Saturday, December 31, 2011

And So I Have Finished and I Conclude

Reading War and Peace was all the adventure I had hoped. Though I cannot say I found it immaculate as a work of art, War and Peace, "loose baggy monster" that it is, has so very many virtues, and so much I can learn from as a writer, that I only wish I'd read it years sooner. I also feel immensely grateful to have had the chance to enter into this long ago world of Russia before, during, and after Napoleon's invasion.

Susan Sontag said the novel is an education of the heart. How true this is, and how splendidly well -- apart from a few clunky digressions-- Tolstoy does this. A good novel, a novel such as War and Peace, lets the reader experience not cheap thrills to pass the time but a real sense of other lived lives. As foreign as he is to me, Pierre is me. Nikolai is me. Old Countess Rostov, Bolkonsky, Kutuzov, Bilibin, Dolokhov, Sonya, Napoleon-- all of them, for I, as we all, have uncounted facets of my being, facets that may never manifest, but that does not mean they are not there. What would it be like to be a fusty Russian aristocrat? A loyal servant? A Swiss tutor? To fight in the Battle of Austerlitz? To lose all one's money? To walk barefoot for a hundred miles? Encounter an emperor, stab with a sword, gallop on the swiftest of horses over snow dusted fields?

In sum, for having read War and Peace, my sense of the world and of what it means to be human has expanded. Dear Leo Tolstoy, and his translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky, here on the last day of 2011, in the English language, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Epilogue, Part Two

Dreadful. The whole of Part Two should have been cut, or at the very least whittled way down to a third and published separately. This is not to say I don't think Tolstoy makes some fascinating and important points about free will, freedom, power, history, politicians, and so on, but this part is rather as if Michelangelo, as a final touch to the Pieta, were to have stuck a Bible on a stick onto the Madonna's head.

Epilogue, Part One, Chapters V-XVI

These are the chapters that wrap up the novel proper: the stories of Nastasha and Pierre and Princess Marya and Nikolai Rostov. It begins (p. 1138):

The wedding of Natasha, who married Bezukhov [Pierre] in the year thirteen, was the last joyful event in the family of the old Rostovs.

That is a simply elegant opening sentence-- you know there's a world of story to come (what sad things will happen?).

At this point in the novel, disgruntled as I am over what I think of as the chapters of Herr History Professor bloated blather, I am both engaged and admiring.

Some of the storytelling is the most elegant I've ever read, e.g., p. 1139:

Precisely at a time when the count's affairs had become so entangled that it was impossible to imagine how it would all end if it went on a year longer, he unexpectedly died.

Now, Ch. VII, p. 1144, a real horror:

In the fall of 1814, Nikolai married Princess Marya and moved with his wife, mother, and Sonya to live at Bald Hills.

Sonya, of course, is Nikolai's orphaned cousin and first love.

But, as I read along, I am reminded that no, this is Russia in the early 19th century; such a living arrangement surely had its tensions, but not what they would have been in my world where a person such as Sonya would have had other opportunities.

Re: Sonya, p. 1149:

It seemed [Sonya] valued not so much the people as the whole family. Like a cat, she became accustomed not to the people, but to the house. She took care of the old countess, petted and pampered the children, was always ready to render the small services she was capable of; but all this was involuntarily taken with far too little gratitide...

In Chapter X we see the change in Natasha-- a common change, alas:

p. 1156

Natasha let herself go to such a degree that her clothes, her hair, her words spoken out of place, her jealousy-- she was jealous of Sonya, of the governess, of any woman, beautiful or not-- were habitual subjects of jokes among all those close to her.

And a little later on, Natasha seen from Denisov's point of view, p. 1158:

A dull, despondent gaze, out-of-place replies, and conversation about the nursery was all he saw and heard from the former enchantress.

What strikes me, not for the first time, is how Tolstoy allows his characters to change, oftentimes dramatically and multiple times.

The portrait of old countess Rostov is remarkable (though sixty does not seem so old to me-- albeit perhaps time to consider a first facelift, some highlights, and some serious bucks-worth of cosmetic dental work):

p. 1162

The countess was already past sixty. Her hair was completely white, and she wore a cap with a ruffle that went all the way around her face. Her face was wrinkled, her upper lip was sunken, and her eyes were dull.

A bit later, p. 1163, when the younger generation would exchange glances, as if silently to say:

... that she had already finished her business in life, that all of her was not in that which could be seen in her now, that we would all be the same, and that it was a joy to submit to her, to restrain oneself for the sake of this being, once so dear, once as full of life as we, and now so pathetic. Memento mori-- said these glances.

Of all the household, only quite bad and stupid people, and the little children, did not understand that and avoided her.

Ah, this to me is the greatest of the greatness of Tolstoy.

And the story ends with Nikolenka Bolkonsky, the son of prince Andrei (raised by his aunt Princess Marya and now stepson to Nikolai Rostov), having a dream, feeling love for his father and Pierre, and hoping to be a hero, as in the stories of the Romans and Greeks. The last lines:

Father! Father! Yes, I'll do something that even he would be pleased with. . . "

Does this work as an ending? It most assuredly does, giving a sense of momentum into the future while looking back upon all the horrors and the heroism of the recent war, and comparing it (via mention of Plutach's Parallel Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans) to the symphonies of history. It is, in fact, symphonic.

Problem is, the novel does not end here. Would that it had.

But for fun, let me go back to old countess Rostov. An emulation exercise:

The artist was already past eighty. Her hair was completely white, and she wore a baseball cap with the logo of her gallery, a flying purple zebra. Her face was wrinkled, but rosy, her teeth, not dentures, were brilliant when she smiled, and she was always smiling-- even her eyes were smiling, for she knew, down to her fingernails (also purple) that life was an absurd, joyous joke....

When Tolstoy writes about the other characters' glances and conclusions about Countess Rostov, this reminds me: it's such a limbering up to ask, how do my various characters see each other? The results of the exercise don't have to end up in the novel-- they can be tossed onto compost pile. But there is almost always some insight to be gained, and perhaps some little but brilliant detail pops up.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Epilogue, Part One, Chapters I - IV

"Several years had passed since 1812." That seems innocent enough, but then for four chapters, Tolstoy turns into the Cosmic version of Herr History Professor. It's interesting but largely inarticulate and repetitive and, well, strange. And yet, I take his point.

My sense is that all of this material could have been dramatically reduced and published elsewhere-- in the modern world, it might have been used as fodder for a "Reader's Guide" on the author's website.

Vol IV, Part IV, Chapters XV - XX Pierre Loves Natasha

Oh so Jane Austen-y. But well done. I'm reading.

A technical note-- Tolstoy uses summary to excellent effect on p. 1114:

The princess [Marya], wincing from the desire to hold back her tears, sat beside Natasha and for the first time listened to the story of those last days of the love btween her brother and Natasha.

This tormenting and joyful story was evdiently necessary for Natasha.

She spoke, mixing the most trifling details with her innermost secrets, and it seemed she could never finish. She repeated the same things several times.

Had Tolstoy shown rather than told, ayy it would have been tedious. So here's an example of an exception to the old workshop saw, "show don't tell."

Vol IV, Part Four, Ch XIV

I've been complaining about Tolstoy's history lessons, but this one, about the return of the Russians to Moscow, was very interesting. I'll talk more about this in my summary, but one of the things I've especially enjoyed about reading War ad Peace is getting a rough yet very vivid sense of the history of the French invasion of Russia.

Vol IV, Part Four, Chapters XII-XIII: Finally Back to Pierre

Ayyy, finally the history lesson, which was interesting but bloated and pretentious, has ended, and we're back to Pierre. He's back in society, free of his scheming wife (she's died, happily), and he's become spiritually enlightened --
p. 1104

"[H]e had learned to see the great, the eternal, and the infinite in everything... Now, to this question "Why?" a simple answer was always ready in his soul: because there is God, that God without whose will not a single hair falls from a man's head."

A little Sunday Schooly, but... OK.

Here again, as with so many things, Tolstoy gets away with what a modern writer could not-- at least in the eyes of this reader. Seriously, a lot of theories about Jesus in your novel would not only make me quit reading but curl my toes. So, why does Tolstoy get away with it? In part because, well, he's Tolstoy-- by which I mean, well, he's famous and so reading him gives me something to talk with other people I respect and know who have read him, which I cannot say about contemporary "Christian" novelists. So I'll admit to a little sociological incentive. However, in so many places Tolstoy has revealed such profound and majestic perceptions about human nature that I forgive far, far more than I would any other author.

Vol IV, Part Four, Chapters IV -XI

It becomes textbookish again here: a history lesson, but an interesting one. Military strategy. Internal politics. Kutuzov (in praise of). Napoleon ("that most insignificant instrument of history, who never and nowhere, even in exile, displayed any human dignity").

Vol IV, Part Four, Chapters I - III

After the death of prince Andrei, Natasha and Marya become friends; the death of Petya (Natasha's younger brother). All this is done very well, vividly, engagingly... things are moving along, characters are suffering, we sense we're heading to the wrap-up... (will everyone marry the one they are meant to marry?) It's all good reading in a steak and potatoes way... On p. 1082 this wraps up with a good last sentence of anticipation,

At the end of January, Princess Marya left for Moscow, and the count insisted that Natasha go with her so as to consult the doctors.

Again and again, expertly, Tolstoy wraps up his chapters with an enticing sentence-- and I keep reading.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vol IV, Part Three, Ch XII- XIX

Wrapping up the war. Dreadful details, e.g. p. 1061

On all sides lay the flesh of various animals, from men to horses, in various stages of decay. The walking men kept the wolves from coming near, so that Gray [a friendly dog] could eat as much as he liked.

Most of this is from Pierre's point of view. He's achieved a spiritual understanding. Much of this seems hurried, vague, yet here and there Tolstoy serves up some exquisite detail, e.g. p. 1064, right after Pierre hears the French soldiers execute his dear friend:

Pierre looked at the soldier and remembered how, twodays before, this soldier had burned his shirt while drying it over the campfire, and how everybody had laughed at him.

The strange power of that one, peculiar detail is stunning.

We see that intriguing movie star of a minor character, Dolokhov, yet again, p. 1066:

Dolokhov stood by the gates of a ruined house, letting a crowd of disarmed French soldiers go past him. The French. . . talked loudly among themselves; but as they went past Dolokhov, who tapped himself lightly on the boots with a whip and looked at them with his cold, glassy gaze, which promised nothing good, the talk ceased.

The last chapters, XVI- XIX it's pretty much Herr Professor Tolstoy bashing away at his theories. Not that I don't buy them; but this is all to the detriment of the novel-- and, dagnabbit, War and Peace wants to be a novel. Say I.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Vol IV, Part Three, Ch IV - XI: Petya Rostov / Point of View / Psychic Distance

The novel becomes exquisitely vivid and engaging once again with the story of Petya Rostov (Natasha's little brother). Denisov reappears as a senior officer, as does Dolokhov. On my paperback, I noted oodles of admirable detail, etc, but as I've become repetitive already, I'll skip blogging about that...

What especially impressed me in this section was Tolstoy's sudden switch in point of view and pull-back in psychic distance in describing the death of Petya Rostov. I think it works brilliantly to show the death and also infuse a sense of strangeness and horror.

pp. 1057- 1058

"Wait?... Hurra-a-ah!..." shouted Petya, and, not losing a moment, he galloped towards the place from which the shots were coming and were the powder smoke was thickest. A volley of shots rang out, stray bullets whined and splattered into something. The Cossacks and Dolokhov gallopped after Petya through the gates of the house. In the dense, undulating smoke some of the French dropped their weapons and ran out of the bushes towards the Cossacks, others ran down the hill to the pond. Petya galloped on his horse across the manor courtyard, and, instead of holding the reins, waved both arms somehow strangely and quickly, and kept slipping further to one side in his saddle. Running into the campfire smoldering in the morning light, his horse balked, and Petya fell heavily onto the wet ground. The Cossacks saw how his arms and legs jerked rapidly, though his head did not move. His head had been pierced by a bullet."

So we're right with Petya as he shouts out, then we move to some distant omniscient point of view ("stray bullets whined and splattered into something"), then for the rest of the paragraph we're with the Cossacks.

But to nitpick, the last sentence could have been cut.

P.S. I was amused to find this blog post by an English reader.

I'm still catching up with blogging and very close to finishing by Dec 31st.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Vol IV, Part Three, Ch I - III

Another sinker of an opening sentence, p. 1031:

The battle of Borodino, with the subsequent occupation of Moscow by the French and their flight without any new battles, is one of the most instructuve phenomena in history.

So there's a bit of lecture... it's interesting, but it's not fiction. But it's War and Peace by Tolstoy! I see now why Tolstoy himself claimed it was not a novel and Henry James called it a "large loose baggy monster."

Vol III, Part Two, XI-XIX

Pierre as POW-- grim, vivid, engaging. I love this book! And relishing the race to finish... A well-paced race.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vol III, Part Two, Ch I - X

p. 987 "The totally of causes of phenomena is inaccessible to the human mind."

How's that for an unappetizing opening sentence? Oh, bleh, so much in these chapters is boring, boring, boring as cold oatmeal. It's not that what Tolstoy is getting at is boring-- so much philosophizing about history, geopolitics, destiny, theory of war, etc-- it's that he could have said it so much more concisely and elegantly. Would that he'd had an editor.

But I soldier on happily. It's still fascinating, and as I have been so richly rewarded in the previous hundreds of pages, I am eagerly turning the pages. Onward!

P.S. As noted in previous posts, I am catching up; my reading is far ahead of my blogging at this point. So far, I am well on schedule to finish by December 31st.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vol III, Part One

In Part One, it's back to war. I'm taking another flying leap with the blogging...

This part begins to sag as Tolstoy indulges in philosophizing. Why does it sag? For me, John Gardner's concept of the novel as a continuous "vivid dream," is key to explaining that. (The author of several novels, Gardner is best known for his beloved if controversial The Art of Fiction. Read his Paris Review interview here.

So, following Gardner's very commonsensical point, to hold our attention, a novel needs to be not only vivid, but continuous. There are so many novels to read that even in a fairly high level workshop I find that there several participants who haven't read thus-and-such a classic (and speaking of which, here I am reading War and Peace for the first time!) so I use the analogy of popular movies. Let's say you're watching Gone with the Wind. Would it really work if, right in the middle (oh, I don't know, the burning of Atlanta?), the camera swung around to show Clark Gable in the makeup chair, taking a phone call from his agent? Neither would we want to see the caterer's folding table spread of cheese cubes and Diet Coke, anywhere in the midst of Gladiator's ancient Rome. (No, we don't want to see Russell Crowe in the makeup chair, either!) So, in interrupting the "vivid dream" with all this professorial blather, Tolstoy slows down, ayy, gums up the whole show. That said, the show is still going at 100 mph. I'm loving this book, feeling so grateful, thrilled in fact-- it's a whole world opened up to me.

For Americans of my generation (second half of 20th century) the mesmerizing glamour of Napoleon is difficult to understand; Tolstoy shows it spendidly, e.g.

p. 609

.. Hundreds of uhlans followed [the adjutant into the river]. It was cold and scary in the middle and in the swift current. The uhlans grasped at each other, fell off their horses, some horses drowned, men drowned as well, others tried to swim for it, some in the saddle, others holding onto their horses' manes. They tried to swim forward to the other side, and, though there was a ford a quarter of a mile away, they were proud to swim and drown in this river before the eyes of a man who sat on a log and was not even looking at what they were doing. When the adjutant returned and, choosing the right moment, allowed himself to draw the emperor's attention to the devotion of the Poles to his person, the little man in the gray frock coat stood up and, summoning Berthier to him, began pacing up and down the bank with him, giving him orders and occasionally plancing with displeasure at the drowning uhlans, who distracted his attention.

I was also struck by the narrative's juxtaposition of Anatole's going after Natasha and Napoleon's invading Russia. (Oh, there are about 11 PhD theses on all these interrelated and juxtaposed plots and subplots...)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Volume II

Pictured left (again) is Helmut Dantine as Dolokhov in the 1956 movie.

I'm going to take a flying leap over pp. 298 - 600 because otherwise I'll never keep up with the blogging! And anyway I'm repeating myself, noting with wonder and admiration so much vivid detail, so much insight into human society and human nature...

What stands out for me is the vividess of Dolokhov, a minor but really extraordinary character who might appear completely evil (cardboard cut-out) but for Tolstoy's twist:

p. 317

Rostov went on to carry out his errand, and, to his great surprise, discovered that Dolokhov, this rowdy duelist, lived in Moscow with his old mother and hunchbacked sister, and was a most affectionate son and brother.

There are so many characters, all intriguing with and against each other-- far more people and plot than the humble bucket of normal-sized novel could hold-- it feels like a super-charged version of "All My Children." Or rather, if "All My Childen" is a very Big Mac, War and Peace is the chateaubriand with truffles, wheeled up on a silver cart by a maitre d' in a King Kong costume.

Vol I, Part Three, Ch XIX Napoleon Takes Prince Andrei Prisoner

(By this date I am actually further ahead with the reading, on schedule to finish before December 31st.)

Napoleon takes Prince Andrei prisoner! Well now this is one Burger King of a coincidence but it's such a good story and so well told, who cares? Tolstoy uses this to show how Andrei has changed, from naive hero-worshipper to a man of profound wisdom:

p. 292

Though five minutes earlier Prince Andrei had been able to say a few words to the soldiers transporting him, now, with his eyes fixed directly on Napoleon, he was silent... To him at that moment all the interests that occupied Napoleon seemed so insignificant, his hero himelf seemed so petty to him, with his petty vanity and joy in victory, compared with that lofty, just, and kindly sky, which he had seen and understood, that he was unable to answer him.

Tolstoy's characters change, oftentimes dramatically, and yet always believably. This change, evolution of character, is for me, as a reader, extremely engaging. So now when I think of my own writing, I want to more carefully ask, have my characters changed? If not, why? And / or, what if they were to change?

p. 293 Tolstoy mentions the little golden icon Princess Marya had given her brother-- the French soldiers take it from him, but then, seeing how Napoleon treated Prince Andrei, they return it. So that's a mighty heavy dose of symbolism... but what the hell. It works.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vol I, Part Three, Ch XVI-XVIII Novelist as God + A Little Comedy

p. 281, It appears Prince Andrei may have died: Tolstoy entered into his point of view as he sees "nothing except silence, tranquility...". Now there's the fun of being a novelist: you can play God.

p. 283
... said Boris, smiling that happy smile which occurs in young men who have been under fire for the first time

Once again, the novelist as All-Knowing

p. 287 -- the most perfectly vivid detail yet (last sentence):

One, with white plumes on his hat, seemed familiar to Rostov for some reason; the other, an unfamiliar horseman on a beautiful chestnut horse (the horse seemed familiar to Rostov), rode up to the ditch, spurred his horse and, releasing the reins, lightly jumped over the garden ditch. Only a little soil crumbled down the bank from the horse's hind hoofs.

p. 288 Rostov's fantasies made ridiculous when Captain von Toll helps the emperor cross the ditch on foot.

Tolstoy certainly knows how to write comedy.

p. 289 Dolokhov reappears. The horror show of men and horses falling into the ice. Cannon balls.

Tolstoy also certainly knows how to write horror.

First comedy, then horror: there's a recipe.

Vol I, Part Three, Ch XV: On the Field at Austerlitz

It belatedly occurs to me that Tolstoy's readers (during his lifetime) would have been as familiar with the Battle of Austerlitz and all the rest of them as people in the late 19th century US would have been familiar with the Battles of the Civil War. He writes for them-- there are so many references that have to be explained in footnotes and yet, he also writes for the ages.

p. 276 love the vividness of this glimpse (and the imagery):

... In the emperors' suit there were picked fine young orderly officers, Russian and Austrian, from the guards and infantry regiments. Among them were grooms leading the handsome spare horses of the royalty in embroidered cloths.

As fresh air from the fields suddenly breathes through an open window into a stuffy room, so youth, energy, and certainy of success breathed upon Kutuzov's cheerless staff as these brilliant young men galloped up.

p. 277 Politics! Kutuzov vs the Emperor. Seems an eternal story.

p. 278 Quite extraordinary: Tolstoy's narrative moves into the point of view of a horse:

The sovereign's horse shied at the sudden shout. This horse, who had carried the sovereign at reviews while still in Russia, also carried her rider here, on the field at Austerlitz, enduring the distracted nudges of his left foot, pricked up her ears at the sound of gunshots just as she did on the Field of Mars, understanding neither the meaning of the shots she heard, nor the presence of the emperor Franz's black stallion, nor anything of what her rider said, thought, or felt that day.

Vol I, Part Three, Chs XIII-XIV: Details

I love how Tolstoy shows us the horses. p. 267

"Maybe him, or maybe just so," the hussar said, "a night thing. Easy now!" he cried to his horse, who was stirring under him.

Rostov's horse was also restive, stamping its hoof on the frozen ground, listening to the sounds and looking at the fires.

Tolstoy shows us Napoleon's charisma-- without which the whole war itself would have seemed far less interesting:

p. 269

The cries and fires in the enemy camp came from the fact that, while Napoleon's orders were being read to the troops, the emperor himself rode around his bivouacs. The soldiers, seeing the emperor, set fire to bundles of straw and ran after him, showting, "Vive l'empereur!"

p. 270 I loved the vivdiness and strangeness of this:

A soldier in movement is as hemmed in, limited, and borne along by his regiment as a sailor by his ship.

and a little later, same page:

The fog was so thick that, though day was breaking, one could not see ten paces ahead. Bushes looked like enormous trees...

Then, p. 272 we again see Napoleon, this time close up:

... An unbroken see of fog spread below, but at the village of Schlapanitz, on the heights, where Napoleon stood, surrounded by his marshals, it was perfectly light...

We get a marvelous description of him and:

He peered silently at the hills, which seemed to rise up from the sea of fog, and over which Russian troops were moving in the distance, and he listened to the sounds of gunfire in the hollow. On his face, still lean at that time, not a muscle stirred; his glistening eyes were fixed motionlessly on one place. His conjectures turned out to be correct.

Then, p. 273

When the sun had fully emerged from the fog and its dazzling brilliance sprayed over the fields and the fog (it was as if he had only been waiting for that to begin the action), he took the glove from his beautiful white hand, made a sign to the marshals, and gave the order for the action to begin.

These sharply focussed details are exquisite.

Vol I, Part Three, Ch XII Imagery Makes It Vivid

p. 260

Weyrother obviously felt himself at the head of the movement which had now become irrepressible. He was like a horse harnessed to a wagon and running downhill.

That second sentence makes it so vivid-- and for me, such vivid imagery, droplets of it sprinkled throughout, keep me gratefully reading. (Without them, the book falls flat and reader puts it down.)

p. 263

"He has forty thousand men, if that," Weyrother replied, with the smile of a doctor being told by a wise woman how to treat a patient.

Vol I, Part Three, Ch XI: Austerlitz Begins

p. 257

... the eighty-thousand-man mass of the allied army undulated and set up in a huge six-mile sheet.


p. 258 Prince Andrei asks Dolgorukov if he saw Bonaparte. The dialogue feels a little puppety-- nonetheless, it works.

The glimpse of Napoleon adds suspense. p. 259, Dolgorukov says:

"He's a man in a gray frock coat, who wished very much that I would say 'Your' Majesty to him"

Vol I, Part Three, Ch X: Rostov's Really Into It

Intense patriotism is so often part of war and, via Rostov's point of view, Tolstoy conveys this. The end of this chapter has a little dialogue between Denisov (who has an accent) and Rostov:

p. 256

Late that night, when everyone had dispersed, Denisov, with his short hand, patted his favorite, Rostov, on the shoulder.

"There's nobody to fall in love with on campaign, so he's fallen in love with the tsaghr," he said.

"Dont joke about that, Denisov," cried Rostov. . .

It wouldn't have been as effective had Tolstoy not had Denisov, "with his short hand," pat Rostov on the shoulder.

Vol I Part Three, Ch IX Preparing for the Battle

Today I'm actually about 30 pages from the end of the book, but woefully behind on blogging.

Again, my aim is not to summarize the book (others have done that, check the links over to the left) nor to give my opinion (that a dime won't get you on the bus), but to read as a writer-- both for myself and for my writing students. What does it mean to read as a writer? To me this means asking where and why does it work and where and why does it not.

So... back to where I was reading last month, round about p. 248, this chapter loosely focussed on the disadvantaged but upwardly striving Boris in the context of the preparations for battle.

It's feeling slow, weighed down with too much detail (well, heck, Tolstoy is writing about an 80,000 man army)... Boris seems a puppet put here to illustrate something larger.

NC Weil is Blogging Too

Check out writer NC Weil's blogging on the mega-tome here.