Posted by: ritagone | June 20, 2018

War and Peace by the Pool

On my recent trip to Maui, accompanied by my husband and joined later the same day by my two children, my son in law and all four grandchildren, I learned something very valuable: you cannot read “War and Peace” by a busy hotel swimming pool.  “Why?” you ask.  Because children and adults make noise by the hotel swimming pool, talking, laughing, screaming with joy as they jump and dive and run around with friends and family.  “War and Peace,” on the other hand, demands the utmost concentration, lest you forget who Pierre is or where Rostov fits into the plot, why Napoleon wanted to conquer Russia in the first place or what was happening to the boots of Russian soldiers on the march to whatever city in Austria you can’t remember because someone was yelling her lunch order to her mommy during that paragraph.

My friend Sue texted me when I returned home and wanted to know what we did on this wonderful vacation.  I texted back that there was snuba-ing (a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving where you don’t go lower than 10 feet in the water but have all the visuals of both activities and none of the fears of drowning in your prime), surfing lessons, a helicopter ride around Maui and over to an adjacent island, and zip lining, which almost killed Michael.  Not the zip lining itself, mind you, which looked amazingly fun, but the hike up to the heights of the mountain so that you could zip line DOWN, down, down to the end of the runs.

Meanwhile, back at the condo, where it was deliciously quiet, I kept reading “War and Peace.”  Sue wrote back to me how impressed she was that I had finished “War and Peace” in five days, admitting that it would probably take her at least a year to read it.  I wrote back that she mis-read my text: I hadn’t finished “War and Peace,” I had merely begun the process.  When I arrived back home to Westlake Village, I had read 17% of it, just a little over 100 pages on my Kindle.  Only about 645 Kindle pages more to read!!!

I thought about switching to the paperback edition of the novel that I decided not to pack due to its weight, over 1,000 pages of text.  But when I found my corresponding page in it and started to read, the text was so small that in a short time I was losing my vision, so I switched back to my Kindle version, where the font size is so big that every time I swipe, I have read about five sentences on the regular print page of the paperback.  Still, I prefer that, because I’m building quite a bit of dexterity with my right hand swiping technique while moving along slowly but surely through the novel.  I figure I may be done with it by the time summer ends.

Lesson learned: sometimes two things are at cross purposes with each other through no fault of their own.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”  Reading “War and Peace” is a noble undertaking.  Vacationing by a hotel pool in Maui is amazingly relaxing.  But you probably should not mix them.  One demands a sort of quiet solitude so that you can concentrate on the exorbitant number of characters that march through the novel with varieties of names in Russian.  The other beckons you to laugh and be cheerful and enjoy the frivolity of family and friends, to bask in the sun and pretend that all’s right with the world, even for a few hours.

Apples and oranges.  Oil and water.  They don’t mix. I’m sorry, Count Tolstoy, but I must finish your tome in the quiet of my room, snuggled in and savoring the language (translated), the characters (with many names), the plot (Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812), and everything else about this jewel that so many people will never read because they are daunted by its size and stature.

But I, I will finish it.  I will finish it.  I will finish it.  I will finish it.


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