My big reading news this week: I finally finished War and Peace! Put a notch in my belt! I find it impossible to review a book like this. I've never read any other translations, so I can't compare this new Pevear-Volokhonsky translation to earlier ones; and the book is so long and complex that I wouldn't even know where to begin. Suffice it to say, it is wonderful; it is challenging; it is funny, frustrating, exciting, boring...in short, it is many things. I did have some "issues" and did not give it a 5 star rating. But I'm so glad I read it; I loved the characters and most of the story. I wearied of Tolstoy stepping out of the narrator role and ranting about Napoleon and historians (though he did insist it was not a novel). Now I need to move away from the Russian tomes for awhile.
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd sent me this cartoon:
On to my short stories for the day. Of course, this is just an excuse to crack open the new Jhumpa Lahiri collection, Unaccustomed Earth.
- "Quality Time" from Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver. I am crazy about Kingsolver's writing and had read everything she's written except this collection of short stories, which I stumbled onto in a used bookstore recently. In this story, Miriam, a single mom of a precocious five year old daughter, Rennie, wrestles with the everyday chores of working and raising a child, in addition to the Big Questions and the What Ifs - such as how would she handle guardianship of her three nieces and nephews if her sister should die? What ensues is a delightful and realistic conversation between mother and daughter about where Rennie would live if anything happened to Miriam. Kingsolver is as skilled at the short story as she is at essays, nonfiction and novels.
- "The Bad News" from Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood. Another great used bookstore find. Like me, the female protagonist cannot bear to hear the news first thing in the morning, before the coffee and the toast. Her husband, Tig, needs to "download" the bad news first thing, to purge it by sharing it. Atwood does an interesting bit on relationships in terms of past, present and future tenses: 'back then, still and not yet.' It's the 'not yet' that's mildly disturbing:
Communication hasn't failed us, not yet. 'Not yet' is aspirated, like the 'h' in 'honour.' It's the silent 'not yet.' We don't say it out loud.Atwood's character then does a time trip and transports the breakfast conversation in her mind to the south of France, 3rd century CE. She finds many parallels, politically and personally.
- Another couple of stories from Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor: "A Perfect Relationship" and "Men of Ireland." I didn't find these as compelling as the title story, which I read a few weeks ago. Still, he's a wonderful writer and I was happy to stumble onto his short novel, The Story of Lucy Gault at, you guessed it, that same used bookstore. I look forward to reading this highly recommended novel and finishing up his book of short stories.
- And saving for the last:
Even the book's cover draws me like a magnet. The danger of starting this collection is that I won't want to put it down, and I have two Early Review books I need to read and review soon. I've been looking forward to Lahiri's new book since I heard about it a couple of months ago, and I've read nothing but rave reviews about it. So, gathering all the discipline I can muster, I'm reading one story this morning, "Hell-Heaven." I'll report in next Sunday's salon how successful I am at depriving myself of the rest until my ER obligation is met.