War and Peace – Book Seven My 2019 Reading Project

Book Seven is wall-to-wall Rostov’s and that pretty much means spending your money and blindly avoiding your problems.

Why is War & Peace so long? Book 7 has six chapters of the Rostovs hunting wolves. It’s good….but six chapters.

And that strikes far too close to home. Fortunately, I learned while the Rostov’s, especially the Old Count doesn’t seem to. Now he gets to face that dread of impoverishing your kid or busting his dreams. Very depressing. But the small r republican in me remembers that most of this money is stolen from the people over generations so then I don’t feel too badly but still. I have a little sympathy for Nick and Sonya as they may have to learn to do with only one house and two servants in their old age.

I’m reading the book on Kindle and while I find it very compelling I do marvel a bit as I see the little meter at the bottom only register 44% read….oh, my. How much further I have to go! What’s going to happen? But no fear!


This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Six My 2019 Reading Project

Ah, youth! And damnable old people! The more things change the more things stay the same.

All the young ones are just trying to live their lives and the grown ups are either grumpy or making bad financial decisions or acting poorly thus causing their children all kinds of consternation. And the kids just want to live their lives and love.

Andy, Pete and Nat at the rave., 1809 style.

And all the while the serfs keep tilling and harvesting and trying not to die. But I digress.

I’m in the middle third of the great novel now. I know the characters. The honeymoon is over. The initial excitement is over and yet the finale is a long way off. But I’m not feeling it’s been a slog at all. Ok, maybe a bit. Tolstoy keeps opening up and developing the characters ever so slightly. While I believe Andrei and Natasha are the romantic stars here, I’ve found the others more interesting. Marya’s inner struggle at the end seems profound. Pierre fumbling around for enlightenment and wisdom strikes a bit too close to home as does the striving of Boris.

And as a striving writer, I’m more and more intimidated by Tolstoy. He’s a god.


This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Five My 2019 Reading Project

The man himself

So I’m come deep into War and Peace now – over a third of the way through.

The characters are no longer new. I know Pierre will be Pierre. A chump. Boris is politicking. Nick is still a rich boozer and looser but they are all trying to reform. Andrew is a depressive but I think that won’t last.

There is some changes afoot. But their final turns and their climaxes are a far way off still…And I’ve decided to quit aspartame and caffeine!

But the story keeps pulling me along. Tolstoy would fit right in with the Golden Age of TV writing, working in great stories as well as profound lessons you’d be able to talk over with your smarter friends. I’ll keep reading.


This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Four My 2019 Reading Project

Andrey is feared dead but is not but then his wife dies in childbirth.
Pierre gets into a duel with his wife’s lover and loses his fortune to his wife.
Nick loses big at the gambling tables and has to have daddy bail him out.

Book Four is full of sadness. What the battlefield didn’t take, fate and stupidity does in book 4.

We learn more about men and Man in this chapter as the characters are buffeted and tossed about by their flaws and somewhat held steady by their virtues.

Tolstoy does such a good job of not creating characters but real people – with shadings of good and evil. Bad guys aren’t all bad and good guys have terrible faults.

I’m so eager to find out what happens to these guys.


This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Three My 2019 Reading Project

War and Peace’s Book Three brings to mind to me the battle scenes of The Killer Angel’s by Michael Shaara.

The complete scope Schaara and Tolstoy are able to bring from an infantryman with his face in the mud to the despair of a general. From Napolean’s victory preening as seen through the eyes of Boris to the heart rending slaughter on the dam is astounding.

I’m again annoyed I didn’t come to this book sooner. As I am with so many authors (and things) I’ve come to later in life.

The magic so far of Tolstoy is that I feel compelled to keep reading the narrative. I drags me along and in the narrative I can sense the underlying philosophy that is guiding him. He’s not just spinning a yarn, I’m going to be taught something whether I want to be or not. I’m going to have Tolstoy imprinted in my soul by the end of this whether I want him there or not.

As a reader, I’m a bit intimidated. As a writer, I’m humbled, knocked to my knees humbled.

War and Peace – Book Two My 2019 Reading Project

After Book One’s endless round of cocktail parties and personal politics and kisses in alcoves and fights over wills. I was beginning to wonder where the ‘war’ in the title came into this novel but then Book Two ended up being twenty chapters of nothing but war.

And Tolstoy gives us the full gamut from buck privates to Emperors. From field tactics to international relations. Wow. The characters we met at parties in Petersburg and Moscow in Book One are now throw on the fields of battle in Austria where they are moved around to witness history and as their stories unfold we get to see it also.

And the amazing thing is that Tolstoy can keep this up over twenty chapters. It’s quite amazing. And exhausting to read.

One thing I do like about Tolstoy that I thought I might not is his minor characters. I’d recently watched a video essay on the Cohen Brother’s minor characters. Tolstoy does much the same thing. They are wonderful, unforgettable editions that added pepper to the story. They are little distractions that play off of the main characters, maybe even elaborate on them.


This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book One My 2019 Reading Project

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.

Tolstoy at War

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.

Tolstoy at Peace

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

December’s Poems-End of the year of poetry.

This is it. The last month of poetry I read in 2018. I started a poetry noob and finished up a poetry lover….well, a lover of some poetry. Wallace Stevens is still a hard nut to crack for me.

This month I took is easy with some Blake and other more accessible poetry but not necessarily simpler poetry. It’s all in how you read it, I guess.

I’ve already started next years’s project – Tolstoy. It may just be War and Peace or it may also include Anna K. W&P has 360 chapters so that seems like a nice one year goal – but the chapters are so short…..

December 1, 2018The Little Boy LostWilliam BlakeI like these bookmatched poems.
December 2, 2018The Little Boy FoundWilliam BlakeEven though in “experience” it’s sweetly childlike.
December 3, 2018Infant JoyWilliam BlakeI see the “joy” with kids 20 years behind me.
December 4, 2018Infant SorryWilliam BlakeBut I remember this. The worry.
December 5, 2018August 1968W.H. AudenSimple like a knife in the gut.
December 6, 2018Lessons of DarknessClive JamesA poem to keep around for a while.
December 7, 2018Flanders FieldsJohn McCraeThe final stanza isn’t my favorite.
December 8, 2018If I Can Stop One Heart From BreakingEmily DickinsonSImply, direct, brilliant, American. Dickinson
December 9, 2018In the Bleak MidwinterChristina RossettiA nice christmas poem that’s not done to death.
December 10, 2018Mad Girls Love SongSylvia PlathShe leaves me cold.
December 11, 2018He Wishes for the clothes of heavenWilliam Butler YeatsI like these simple, intense poems.
December 12, 2018Caged BirdMaya AngelouI enjoyed more than I thought. Quibbles but only quibbles.
December 13, 2018Tell All The Truth But Tell It SlantEmily DickinsonShe is gloriously good.
December 14, 2018Sonnet 30William ShakespeareIt’s a hit!
December 15, 2018When I Am Dead, My DearestChristina RossettiNow my favorite Rossetti.
December 16, 2018The FlyWilliam BlakeI need to buy this collection and give it.
December 17, 2018General Review of the Sex SituationDorothy ParkerIs this trite? True?
December 18, 2018When I Was One and TwentyA.E. HousmanAnd not just 21 either. Ugh.
December 19, 2018To A Poor Old WomanWilliam Carlos WilliamsNot as powerful to me as his others.
December 20, 2018A Visit from St. NicholasClement Clarke MooreIt’s almost Christmas!
December 21, 2018Neither Out Far Nor In DeepRobert FrostI may have to come back to Frost again.
December 22, 2018The Author to Her BookAnne BradstreetMaybe a preface to my next novel.
December 23, 2018Cradle SongWIlliam BlakeBlake…he’s another poem by the same name. Again.
December 24, 2018The Fire of DriftwoodHenry Wadsworth LongfellowI like the practicalness of Longfellow’s poems.
December 25, 2018The Flea John DonneKind of gross.
December 26, 2018Inaugural PoemAngelouI don’t hate this.
December 27, 2018Tonight I can Write the Saddest LinesPablo NerudaLovely.
December 28, 2018Provide, ProvideRobert FrostOr don’t give a damn about people’s opinions.
December 29, 2018The Tide Rises the Tide FallsHenry Wadsworth LongfellowI really like this one. Maybe finish with the accessible hits.
December 30, 2018A Daughter of EveChristina RossettiA warning we can all take.
December 31, 2018Glory of WomenSiegfried SassoonEnd this project how I began it. With a gut punch war poet.
Extras I readFrom The Very First Coming DownW.H. AudenLIke a coded/vieled message to a lover.
Extras I readSpainW.H. AudenEh, politics but I like the contrast of “Yesterday….But to-day the struggle.” bits
Extras I readSeptember 1, 1939W.H. AudenI really like the last stanza, a personal motto maybe?
Extras I readThis Lunar BeautyW.H. AudenThis left me cold as the moon. (rimshot)
Extras I readLullabyW.H. AudenWent over my head. Which makes me feel dumb. I’ll read more about it.
Extras I readIn Memory of Sigmund FreudW.H. AudenAuden is good at these Elegies. I like.
Extras I readIn Praise of LimestoneW.H. AudenSupposedly one of his best to lacks grace to me.
Extras I readThe MapElizabeth BishopAnother impersonal word-salad modernist poem. Ugh.
Extras I readThe Gentleman of ShalottElizabeth BishopSometimes I find these modernist poems insulting? Is that me or the poem?

November’s Poems

In November I finished with the 100 best loved poems book I was using as a guide and switched over to a youtube series on the Romantics. As I write this I’m learning to appreciate and falling for William Blake. He’s a bit mystical which is not my normal thing but seems to in an intelligent and, more importantly, imaginative and almost rebellious way.

I’ll have to read more about him.

November 1, 2018 You Can Have It Philip Levine This kicked me in the heart this morning.
November 2, 2018 Ariel Sylvia Plath I’m unsure if she’s erotizing this horse or uncontrollable life.
November 3, 2018 The City in the Sea Edgar Allan Poe I don’t enjoy his overwroughtness.
November 4, 2018 Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter John Crowe Ransom This poem seemed to be reaching to me. Maudlin.
November 5, 2018 A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning Adrienne Rich I just can’t stand this type of stuff.
November 6, 2018 Peter Quince at the Clavier Wallace Stevens I ‘get’ Stevens after the 10th read. Worth it most times.
November 7, 2018 Of Mere Being Wallace Stevens
I’m tempted to go all in on Stevens. Other times I want to toss him.
November 8, 2018 The Snow Man Wallace Stevens With Wallce, It feels like there’s a there her out of my reach.
November 9, 2018 The Prediction Mark Strand A moment or a sense, nicely done.
November 10, 2018 Reapers Jean Toomer Nice picture of the violence of work.
November 11, 2018 A Far Cry from Africa Derek Walcott Better after reading some history. A bit scientific for me.
November 12, 2018 Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio James Wright Football sadness. Examined many times.
November 13, 2018 Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s James Wright Doesn’t everyone feel that way?
November 14, 2018 Queen Anne’s Lace William Carlos Williams Now this is an erotic poem.
November 15, 2018 Landscape with the Fall of Icarus William Carlos Williams I like the painting. I like the Auden. I like the Williams.
November 16, 2018 The Yachts William Carlos Williams Not my favorite WCW
November 17, 2018 No Leaders Please Charles Bukowski A good one to keep in the office to read.
November 18, 2018 Aunt Helen T.S. Elliot When the cat’s dead, the mice will enjoy life.
November 19, 2018 Strange Fits of Passion I have Known William Wordsworth Maybe I’m a 19th century Romantic
November 20, 2018 She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways William Wordsworth
Yeah, I think I am a 19th century Romantic. I like their poetry more
November 21, 2018 I Traveled Among Unknown Men William Wordsworth Sounds almost like a Frank Turner song to me.
November 22, 2018 Mont Blanc Percy Blythe Shelley Maybe just too verbose for me. Or too philosophical.
November 23, 2018 Ode to Autumn John Keats It makes me feel as if I miss so much-I don’t see.
November 24, 2018 Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower William Wordsworth His poems make me want to learn about him more.
November 25, 2018 Surprised by Joy William Wordsworth I feel inadequate sometimes to even comment on these.
November 26, 2018 A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal William Wordsworth Good vocab words. Tragic and sweet.
November 27, 2018 The Blossom William Blake Trite at first but then realized it’s what I need to hear.
November 28, 2018 The Chimney Sweep William Blake Wonderful-nice but loaded with meaning
November 29, 2018 The Little Girl Lost William Blake Erotic? Or just sexual maturing? Or maybe something Christian.
November 30, 2018 The Little Girl Found William Blake Comforting.

October’s Poems

October 1, 2018 Parsley Rita Dove Political gut punch. The litte knot of screams is nice.
October 2, 2018 The Journey of the Magi T.S. Elliot It’s nice when stories are retold-deepened.
October 3, 2018 A Supermarket in California Allen Ginsberg I like this more than I was expecting too. Imaginative.
October 4, 2018 Howl Allen Ginsberg I appreciate it more for it’s historic place than it’s poetic
October 5, 2018 They Feed They Lion Philip Levine It seems to get in the way of itself. Or in the way of me.
October 6, 2018 On the Anniversary of My Death W.S. Merwin Momento Mori at it’s best.
October 7, 2018 Why I Am Not A Painter Frank O’Hara Creation makes it’s own way.
October 8, 2018 Diving into the Wreck Adrienne Rich I have a hard time appreciating or finding any soul in this poem.
October 9, 2018 Mr. Flood’s Party Edwin Arlington Robinson Another depressing one from Eddie A. Very American to me.
October 10, 2018 The Waking Theodore Roethke Complex but feel it’s one I should come back to.
October 11, 2018 In a Dark Time Theodore Roethke I don’t understand each line but I feel each deeply.
October 12, 2018 Grass Carl Sandburg A simple, honest poem.
October 13, 2018 Traveling through the Dark William Stafford Dead deer story. Doesn’t do much for me.
October 14, 2018 Andedote of the Jar Wallace Stevens Wallace Stevens…again with the over my head.
October 15, 2018 When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d Walt Whitman Yeah, so he had a hard crush on Lincoln.
October 16, 2018 Corson’s Inlet A.R. Ammons I felt and understood this one and liked it.
October 17, 2018 Dream Song #4 John Berryman A Berryman poem I can appreciate and identify with.
October 18, 2018 Yet do I Marvel Countee Cullen Wow! Wonderfully good, concise, biting.
October 19, 2018 next of course to god america i e.e. cummings I get it but it leaves me cold.
October 20, 2018 I felt a Funeral, in my Brain Emily Dickinson
There’s the urge to try to diagnose her instead of understand her.
October 21, 2018 I like to see it lap the Miles- Emily Dickinson Exciting!
October 22, 2018 The Soul selects her own Society Emily Dickinson I like this one. All of them.
October 23, 2018 A narrow Fellow in the Grass Emily Dickinson Yikes. A snake. ED knocks out of the park. Love it.
October 24, 2018 My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun Emily Dickinson Wonderful again.
October 25, 2018 Preludes T.S. Elliot I deem this one my favorite TS Elliot poem!
October 26, 2018 The Oven Bird Robert Frost A bird as reaper? Death knell? Call to contemplation.
October 27, 2018 Acquainted with the Night Robert Frost A great brooder of a poem. Iv’e been there.
October 28, 2018 Fire and Ice Robert Frost Destructive desire is more powerful than hate? I can see that.
October 29, 2018 God’s Grandeur Gerald Manley Hopkins I’m not down with the theology but Hopkins is great again.
October 30, 2018 The Weary Blues Langston Hughes Definitely not Wallace Stevens.
October 31, 2018 Touch Me Stanley Kunitz Beautiful. Touching. Perfection