A Modified Update on "War and Peace" & a Top 10 List For Other Light Reading


In response to Juvenal’s question of how War and Peace is treating me, I have modified a general update I had posted elsewhere and will share it below. Let me preface the update by saying that I am not setting a land speed record here. I am only on page 274 out of 1455 in the tiny-print paperback version. But I’m in for the duration. So here goes…

* I’m a bit concerned for Nikolai Rostov after his war injury at such a young age. He is having to grow up quickly, and so far he hasn’t handled it all too well. In my humble opinion.

* I’m impressed with Andrei Bolkonsky. He was heroic in battle, but I wonder about his future on the homefront with his pregnant wife, Lisa. He seems a bit hard to live with, and I don’t think she’s too happy about his dropping her off pregnant with the in-laws on the way to war. She hates his dad, and Andrei is an awful lot like him. I’m not sure how Andrei will be changed by his dangerous encounters with the army of his enemy (and hero), Bonaparte.

* Pierre is fun to watch, sort of like a NASCAR pile-up is fun to watch. To become so wealthy at such a young age is dangerous for anyone, especially for someone as clueless and impetuous as he. And now, out of nowhere, he finds himself married to the most beautiful woman in the story (Ellen). Sounds like a dream come true, but I have this feeling that he might end up on the Maury Povich show somewhere along the way.

* And now there’s the whole mess with Prince Vasily’s son, Anatol. Now that Vasily’s succeeded in getting his daughter in on the Bezukhov fortune by marrying Pierre, he’s trying to pawn off his spoiled son on Prince Andrei’s naive sister. She is Ms. Religion and Ms. Low Self-Esteem (read: thinks she’s ugly, and to Tolstoy, she’s fairly observant) all rolled into one, and Anatol hasn’t even seen her yet. He’s pretty sure she’s ugly, though, so I’m kind of afraid to see what happens there. But Marya’s dad’s wacky-ness just might come in handy here. I don’t think he’ll put up with any crap from Anatol nor any socialite pretense from Vasily.

* At least things seem to be settled with Pierre’s cousins (but not Anna Mikhailovna) after Vasily figured out a way to sort of buy them out.

* Waiting in the wings are all the budding romances from young Boris & Natasha to the little Sonya/Julie competition over Nikolai (and snitty Vera with her vicious comments).

So far, it’s an interesting story. A little war here, then a little peace. War, peace, war, peace. I think I’m catching on to the title. I’ll update you as things develop.

As on my personal journal-type blog, I noted that in January Time Magazine published an article ranking the Top 10 books of all-time. War and Peace came in third, with Tolstoy garnering the honor of holding both 1st and 3rd place on the list. If you are interested in some light reading, here’s the list:

#1: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
#2: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#3: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
#4: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#5: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#6: Hamlet by William Shakespeare
#7: The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
#8: In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
#9: The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
#10: Middlemarch by George Eliot

Mikey claims #8 makes #3 look like Cliff’s Notes. I think Juvenal just finished #10, and both he and Mikey are working on #1.

Anyone else doing any light reading? Or care to comment on the rankings?

18 Responses to “A Modified Update on "War and Peace" & a Top 10 List For Other Light Reading”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I didn’t know Mikey was reading #1, so I’ll be interested to hear his thoughts. My opinion thus far is that #’s 4, 6, & 10 are all significantly better. And I’ve read only part or none of each of them, but I’m inclined to say the same for 5, 7, 8, and 9.

    I don’t dislike it, but it’s shown me nothing thus far to rate a #1 ranking.

    I’m also currently reading Norman Mailer’s new & almost certainly last novel, The Castle in the Forest. I had no plans to read it, and certainly didn’t expect to like it, seeing as how I consider Mailer a world-class fathead and a sphincter; however, I decided to give it a look while I was in the bookstore, and now I’m 100pp. in and I gotta say it’s terrific thus far.

    Also, and for the record, Wuthering Heights reeks. I mean, it’s well written and all, but lordy, Charlotte must’ve had some serious psychological problems to be able to sustain this much hatefulness through this long a novel. Even Nabokov didn’t hate this much. It’s demoralizing. Read it not.

  2. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Does Time say how they compiled their list?

  3. juvenal_urbino Says:

    10 works of fiction not even on Time’s list but better than Anna Karenina promises to be, in no particular order:

    1. The Iliad, Homer
    2. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
    3. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
    4. Dubliners, James Joyce
    5. The Collected Stories, William Trevor
    6. Atonement, Ian McEwan
    7. Little, Big, John Crowley
    8. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    9. Notes from Underground, Fyodor Doestoyevsky
    10. The Metamorphoses, Ovid

    And does anybody agree that Huck Finn is the greatest work of American fiction (not counting Nabokov as an American)?

  4. Al Sturgeon Says:

    They did explain how they compiled their list, but I don’t remember exactly. It had something to do with a large number of surveys to people who I’m guessing should know such things.

    Word verification: upwade (that sounds like it ought to be a neat, new word)

  5. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Sounds like the kind of a word the military would cook up.

    Time’s list looks like the kind of a list one would get if one asked a lot of people: what are 10 novels a lot of people might think of if asked a question like this one?

  6. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Charlotte must’ve had some serious psychological problems

    Emily, that is. I never could keep those Brontes straight.

  7. Michael Lasley Says:

    I like your “updates on readings in progress,” Al. I’ve read Anna K., but I’m not currently doing so (I think I typed that incorrectly on the other blog). I liked it. But I don’t understand why it is considered the best novel ever. It read like a soap opera to me. A page turner. But it wouldn’t be at the top of my rankings.

    Coincidentally, I read it after reading Norman Mailer’s first novel: The Naked and the Dead. Which was really good. He said during the year or two he spent writing it, the only book he read was Anna K. So I thought, hey, I’ll check that out.

    I just started Pyncheon’s new novel: Against the day. Very good after 75 pages. (But it’s over a 1000, so it has plenty of time to go bad.)

    I like your list, JU. Little, Big should be required reading. As should anything by Marquez.

    I don’t see all the hoo-haw over Huck Finn, either. I’ve read it a few times and like it (I wouldn’t re-read it if I didn’t), but I’ve never gotten whatever that magical thing is from the novel that everyone else gets from it. I’m just glad to see any list with no mention of Moby Dick.

  8. Terry Austin Says:

    In other book news, last weekend I (finally) got around to shelving all the books my cool older brother gave me when he moved.

    My bookshelves are now full. The titles of the volumes make it seem that I am a very discerning reader. And the few people who see these bookshelves will no doubt assume that I have read each book and am therefore, you know, smart.

    It is the intellectual equivalent of stuffing a sock in one’s pants.

    Word verification (scary): ezmfuka

  9. juvenal_urbino Says:

    It read like a soap opera to me. A page turner. But it wouldn’t be at the top of my rankings.

    Exactly. FWIW, Middlemarch is similarly a novel of social customs, etc., but sooooo much sharper, more textured, and with more depth.

    I’m afeared of the new Pynchon. Consider a review mandatory.

    Little, Big is one of those books people either absolutely love or, in rare cases, hate. There are a few reviews on Amazon from people who hated it. Mostly, they seem to be sci-fi/fantasy fans who aren’t happy that a book considered fantasy doesn’t stick to the traditional formula for that genre (i.e., plot-driven, creatures-and-battles stories).

  10. Michael Lasley Says:

    Terry — I didn’t even know you had bookshelves, but I’m glad they’re now full. JU — I’m only 100 or so pages into Pyncheon. I have no idea how I’d review it, yet. It’s funny, so far. I could say that about it.

  11. Unicorn Says:

    Okay, Guys (‘n Gal), you’ve shamed me into it. I’m tired of being the il-literati in this bunch. Went to the library today and picked up Anna Karenina.

    They’ve only given me three weeks – so I’d better get crackin’.

    Will keep you posted.

  12. Mystique Free Says:

    I’ve read #s 2, 5, 6 and 7.

    The last time I tried to read a Russian novel (Crime and Punishment) I got very depressed over it.

    I just finished Karen Armstrong’s biography of Buddha and it was fantastic.

  13. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Anna K., unicorn.

    The last time I tried to read a Russian novel (Crime and Punishment) I got very depressed over it.

    Yeah, IME, Doestoyevsky will do that. Anna K. is the first Tolstoy I’ve read, but if it’s representative of his work, he’s much lighter (though even wordier).

  14. Michael Lasley Says:

    Unicorn — none of us have lives, so don’t let us shame you into anything. If anything, I’d let JU shame you into reading some of the books off of his list. Especially Love in the Time of Cholera and Middlesex and Little, Big and Atonement.

    Mystique — agreed. i made it half-way through Crime and Punishment last fall when I had to take a break because, like, I had to take a break from it. It was ruining my mood at the beach.

  15. Unicorn Says:

    Preliminary/Interim/Draft Book Report/Review on Anna K.

    After about 100 pages, I am getting to know Stepan, Dolly, Kitty, Levin, Vronsky and Anna. Others have been introduced. My observations:
    1) How contemporary!
    •The older generation struggling with the mores and morals of the younger
    •The issues of the “haves” and “have nots”
    •The excesses of the privileged.

    Michael: Thanks for advice. Will heed it when I finish or quit Anna K.

  16. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Which edition/translation are you reading, unicorn?

    The issues of the “haves” and “have nots”

    And the urban vs. the rural.

  17. Unicorn Says:

    Random House
    Original Translation by Constance Garnett (revised and updated by editors)

    Editors:Leonard J. Kent
    Nina Berberova

  18. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I finished Book 1 (of four) in “War and Peace.”

    The main updates include:
    * Anatol is a major screw-up
    * Nikolai is becoming more heroic, but his infatuation with the Tsar is a bit spooky. With the big defeat at hand, this might change.
    * I like Prince Andrei a lot for some reason. Now that he’s a dying POW I’m a bit perturbed with the story’s future. But he’s the main reason I’m ready to see what happens in Book 2.

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