Things went from “I’m busy and then I’m lazy when I’m not busy” to “wow I’m really completely busy” to “well I guess I’m busy but now I’m also mostly lazy since I know I’m just going to be busy again soon” so I haven’t properly post-mortem’ed my reading of War and Peace, a book that I read somewhere in there between the being busy and the being lazy. Here goes.
First, the great thing about War and Peace, is that when you’re not reading a lot, or you’re not reading as much as you might like I should say, because you are being too busy and/or lazy to read as much as is proper, when you’re sitting there thinking you’re way under-read for the year, you can look up at your pile of books you’ve read in the current calendar year, and you can see War and Peace sitting there, and you can say, well, I read War and Peace. I did that thing nobody really does. Even though I was busy! Even though I was lazy! And you can pat yourself on the back, because guess what: you win. You read War and Peace. You are a better person than you were a few short months earlier.
Second, the other great thing about War and Peace, is that War and Peace is actually really great. It’s a really great book. The question people who have not read War and Peace will ask you is, is it worth it? Is it worth reading this book everybody talks about and nobody actually reads? And then when you’ve read it you can answer that yes, actually, it is a great book, and it is worth it, and when you’re done, you’ll sort of wish it was longer, because it sort of felt short. As short as a 1200+ page novel can feel, at least.
See, here’s the thing they don’t tell you when they tell you that War and Peace is this great book that nobody reads: War and Peace is a great book that is entirely readable. At least, in the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation, the one I read, it was entirely readable. On a basic human activity level, fundamentally, as a thing that a person has to sit with and do, War and Peace is readable prose; it is story with characters and plots and digressions and you don’t need a doctorate in doctorology to make your way through the thing. Because it’s great literature doesn’t mean it isn’t funny and sad and moving. It is a book. I enjoyed engaging with it.
It is, of course, however, still a long novel, as will most every novel I’ll read between now and likely the end of this year be; it is true that a cup of coffee will help propel you through the pages at a bit more steady of a clip, and you’re going to hit points when you realize you’ve read four books worth of text before you’ve even hit the halfway point. But then you keep going and weeks or months later you finish and you feel good for doing so because it was enjoyable far more often than it was not.
Which probably all seems like a shallow read of the book and I admit, perhaps it is. Perhaps I did not read this book like a blogger looking for a scoop or like a student looking for a paper topic or like a reviewer looking for a lede. Perhaps the next time–because I believe there will in fact be a next time!–I read War and Peace I’ll read it with a few extra hats on and a few more pairs of glasses and I’ll drink the coffee straight from the pot. But here, now, I’m please to submit a defense of War and Peace as a book that can be read purely for the pleasure of reading the book even when there’s a lot of other things going on in your life and that it works just fine for that purpose. In evidence of my defense I submit myself. Case closed!
Also I think the book changed how I view history, at least a little bit. Well. So. There’s that, too.