Monday, January 9, 2012


OK, so maybe it’s not my Waterloo. Maybe it’s my own literary Battle of Borodino.

I’m putting Tolstoy’s War and Peace back on the shelf. It bested me. In a world where Hoppers hop maniacally between work, children, household chores, friends, and a never-ended inertial battle against low energy, there just isn’t any room for an eleven-hundred word eighteenth-century Russian masterpiece of literature.

Weep not for me, children. It goes back on the shelf, not in the trash can.

This is not the first time I’ve thrown in the towel. Recently, I had to surrender to Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain (about 50% completed), Pyotr Ouspensky’s Tertium Organum (60% completed), Father Walter Ciszek’s He Leadeth Me (33%), Robert Anton Wilson’s Eye in the Pyramid (20%) and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (5% before my head exploded). All are back on the shelf, and all will be tackled again.

Many books required a second go to get through: Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, Clive Barker’s Imagica, PKD’s Time Out of Joint, Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Some of my proudest accomplishments are when I finally master books like these, absorb them and make them my own. I never leave a Good book permanently unfinished, provided that “G” in “good” is capitalized.

What happened? I guess my heart wasn’t into it. I first cracked the book in 1984, reading the first 80 or 90 pages. This time around, I raced through the beginning, eager to get past the “soap opera” elements of the story and on to the Napoleonic Wars. Well, I got there, and it wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t Red Badge of Courage. It was good, don’t get me wrong; I’m not panning the book. But when I found myself making excuses not to read it, that was the red flag. Life is too short to waste on reading something that doesn’t drive you crazy with anticipation.

War and Peace goes back into semi-retirement. I may get to it sooner or I may get to it later, but I will read the whole thing before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

(For the record, I reached page 236 – Chapter XII of Part III – before reaching this decision. I began it on November 26, and probably invested twelve or fifteen reading sessions.)

(First paragraph note: Waterloo is the battle which effectively ended Napoleon as Emperor of France and threat to Europe.  Borodino was the battle which effectively ended Napoleons campaign into Russia.  A more fitting metaphor, no?)

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