I know this blog has been dormant for a while, but I thought this merits an update. Last night I went to the “electro-pop opera” Pierre, Natasha, and the Great Comet of 1812, based of course on Tolstoy’s War and Peace. After selling out their run last fall, they’ve just begun a new run in a new temporary space (called Klub Kazino) in the Meatpacking District.
It was so much fun! They mostly focused on the mid-section of the book, and specifically the love triangle between Natasha, Andre, and Anatole. Pierre doesn’t really get his due, but he’s there enough, I guess.
The bottom image is the letter I was handed by one of the cast members (they have this really energetic theater-in-the-round type thing going on, as the audience is seated throughout the “stage”) during a song along the lines of “In the 19th century, we write letters!” If anyone can translate it for me, I’d be much obliged.
Anyway, if you’re in New York, and you like both War and Peace and “experimental” theater, go to this show. It’s great, like the comet of 1812.
I want that poster! My mysterious train buddy, John, sent me this link a few days ago. I’m definitely going to see this production, and I hate going to things alone! If you wanna come with, message or email me at erikonymous [at] gmail. When’s good for everyone else? It looks like the first week of performances are cheaper, but there’ll be free vodka with all performances! Isn’t the theater wonderful?! Let’s do this!
“To go wrong in one’s own way is better then to go right in someone else’s.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
Despite some of Tolstoy’s worst efforts, I found War and Peace lacking, generally, in stuffiness, at least for a book written in the 1860s. The conversations and character dialogue, in particular, felt very natural and contemporary, as it was almost certainly meant to feel at the time it was written. We are most likely in the translators’ debt for that. I believe I’d originally read the Constance Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment, and while I loved it, it felt a little antique. I’m now curious to see what Pevear and Volokhonsky can do with Dostoevsky. Maybe next year?
7. Do you think Jonathan Franzen is hot? How is that not a valid question?
15. We all almost came to a consensus for next month’s book with “Anna Karenina,” but some of us said we “read it already.” Is it possible that some of us lied because we just don’t want to read it? Who was your favorite character in “Anna Karenina?” Oh, really? What was “Vladimir“‘s last name? It’s okay, we’ll wait.
Perfectly valid (and funny) "thought-provoking" discussion questions for book clubs. Apparently this ran a few months back and I missed it.
My answer to (7) is yes, actually, in case anyone’s interested.
“As Ant came down to the brook: he wanted a drink. A wave washed him down and almost drowned him. A Dove was carrying a branch; she saw the Ant was drowning, so she cast the branch down to him in the brook. The Ant got up on the branch and was saved. Then a hunter placed a snare for the Dove, and was on the point of drawing it in. The Ant crawled up to the hunter and bit him on the leg; the hunter groaned and dropped the snare. The Dove fluttered upwards and flew away.”
—Leo Tolstoy’s Fables for Children, which he wrote around 1849 after established a school for peasant children at his country estate, Yasnaya Polyana.
Tolstoy definitely prefigures the characters and setting of War and Peace in this parable. The Ant is clearly Pierre Bezukhov, the Dove, aside from being an obvious metaphor for the divine spirit of the Christ, is Natasha Rostov, the wave is Napoleon’s army, and the hunter is your mom.
so it goes
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue, the monograph went on. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.
—Howard W. Campbell, Jr. (fictitious), in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five
I thought this was at least tangentially relevant. It’s always interesting the ways novels relate to each other. There’s an earlier part in S-F where Billy Pilgrim is talking to his hospital roommate Eliot Rosewater who recommends Dostoevsky to him, and I thought to myself, So close! Mostly I just wanted to brag that after I finished War and Peace, I picked up Slaughterhouse-Five and read it in less than a week. Because it’s short! Not very sweet, though.
This is from a really important gallery of dogs dressed like Napoleon.
Today is Napoleon’s 243 birthday.
Just thought you should know.
It is also Julia Child’s 100th birthday, which I am more excited about to be perfectly honest.
I’ve been waiting to post this video for three months.
I just want to remind everyone who is still following that, while the reading has officially ended, I have no intention of doing away with this tumblr any time soon. I personally plan to update it as I see fit, and I encourage other readers to do the same.
Now that the reading is through, I consider any and all sections of War and Peace up for comment or discussion. No “no spoilers,” you dig? Even if you’re trailing in the reading, if there’s something you want to discuss from a few sections back, submit a post! It’s easy! Just click on “submit”!
That is all for now.