think. More frequently? Less? Random, short little musings in between?
Well, we’ve finally hit some battle. I remember being very confused during my previous attempt at what the heck was going on in these kinds of scenes. The positioning was hard to understand and the military terms were waaaay beyond my league. I decided to take my own advice and not gloss over this time. Needless to say, my phone Chrome tabs are all open on various definitions of military terms and weapons and I’m sure my Internet history makes me out to be either an extreme history geek or just sort of crazy. It definitely slowed me down, but gosh, it’s so much nicer to actually understand what I’m reading!
So, a bit of information before I touch on my main point for this week. My copy includes a two-part introduction: 1) Historical Background to W&P and 2) The Genesis and Composition of W&P, both written by Henry Claridge (University of Kent at Canterbury). (The introduction also comes with an introduction recommending reading the background first and leaving the critical point of view till after finishing the book. Unlike my usual self, I decided to ignore the instructions and read everything beforehand.) Most of it was confusing and just freaked me out about this whole project even more (and should probably be re-read now that I feel on stable ground), but one piece stuck:
Due to unexpected… issues I fell back on my tentative reading plans and decided to just post my next War & Peace entry a week after the first. Twenty five minutes ago I realized that even though in my mind today is definitely a Tuesday, it is actually 2:17 AM on Wednesday. Not going to sleep does not mean the day goes on forever.
So. Unexpected issues. I had to go through surgery. I spent Wednesday night in a hospital with a nice metal add-on now permanently (?) attached to my leg. I took the book with me, expecting to have plenty of time. Turns out general anesthesia is quite a shocker to the system. I could barely keep my eyes open, let alone read. A one thousand page book. About 19th century Russian society. In French.
I started reading War & Peace on July 13th, 2015, purely so that I’d be able to tell people I’d read that monstrous thing. I had a plan – read fifty pages a day and finish it in less than a month. Little did I know how unrealistic that plan was. It was my last summer vacation; I had places to go and people to see. And also, I had one thousand pages of size six font to power through. By the end of August I’d barely reached the fourth hundred page. Two more reading bursts in September and January left me with a bookmark neatly forgotten between pages four hundred thirty and four hundred thirty one. I couldn’t get myself to mark it as “abandoned” on Goodreads. According to my account, I am still “currently reading” it.
Completely unrelated, on June 27th, 2017, I broke my ankle. I also injured my wrist, and suddenly I found myself a prisoner in my own home with a cast on my leg and on my arm, in a wheelchair that barely passes through the apartment hall.
I’d never put War & Peace back on my bookshelf. It still lay around on my desk, waiting to be rescued. And suddenly, locked indoors with nothing to do and not much ability to do it with, my crazy plan seemed possible again.
So here I am. July 3rd, 2017. On page 20. Starting from scratch. These blog posts will document my second attempt. Summaries, thoughts and opinions, maybe some tips I pick up along the way for those planning to embark on this journey themselves. This time, with all five A Song of Fire and Ice novels under my belt and some experience in reading encyclopedia-sized books, I hope I make it.
I don’t know if this will be a weekly thing. Maybe twice a week. Maybe less. I might read other books in addition and I might not. I might include some medical updates along the way. I’m not setting any rules – this plan is scary enough. I invite you all to join me. Hopefully by the end of it I’ll also be able to walk again, which is not a bad incentive. (I’ll be able to walk even if I don’t finish but let’s not think about that).