March 15, 2005

I [heart] War and Peace

Pretty much all I want to do these days is read my book.

Having started reading it in the first week of January, I'm now in my tenth week with eight hundred pages down and less than two hundred remaining. It's gotten to the stage where I'm completely engrossed and starting to regret the nearness of the final page.

My current favourite line is,
"Well, gentlemen, I see that it is I who shall have to pay for the broken crockery."
It's commander-in-chief Prince Kutúzov, and he's speaking at the conclusion of a vital council of war which is held in a peasant’s hut with little six year-old Malashá looking on. The fate of Moscow is decided by the order for the Russian army to retreat beyond the ancient and sacred capital. I won't get into it or I'll get carried away... or thoroughly confused as I did yesterday when I tried to explain to Angela the exciting dilemma posed by the love triangle of Sónya, Nicholas and Princess Mary squared off against Natásha’s relationship with Prince Andrew and the Russian rule of affinity in marriage. And the way Pierre's character has developed! Superb. Thank you, thank you to the Saturnyne who gave me the impetus to get stuck into it!

I’ve been making a concerted effort to get through the last volume of the almost-1000 page tome following the close call I had on Saturday.

En route to the Railway Station for an outing to Johnsonville I stopped by the library... and broke the cardinal rule one must keep while reading long and difficult books – do not be swayed from your object! - by taking out a book I've been wanting to read for a while: ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' by Haruki Murakami. Rest assured I remain faithful to Tolstoy.

You may ask, why not wait until I’d finished W&P before taking a new book out?

Because I didn’t like to leave it on the shelf.

That's the kind of person I am.



Blogger Barry said...

I understand totally. Plus, if its a library book, it doesn't actually cost anything to take it out, so why not? At least, that is, until you go into extended loan situations because you really have far too many books on the go.

I admire your dedication to Tolstoy: I started reading Moby Dick in November and have been stalled on page 440 for several weeks now. I really did want to finish while I had some momentum but, alas, things intruded.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Tam said...

Books? Who has time for books anymore?

I'm pretty sure the individual comment links don't work because the peekaboo hideaway thing confuses the interweb gremlins. I am, of course, talking out of my ass -- but my ass hasn't failed me yet.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Heck said...

I think Murakami is the only author I include among my favourites that is still alive.

Engaged at present with a 1000+ pages book myself. Those are the best. Ah, sleepless nights.

2:23 PM  
Blogger The Saturnyne said...

I knewed you'd like it! All it takes is patience to get beyond that first chapter with all those bizarre names.

but i must disagree with da Heck about big books being the best...

My two current favourite authors are Neil Gaiman (Alive! Yaay!) and James Branch Cabell (Dead! Nooo!) Neil's best ever stories are in the pages of the Sandman comics/graphic novels, which have on many occasions moved me immeasurably. Far more than any other author. And Mr Cabell wrote typically sized novels (240 odd pages, i guess) of extraordinary strangeness, wit and imagination. 'Jurgen' is still available out of his 70+ books, i believe.

Still, now i've said that i'm gonna completely trash my argument, by admitting that the Sandman's page tally clocks in at well over 1,500 if you take the story as a whole (And you should). And Mr Cabell's most famous stories(famous in the 1920's, that is) are collected together in 'The Biography of Manuel' which has a total of 18 volumes (albeit complete self-contained stories in their way) Which also runs into several thousand pages.

Er... bugger.

I think i shall retire my ass now.

PS: it's also worth checking out the book covers of Cabells works on sale in ebay Some of the first editions are absolutely gorgeous to look at. I totally desire them!

3:12 PM  
Blogger Nelson said...

‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' by Haruki Murakami is on my list too. I started Hard Boiled last year but failed in my mission.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

Wow, but Moby Dick really does look excruciatingly dull. Please tell me otherwise.

Tam, tsk, tsk. Don't be knocking books! And your ass is no doubt correct.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Esther said...

This all reminds me of the heady days when we talked about a Brougham st book group

9:01 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

We did?

I decided against joining a book group. I'll wait until I'm middle-aged and crave company away from my sixteen cats (ugh! Imagine!) and extensive cabbage tree garden.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Heck said...

Met Gaiman in the mid-nineties. I asked him to finish a little poem I had with me, and I still have the paper around. Apparently he gets a kick of making silly doodles. I must have been the only guy in line who didn't wear black from head to toe. And there was a person exclusively devoted to take in all the stuff people brought to him. Nuts. I'm ashamed to admit I have read the whole Sandman series (+ Death and other books) except the conclusion!

I guess Gaiman could be in my list, hmm... But if we're going to count comics... It has to be a long list. :-)

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I have can't leave a book on the shelf disease too. Which is why I have books all over the house in various states of readness. No 1000-pagers though. That's serious commitment and I am duly impressed.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Jo Hubris said...

Speaking of literature, hey Jessie, guess which TV show I just did the buy now thing for so that I can get my hands on season five ASAP?

8:58 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

Funnily enough, my personal best book was chosen simply because it was the biggest book ever written at the time, by a fellow who is very much still alive: Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy.

As for Moby Dick, I was suprised as to just how funny the first chapters are (and relevant to New Zealand - we meet a fellow trading shrunken Maori heads within a few pages of the start). But he does go on, there's a wierd taxonomy of whales and other spouting of knowledge which is tangential to the main story.

And book groups can be fun, if you get the right sort of group - mine runs from quite old (I am sure you remember Nigel J and probably Giora) to just over 20.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Jessie said...

Yes I remember Nigel!! How could I forget him. Also, he got his doctorate or whatever it was at the same time I graduated. I never understood him but I liked the class a lot once I read Windeyer.

I hear A Suitable Boy is good. And by taxonomy of whales do you mean stuffing them?? W&P has a lot of tangential stuff about military strategy and the circumstantial nature of history, predestination, insignificance of individuals etc. But it's broken up with the good stuff so it's okay.

Jo, that's great news!

7:48 PM  
Blogger lividia said...

Murakami rules. I have not read WIBC yet but his short stories and especially Hardboiled Wonderland rock my world.

Hurry up with the Tolstoy and get to it!

My massive torment is "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry that's got a perma-bookmark around the 700 page mark.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

That's that really depressing one set in India, right? I read that on a flatmate's recommendation in my 2nd year at uni... I didn't like it much.

8:22 PM  
Blogger llew said...

I read Moby Dick (and the Iliad - in translation of course) during a really boring holiday job. I was filling paint tins with paint... we got 10 minutes off every hour supposedly to breathe clean air, but really, so the factory workers could smoke 3 cigarettes.

Anyhow... compared to the job, those books were fascinating. I reckon that's the only way I'd have struggled through them.

I read neil Gaiman's Smoke & Mirrors in the last couple of years. Great stories.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

//by taxonomy of whales do you mean stuffing

Ah, you might mean taxidermy! Taxonomy was apparently the result of a great Victorian concern with classifying the natural world - so Melville writes chapters with elaborate systems for the classification of whales. All bunk, apparently, so it might well be his idea of a joke - rather too subtle for my tastes.

8:09 AM  
Anonymous Alan said...

I've had several attempts at reading War and Peace. It's been sitting on the bedside table for months now. But I need to try again, if only to be able to finally give it back to the person I borrowed it from.

Also big fan of Haruki Murakami - I was given a copy of Norwegian Wood years ago in Japan. But his writing, while good, always leaves me drained and slightly depressed.

Wind-up Bird Chronicles is good, although all it left me was that mildly depressed feeling and a determination never to explore down wells.

11:44 PM  
Blogger The Saturnyne said...

I love it when a post provokes loadsa cool discussion and comm's!



4:10 AM  

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