Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vol. I, Part One, V (Continued) and VI (Beginning): Eh, So Much for Modern Capitalism

I'm only on page 23 and it occurs to me that no living, breathing, nonbrain-dead literary agent I know of would know what to do with a manuscript of this size and complexity, other than tell the author, "you need to cut."

Ayy, and a lot of workshoppy stuff like, "who's your main character?"

By page 23, Tolstoy has introduced so many characters that I've had to stick a bright pink Post-It on page xvi, "Principal Characters." And the subplots! Like those little Russian dolls within dolls. Wow, in addition to the match Anna Scherer wants to make for Vassily's son, and the drama around clumsy illegitimate but very nice Pierre, now we have Prince Ippolit about to go after the soon-to-be-abandoned pregnant (!!) princess Liza-- and Liza's wife, Andrei, about to go off to war. And Napoleon about to invade. And... (I'm getting dizzy as I type...)

But here's the thing. I get it, I get it already. This is an amazing novel. What amazed me, what gave me the energy to push through, or perhaps better said, plunge into, this mad thicket of characters and subplots, was the opening of chapter VI. We see the pregnant Princess Liza, terrified and confused that her husband no longer cares for her and is about to abandon her for the adventure of war-- and Tolstoy pours on the pity. But then, like a jacknife, the point of view switches to her husband Andrei's and how he loathes this trivial domestic life-- so, Tolstoy, so elegantly, flips the unhappy coin.

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