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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Wow, you're reading War and Peace?

Believe me, it's not such a big deal. This book is easy to read, except for two obvious problems: the size and the names. There's nothing you can do about the size, and by that I mean both the commitment (you'll be reading this for a long time, so take your shoes off) and the actual physical weight and bulk of the book (two pillows on lap to bolster it). As noted earlier, I wish Vintage had ponied up and published it in two volumes. That said, I wonder if it would be better to read it in installments over time, as it was (I think) published. That was a good way to read, as the many great 19th-century novels will testify! Reading a massive book like this - a little like listening today to a two-disc CD in one play. Music isn't meant to be heard that way any more. Everyone now downloads, mixes, shuffles, and listens to songs one by one in random or selected order. I think maybe the great 19th-C novels were conceived of as works to be read over time, interspersed with other readings and other living - rather than straight through, this is what I'm reading now. Trying that might help (though I'm not doing so). As to the names, the list of characters at the front helps, but it's clear that any American reader will have trouble, for at least 200 pp. I definitely recommend bookmarking that page. These issues aside, the book is amazingly easy to read and follow and enjoy. As I read it, it's as if an alternate life is taking shape, unfolding, alongside (and within) my own life and consciousness. What more could we expect of a writer, of a book?

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