I started this right before I turned 40 ("I better get to those bucket list books before it's too late!," anyone?), and now I'm 40 and a half! Ha! AndI started this right before I turned 40 ("I better get to those bucket list books before it's too late!," anyone?), and now I'm 40 and a half! Ha! And I do feel a bit richer and wiser and at least six months older for it! Disclosure: This book is a BEAST. I mean, we all know it's a big book, but it is a BIG BOOK. I don't think it's bragging to say that I can take 800 to 1,000 page 19th century novels in stride. But this took some serious discipline to finish, and it feels like a big accomplishment!
While I own several hard copies of War & Peace, I read this mostly on Kindle because BIG BOOK. Way too heavy to carry around with me. This also allowed me to read in the dark after my kids and husband fell asleep, and to share some of my favorite quotes, which is great! In retrospect, I think one of the reasons it took me so long to get to this novel was its sheer mass. Technology FTW!
This is considered one of the best novels ever written, in any language, and while I probably could have cut a couple of the extraneous meanderings into the nature of free will, war, and European conflict, I generally think I agree! Tolstoy really defines what it means to have complex, human, fallible, loveable, imperfect characters. Very few authors can even come close to his sympathetic and surprisingly deep, profoundly real characters. By the end of the novel, you know the characters like you know your own family members - or better, actually, since you understand their internal motivations so well. There is no good or evil here, just the human condition. And amazing passages about the multifaceted layers of each character and the world around them on almost every page.
Minor complaint: I do wish he had not ENDED the book on a meandering about the nature of free will. I was quite content to tolerate the meanderings that were sandwiched between compelling narrative, but to end with one? Not great! But this is a pretty minor quibble since it represents less than 1% of the whole book. (I must say, I read a lot of 19th century novels, and I can't think of another one that ends after a long sidetrack without returning to the narrative, so I think this is weird even by serialized novel standards!) Of course I had to read the final meandering, because I'm not going to read 1320 pages of a novel and then give up in the last 100 pages, but this is part of the reason that finishing this book felt like a triumph of discipline and determination! I felt a little irritated with Leo (we were on a first name basis by then) as I trudged to the conclusion; I wanted to say, "I totally got what you were saying about free will about 700 pages ago, and this repetition is not adding anything"; I wanted to give him a little friendly advice about the importance of a "good ending." But it's not like I could write a novel that is 99% best piece of literature of all time. So the 1% of really hammering in his point about free will can be forgiven.
Tolstoy was pretty amazing, and this book has been in my life for so long now that I may be a bit lost without it!
Rating and reviewing this book puts me in a quandary. I didn't enjoy it ... except when I did, despite myself. It's funny and awful, comic and absolutRating and reviewing this book puts me in a quandary. I didn't enjoy it ... except when I did, despite myself. It's funny and awful, comic and absolutely bleak, a sermon on atheism that turns out to be a pretty intense Christian sermon after all (maybe? who knows?). I have to give Flannery O'Connor credit for being able to combine those disparate characteristics in one novel.
But oh, it's just so painful and ugly! I think that's the point, and this definitely isn't the only Southern Gothic novel I've squirmed the entire way through. But for that reason, I can't quite give it the four or five stars it certainly deserves for its importance, legacy, and sheer color. Ability to make your readers squirm is itself a great skill, as little as I enjoy being the subject....more
An interesting and respectful little conversation between Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (a Catholic and scholar) and Umberto Eco (an agnostic who knowsAn interesting and respectful little conversation between Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (a Catholic and scholar) and Umberto Eco (an agnostic who knows more about Catholicism than ... well, practically anyone) about faith and ethics. There were some moments in this little volume when I felt the language was more flowery than it needed to be, while the depth was less than it could have been. And of course the debate is very Catholicism-centered, as you would expect given the debators (other religions are not discussed at all). But it's worth reading just for Eco's last chapter, where he discusses the basis for an agnostic ethos.
It turns out that agnostics and believers can discuss ethics and religion respectfully and without blasting each others' point of view. This is a refreshing change from the shrill, spiteful, absolutist polemics of the Atheism vs. Fundamentalism debate. If you have any interest in religion at all (even if your interest is in criticizing it), you should read this book just to learn how to talk about belief (and nonbelief) without making a complete ass of yourself....more
This is a well-written, balanced account of one branch of the Christian right, and I recommend it, despite the fact that it filled my heart with fearThis is a well-written, balanced account of one branch of the Christian right, and I recommend it, despite the fact that it filled my heart with fear and dread, and, no kidding, kept me up at night.
For more details, I commend you, my dear reader, to the many excellent reviews on Goodreads, which describe the book, and the movement, better than I can (translation: I am too lazy to write a long review).
A personal note: I had an "aha" moment when I went back to reading Anthony Trollope after finishing this, and realized that, even in the 19th century, when docile and submissive women were the cultural ideal, authoritarian, domineering, and "patriarchal" husbands were definitely not. Another reminder that "traditional" cultural movements are usually based on a revisionist, imaginary past....more
I found this in searchable form on Google books (it's also in the Gutenberg Project). Normally, I prefer my books in hard copy, but as this is flat-ouI found this in searchable form on Google books (it's also in the Gutenberg Project). Normally, I prefer my books in hard copy, but as this is flat-out impossible to find otherwise, I count myself lucky to have a PDF of it.
Anyway. Isaac Watts rocks. Did you know that, as a child, he drove his parents crazy by answering all of their questions in rhyme? Awesome....more
This book was so gorgeous, so beautiful, that it made me realize I have given other books five stars far too cheaply! No review could do it justice. JThis book was so gorgeous, so beautiful, that it made me realize I have given other books five stars far too cheaply! No review could do it justice. Just make sure to pick this one up sometime....more