Oct 21, 2009

Time to read an epic?

posted by Josee

I am currently reading two epic novels, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy translated by Andrew Bromfield and, more happily and easily, A Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. I've always felt I should read Tolstoy, but never did. So with the arrival of driving October rain, colder weather and general drear I felt I could finally sink into 19th Century Russia for a time. This may seem strange to you, and even me, however after reading Lane Wallace's dialectic explicating the value of books over new electronic mediums for reading (look to our blog from October 18th) I am not so confused. Wallace's emphasis on becoming immersed in the world of the writer with the goal of deep contemplation and, if we're lucky, understanding of the world and ourselves rings true. The two 'gigantic' novels that I've embarked on are a testament to the necessity a kind of slow focus that may not be available to us when reading in an electronic form. I don't have a Kindle, although my mother does and she loves it (she is also a multi-tasking, techi-loving-type person who likes to read), so I don't know if the new mediums for reading in fact offer a more distracting form of the text as Wallace claims. However, I would agree with Wallace that books, especially those like Tolstoy's Russian epic which take place in a time almost forgotten and in a place foreign and surreal to us living in this era, require focus and time to read without distraction. While reading War and Peace I often catch myself mentally adrift while attempting to wrap my mind around a certain phrase, feeling or character and their meaning in the context of the novel. A Winter's Tale is similarly engrossing, but also full of detailed imagery and language that often takes a moment to integrate.

I am enjoying both books immensely if slowly and would recommend to anyone that this is a fabulous time of year to cuddle up with an epic tale. It will slow you down deliciously!

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