This blog is old. You don't want to read an old blog, do you?

If you are not redirected to the fancy new blog in about 6 seconds visit
and update your bookmarks.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Summertime Fun: 19th Century Russian Style

On our flight down to San Diego last week Emily and I read magazines. As we were watching Erin play in the airport before our flight Emily said "I'm going to get some magazines, do you want one?" I said "sure". And she said "What do you want?" And I said "surprise me".

When she came back holding a People and a Maxim I was reminded very forcefully how much I love her. She knew I'd've bought the Maxim on my own had I been flying alone, but that I wasn't about to say "Hey, could you pick me up some porn-without-nudity?"

So, I had a nice time with the Maxim Supermodel Issue on the flight. But before I got around to it I spent some time reading a Make-me-feel-less-guilty-about-the-Maxim publication, the Atlantic Journal Monthly (or however we are supposed to arrange those words; seriously AJM or AMJ or AM or whatever, figure it out).

There was a great article about online reading that did things like increase paranoia about computers and reference Nietzsche and his comments about the work he did on a typewriter versus by longhand. It was also titled, entirely for the grab-factor alone, "Is Google making us stoopid?" I don't really remember Google having much of a role, but the gist of the piece was that maybe the quick hit-and-run reading we do online (blog reading, perhaps using Google Reader so there's your Google tie) might be changing the way our brains are structured to process information. Several anecdotes were brought into play from people who confessed that they had a hard time focusing on a single long piece of writing for the length of time it deserved, something that they had done easily before becoming blog-and-online-article junkies.

It really was mostly just a technophobic, Luddite article. But, you know what? I just spent 15 minutes on Google trying to figure out what the word for "technology-hating person" was because I couldn't remember it. I don't know that it's necessarily Google's fault that I couldn't remember Luddite (and had to give up the search eventually and ask Emily because I wasn't smart enough to pick the right keywords to find articles online about a group that would not willingly put themselves online), but I wonder about this anecdotal "can't read long pieces" stuff. Have I lost my own ability for focused reading?

I read blogs instead of 40 page academic papers or 200 page academic books. And now I've begun Tweeting, and it's hard for me to imagine a less focused type of reading than combing through Tweets looking for something interesting.

Emily and I went to see All the Great Books (abridged) a couple of weeks ago and I was once again reminded of that tome that sits on my shelf, unread, with a fresh spine, taunting me. I bought it almost 8 years ago and I picked it up once and put it down pretty quickly. Yeah. War and Peace.

I've decided that I'm going to make it through War and Peace this summer. Or I'm going to try. It's not as though I'm intimidated by the length (size doesn't matter, say the ladies to their men; size matters not, says Yoda to his boy), but I think I am a little stung by my own earlier failure.

So, here is my clarion: join me in Muscovy. Let's get through War and Peace this summer. I say let's finish it off by the end of Labor Day.

If you've already read it, you can bite me. If you've already started it this summer then kudos to you, but way to make me look bad and I totally wasn't stealing this idea from you.




crazymumma said...

I wonder if I would buy my husband a Maxim.

mmm. no. but I am letting him watch the ball game while I bust my hump blogging.

womaninawindow said...

I read it but it was the summer I met my husband and I was mostly drunk so I don't remember much. And Luddites...funny, I just mentioned them in a post and I had Hudderites stuck in my head but everybody knows what a raucous group the Hudderites are. I had to google technophobes, too.

MadWoman said...

I've read War & Peace twice now, and it's well worth the effort.

Good luck with it!


trademarkmama said...

I'm not reading War and Peace. I knew what a Luddite was, and I think that gives me a pass.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

I was in Hawaii last week reading trashy novels on the beach. I started feeling guilty so I read Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. That was my War and Peace. One brain improving work per summer is my limit!

Mrs. A. said...

Buy the book again: the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. (Unless you intend to read the novel twice, in which case you can read your shitty 8+ year old translation first.)

Missy said...

Good luck with that. Seriously. I'm amazed you can even think of any words apart from "beach" and "sun." I'm thinking a project like this is more a winter one. Oh wait, it's winter here. Damn it. Maybe if you get through it, I'll be inspired.

AEA said...

Really: take Mrs. A.'s advice. Read the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. It's new, lauded, it'll be worth it, and it's cheap. Plus, if you've waited this long to get learned, then you may as well treat yourself.

Ali said...

i'm in.
I've never read it. and have always meant to.

i would totally buy Maxim...for myself, though. it's actually an awesome favorite part? the found porn. perfection.

Anna Marie said...

Given that I usually get through about 2 pages of whatever book I'm involved in before I fall asleep and the book falls out of my hands and *BANG* lands on the floor, waking me up just long enough to turn out the lamp...I think War and Peace might just be beyond me. But good luck and have fun!

Karen said...

You know, I find myself doing that more and more - skimming blog articles - and it irritates the crap outta me. I'm usually a pretty thorough reader but here lately ...

I'm going to force myself to slow down and savor the written word, wherever that might be, because more times than not, I'm missing some pretty darn good writing.

Write From Karen

CaraBee said...

I read 1-2 books a week but I find that my interest for long online articles is low. I think with a book you have physical variety (page turning) while with the internet it is the same screen. Maybe it's an eye strain thing. Not sure about War and Peace, tho. I'm into the light stuff this summer. W&P might be more of a winter read for me.

Suburban Turmoil said...

OMG, Backpackingdadpants, you were TOTALLY STEALING THIS IDEA FROM ME!!! Fucking parasite.

I will shun you at BlogHer.

Mandy said...

Four or five summers ago (time blurs when you have a kid or two), I had to slog through Anna Karenina to prepare for teaching it in the fall. That wasn't a painful read at all. Yeesh. That man could've used a good editor.

dadshouse said...

Maxim and Atlantic Monthly - very nice mix. I do Harper's and Spin.

My brother read War and Peace and loved loved loved it! Maybe I'll pick it up and join the Backpacking Dad summer book club.

Badass Geek said...

I'm too busy trying to get through the expanded version of "The Stand".

Maybe next summer.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Umm, no on the reading of the War and Peace.

I noticed I wasn't reading novels the way I had before I started blogging--the attention span thing. The solution, I started reading novels again and regained my attention span!

Helen said...

I think a lot of the online skimming has to do with flashing advertisements on the screen, and the text isn't as comfortable to read as a print book. Also, there's a word for when you're online and you go looking for tangents, which you get very easily lost in. I'm filing this next to luddite for words I can't remember!
For a contrast, after reading 'War and Peace', try Albert Facey's 'A Fortunate Life'. This is an autobiography of a man who goes to work when he's eight, fights in WWI, lives through WWII, raises a family through the depression. At university we were told that this was the same story as War and Peace, told from the perspective of an average Australian. It is also shorter and easier to read!!

mamatulip said...

I've never read War and Peace, but I've read a lot of Maxim's in my time. I like Maxim - and like your wife, I would have totally bought it for Dave to read during the flight.

Jennifer H said...

Can I get partial credit for having read (and loving) Anna Karenina?

War and Peace is packed away until we move and unpack, so I'm begging off. Because it would be so difficult to buy another copy. :-)

I do want to get through it sometime, though. (Madwoman, reading it twice? Ugh. I'm so ashamed.)

Good luck.

Backpacking Dad said...

crazymumma: you are a saint among mommies.

womaninawindow: Now I have to Google "Hudderites". Thanks for the homework.

madwoman: twice? Gah. Oh yeah...bite me. :}

trademarkmama: you have a pass forever, and not just because you knew what Luddite was.

twentyfouratheart: you are awesome.

mrs. a: you're so cute when you're all snobby about Russian literature.

missy: I'm too far from the beach now. My punishment for leaving the beach is War and Peace.

aea: You're so cute when you're all snobby about Russian literature.

ali: if by "found porn" you are referring to "" then yeah. (Anyone else reading this should go ahead and NOT TYPE IN "" into their browser.)

anna marie: it is because lately I've been watching tv to go to sleep instead of reading to go to sleep that I feel like I need the punishment. It's getting expensive to drop those tv's on the floor after only a couple of minutes.

karen: too true.

carabee: you're the second person to mention reading it in the Winter. You know what? The last thing I need to do is read about Russia during the winter. :}

suburban turmoil: I give you five minutes before you're all "dude, get all righteous about being a SAHD again. Please?? It's so cute."

mandy: me too. Didja see how long this one was?

dadshouse: Now why didn't I think of using that as the title for this post? Dammit.

badass geek: just read the first part, where the plague kills everybody. That's one of the best stories I've ever read. The rest, enh. :}

jenn: I hope the same happens to me here.

helen: I really want to know what that word...hang on...I'll be right back...something shiny just popped up and I have to go figure out what "euchre" is.

mamatulip: and that is what makes you awesome.

jennifer h: I give you 5 points for reading it, and negative 10 points for loving it, and 20 points for admitting to both. That gives you 7 points.

kittenpie said...

Okay, I would totally not buy my husband a Maxim because that rag actually makes my skin crawl a bit.

But then, I'm not joining you on your War and Peace odyssey either, because I have a stack of books that need to be either read and returned to the library before mat leave or else read and reviewed so my book source keeps shipping me more.

caramama said...

I have always wanted to read War and Peace, and I'm not sure why I haven't! Normally, I would jump right on board with this challenge to read it this summer... but... I'm doing the TBR Challenge for 2008, which means I've got a lot of books already slated for the whole year, plus the ones I keep buying because they look good and I can't help myself.

Hmmm. Maybe I'll do it. We'll see.

Either way, I'd like to hear what you think of it!

BookMomma said...

Linked to this post over at the Hotwheel Hacienda.

So how's the reading going?