One of my resolutions for 2011 was to read War and Peace. This was, in fact, also a resolution for 2009 and for 2010... so, round about late October, I realized that if I didn't want to (sigh) put it on my resolutions for 2012 list, I'd better get cracking. It also occured to me that, as a novelist myself and a creative writing teacher, it would be an excellent exercise to keep a blog.
I'm always telling my students how important it is for a writer to read not as a passive consumer, nor as an English major, but as a fellow craftsman looking to see how, precisely, the thing was made. Some questions to ask are, what strikes you as especially good and why? Can you identify a specific technique that you could use? And if anything bores you, why does it bore you? And so on. (I'll be teaching a two day "Techniques of Fiction" workshop in San Miguel de Allende on February 20th and 21st and so I'll be updating my handouts on using point of view, detail, dialogue, etc etc with some examples from War and Peace.)
It turned out that throughout a rather crushing holiday season I was able to keep up with the reading but not, alas, the blog. I'm almost caught up with the blog, however. Meanwhile, you can check it out here.
Final word: wow. War and Peace is one of the best books I have ever read. It does take some investment and persistence, especially in the first few chapters, but it will blow the top of your head off. I'll have quite a bit more to say about it in the next few days as I finish up the blogging there.
P.S. This week I'm also getting ready to launch the Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project on January 16th. Follow on twitter @marfamondays
UPDATE (January 14): The Reading War & Peace is finished-- check out the conclusions (no worries, not a plot spoiler) here.