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Monday 7 March 2011
My Kindle tells me that I am 44% of the way ("location 12886 of 28927") through War and Peace. I had promised myself that I would get at least to 50% before I abandoned the book, but I don't think that is going to happen anymore. It turns out in the end that both war and peace are boring.
I typically expect to know by 44% of the way through a book what the author is trying to tell me, but with War and Peace I'm still not entirely sure. So far the message seems to be that the human condition is entirely without merit: war sucks, love sucks, religion sucks, politics sucks.... Life in Imperial Russia really, really sucks. That takes 28927 virtual pages?
Perhaps my problem with the book is the fact that I am reading an English translation of the original Russian/French. There's no significant art in the language, just enough repetitious description to be confusing. Or maybe that's because of the never-ending string of newly introduced Russians and their identical "stout" figures and posturing pretentiousness.
But it's not only the minor characters that I dislike. It's also a problem that I hate most of the major characters. Some are just foolhardy children (like Nikolas, who gambles away thousands of rubles that his family can't afford to impress a friend who steals wives for sport), but others are inherently weak characters (like Pierre, who supposedly means well but couldn't stick to a plan if he were glued to it). The "evil" characters are all one-note caricatures of one or more of the seven deadly sins, and the "good" characters are all stupid. I have a hard time pulling for stupid.
There is an episode of Cheers in which Sam reads War and Peace in 5 days (without sleep) to impress Diane. It's taken me 2 months to get only 44% of the way through the same book. I'm sure that it says something terrible about me that I find a television sitcom about a bar filled with sad sack ne'er-do-wells far more engaging than a universally praised epic novel. What can I say in response to that other than, "please pass the Beer Nuts"?