Monday, January 25, 2010

Last Station and a new direction

I went to see The Last Station with a friend yesterday and loved it. It's thoughtful, romantic, and grounded with some great performances, mostly, as noted already everywhere, Helen Mirren. It's rare to get such a sweeping romance with an underpinning of great themes and creeping revolution. Christopher Plummer was wonderful as well, and so too was Paul Giamatti and James McEvoy (who is basically adorable - there, I've said it - shallow, I know, but true). I don't know who Kerry Condon is, but great job as well. And I am a sucker for birch trees and beautiful forest scenes. I really was tense at one point about what was going to happen, so much so my palms were sweating. Avatar, I was a little nervous. This one, waiting to know if Tolstoy was really going to sign away the rights to his life's work and go against the wishes of his wife - pulse quickening.

Anyhow, aside from the majority of Anna Karenina, which I read in high school and then wrote a paper on (I had a habit of picking books and then writing on characters who die half-way through, or themes I could pick up and extrapolate - what a slacker), I haven't read a lot of Tolstoy. In September, I met a man at a retreat who was a Sufi and also taught Tolstoy. He loves War and Peace, and said teaching it actually makes him cry. That's quite a recommendation. And I've heard about the beauty and majesty of this book before.

So seeing The Last Station, I thought maybe I could read it. Then I had the idea of reading it and blogging about it at the same time. Then I looked at a version online and saw that it has many chapters. In fact, after looking at an online version, it's 15 books and 2 epilogues (although the wikipedia entry says it's 4 books and two epilogues), divided into 365 chapters. 365. One for each day of the year. Accident? I think not.

I looked around, and found several blogs where people were planning on doing this--

Reading war and peace, where a woman blogs about a trip around the world with her husband and two young sons. It was started in 2003, ended in 2005, and all I could find about the book was one of the last entries "Someone asked me just recently if it was worth the effort and I would certainly say it was. My only criticism would be that there were too many battles in it." So, not really a simultaneous blog kind of thing.

Then there is war and peace project, which is a good name, but sadly an anemic blog. Only three entries, the last one being in 2008, about chapters 1 -3.

Then there's the simple war and peace, by the promisingly named blogger "Anastasia" which will be about her feelings, tortured or otherwise (her words), started in 2000. There are no entries.

I also stumbled across reading Middlemarch, which is something I've always wanted to do as well. It looks like an online book group, and they read War and Peace as well. Interesting idea, online bookgroup, but reading is so solitary already. I guess it's a step in connecting about it, and views from people all over. I still need to read Middlemarch. And the rest of Magic Mountain, which I loved, and then got mired down during one of Settembrini's speeches about the meaning of life. In 1999.

So I entertained a bunch of names, including "war and peace 365", which sounds too much like a hip bistro, or "reading war and peace 365", which is clumsy, and I finally settled on "a year of war and peace", but sadly, it's registered, but doesn't show as a blog (!). So, the blog will be titled "A Year of War and Peace" even though it's really I'm looking for the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation since everyone flipped for their "Brothers Karamazov", speaking of other books I've started on not finished.

Before you get all finger-pointy, it's long. Really long. And remember it was serialized in the 19th century. And there was no television. And long nights. Especially in Russia.

So, I'm not sure when I'll officially start (I have surgery on the 4th of February, so I may start after that), but check back. I'll post over here once I do, for the ones of you reading here. I suppose, in solidarity with Tolstoy's views, I can look upon this as a spiritual practice. At least a practice that I will do every day. Didn't work with meditation, but hey, one can dream.

And for all you that read the blog, maybe you'll be able to feel like you've read it, or be interested in picking it up yourself. More conversation is more good.


Or, Вперед, as the Russian translation engine on the web tells me.

Now, to buy the book....


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I am afraid to read Tolstoy, I don't know why. I just am.

I am looking forward to this movie though.

Elizabeth said...

A fellow blogger I know is hooked into these virtual communities that read a "classic" together and either blog about it or comment on the main person's blog. I know they've tacked those huge books by the author who killed himself last year whose name I can't remember in this moment.

Anyway, I've read all the Russian classics EXCEPT War and Peace, and I'm wondering whether I might join you. Maybe we could have a plan or something? Email me if you're interested or get any other takers...

Criticlasm said...

Sure, Elizabeth, you're welcome to join me and join in, but I was more looking at it as an exercise in daily practice, if that makes sense. It may seem selfish, but I guess it was just one of those things I wanted to challenge myself to do. That said, if you'd like to join in and read you're welcome to, but I don't really want to do an online community thing. Don't know why, but I'm just not feeling it for this.

And good for you for having read all the Russian classics. I've just done Chekhov, who I love, and Anna Karenina in high school. Sorely lacking in that area....