Dear Russell & Friends,
A short post on a long book? The graphic by Minard above is hanging in my study. I first saw it in consultation with our hospital’s statistician. He described it as the best information graphic ever. I purchased the inexpensive print in an Edward Tufte conference on the graphical display of information that my oldest and I attended together 5 years ago. Hobby Lobby did the rest.
The graphic depicts Napoleon’s march to and retreat from Moscow in the War of 1812. And that was the extent of my knowledge until reading Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace. Like a visit to Israel, reading and reflecting on this book takes time. Tolstoy has fascinated me since I read that his apologetic influenced but did not convince Gandhi. I took Oprah’s advice to read Anna Karenina and found my favorite opening line ever, an explanation for my upbringing, and a hope for my children and grandchildren:
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
Like so many of you, my history and future is an amalgam of the clauses of this brilliant sentence. I found that Anna Karenina was a profound portrait of humanity and I found in Levin a man I could admire and even emulate in his pursuit of authentic faith. So, when the the itch to read War & Peace arose, I was ready to scratch. I listened to the story from Audible, just less than 1 hour a day with occasional splurges on the way to the airport. It took a quarter of a year.
And here I am – – done. I wrote the topics that Tolstoy approached in my journal and I’d like to share them here soon. It is astonishing. Calculus, astronomy, medicine, literature, theology, history, philosophy and so much more. The characters, at least 20 major, became friends or even worthy opponents. And here I am – – done. As the Texas Winter begins I can’t help but feel let down. Finishing an amazing book leaves me wistful. Will my life ever be apportioned with the time and knowledge to write like that, even read like that in more than borrowed minutes?
Consider this an introduction if you will. I missed you in the blog and hoped that writing about reading would help get me off dead center. May I ask?
- Do you enjoy long books?
- Do you feel a let down when they are done?
- Have you read Tolstoy?
- What were you surprised to learn in War & Peace?
Pascal – – 1:16
photo credit: Charles Joseph Minard’s work, hanging in my study