I remember reading somewhere, likely about his novel Man in Full, Tom Wolfe wanting to write a great, sweeping novel like Tolstoy. And then he did. Man in Full impressed me and impressed upon me. It will never leave me.
My own writing has been quite different. It’s straight forward. Narrow. Very direct. Sparse. For years this was my ideal. Go for Hemingway. But it’s a limitation, I think, of youth. Impatience, maybe. I just want to get on with the story. And I’m no longer a youth.
It may be time for me to write a sweeping novel where I can reflect on reflect and explore sweeping themes.
Book One of W&P is definitely tempting me further into trying it.
Yes, I struggle with the names and I struggle a bit with the French and I struggle a bit with the culture and the history. But with a decent guide and some patience the novel’s first of fifteen books – consisting of 25 shortish chapters – sucks you into the the coming narrative.
I’ve honestly no idea what that narrative is about – obviously some war, right? – but what happens to Pierre, Andrey and Boris (I’ve simplified them to Pete, Andy and, well, Boris, in my head) and those around them? I’m a cultural nincompoop.
Yet, I’ve run ahead of my commitment to one chapter a day. The writing is not nearly as ponderous as I was expecting – maybe that’s the translation – the narrative is fairly light. Why was I expecting it to be about soldiers sitting in dirty snow eating potatoes talking about death? Heck, the first five chapters were set at the same party. Pierre is a dork. Boris’ mom is a pain in the ass hoot.
I’m sure things get a bit dark from here. The last couple chapters are hinting at it with deaths, fights over wills, guys hating on their sweet wives and what not but I feel like a jerk for not reading this sooner.
This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619