notes from
the MUCK . . .

How does your garden grow? With muck, muck and more muck! I spent much of today finishing the final muck box and then shifting muck from one box to the next. The first box, which the Big Lad is enthusiastically pointing out, has been rotting down for two years now and once we’d removed the top quarter of unrotted material, we found we’d hit the pay dirt.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

War and Fucking Peace, Pt. 1

Just so you know, Jeff and I are, in fact, reading War and Peace and yes, it IS, like, really long. Really, really long.

So last night I skimmed the introduction - I pretty much hate introductions, they only seem to make sense after you've already read the damn book - and tackled the first 4 chapters, or approximately 26 pages. My very flexible goal is going to be 25 pages per day, which if I adhered to, which I won't, would mean that I'd be finishing the book just before Thanksgiving, which I also won't.

After a rocky start (the opening didn't exactly grab me), I was pleasantly suprised to find that the book was quite readable. I have discovered two tools that will be indispensable: (1) the dictionary widget in my OSX dashboard, and (2) wikipedia. Thank God for wireless internet access; I don't know how anybody read this book 25 years ago.

I can see already that my perfect ignorance of European history will be a hindrance. I vaguely sensed that Napolean Bonaparte was an important guy who didn't always play nice with others, but apparently he was a BIG DEAL in Russia in and around 1812. Who knew? Perhaps a little primer on the French Revolution and Napoleanic Wars will be necessary. Is this the kind of thing they teach in high school?

Anyway, I was interested to learn that Tolstoy was writing about events that were not very far removed in time. Somehow in my head, because 1812 is ancient history to me, I had assumed it was to Tolstoy, too, which makes absolutely no sense but there you have it. In fact, the book opens in 1805 shortly after Napolean was coronated as King of Italy (thanks, Wikipedia!), and Tolstoy was born in 1828. He probably also knew, or had relatives who knew, many of the major players. For example, the Russian military commander Mikhail Kutuzov (thanks, Wikipedia!) is mentioned repeatedly in the first few chapters and presumably will be a significant character in the book. When Kutuzov died in 1813 he had no male heir and so his estate passed to the Tolstoy family (thanks, Wikipedia!). So this would be a little bit like me writing an epic historical novel set in the Korean War, only that my family ran in the same circles as MacArthur and inherited all his money when he died. This, I imagine, might color my opinion of some of the players. So, banal as the observation might be, it suprised and interested me to learn that Tolstoy had ties to and possibly personal biases about many of the historical figures in the novel.

Stay tuned for at least two more months of such insipid observations and speculations! Incidentally, we're reading the Maude Translation if anyone wants to get in on this sweet, sweet project.

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