Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Serenity #183


This is a picture of a copy of the same edition of War and Peace I had while in high-school. It has the same dust cover picture. I'm totally going all teary-eyed gazing at it. I'd inherited it from my great-aunts shelves when I was 17 and had it for a year before I ventured to begin reading it. This was the book I chose to read during the free-reading half of the college-prep reading class I took my senior year in high school. In the 20 to 30 minutes per school day throughout the semester, I managed to advance my bookmark around 300 pages. Then the summer after graduation, I was out of town--way out--a lot and a 2 inch thick book does not make a very good traveling companion.

So my bookmark remained around a quarter of the way in that year...and the next...and was still there when I was unpacking my books after I got married in 1978. Not long after that I decided I needed to start over so I moved my bookmark to the beginning. I can't remember how far I got. Not far. Probably less than 100 pages before I got distracted again. Another move maybe. There were lots of moves in the first ten years of our marriage and lots of times in between when my books would be in storage.

At any rate, it wasn't the story's fault. And in the mean time I had read Anna Karenina and fell in love with it. And after that moved on to Dostoevsky, reading Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot, and then on to Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago and a number of Chekhov's short stories and so many of Solzhenitsyn novels and non-fiction I won't list them. Though I'm not sure if I finished The Brothers Karamazov, as I have a clear memory of having to restart that one at least twice and no clear memory of turning the last page.

Thus, in the early 80s I was in love with the 19th century and a few 20th century Russian writers so when I went back to school in 1985 I began to study Russian with the goal of learning to read my favorite authors in their own language. I was planning to take Russian lit courses in my final year but I didn't get that far. Nor did I learn the language well enough to read for pleasure in it. Another unavoidable move forced me to drop out before my senior year and in that 1987 move I lost my copy of War and Peace.

We still had another copy of it. Ed had bought a set of the Britannica Great Books from the PX while he was in the Corp and we rescued half the set in that move. All of the fiction and the first 18 volumes--Homer through Augustine and the Syntopican. I tried several times to get started reading War and Peace in that edition. It was the same translation (I'm not sure I knew that then) but the pages were two columned and the font a bit smaller. That wasn't the most important difference though and wouldn't have stopped me if it hadn't been for the loss of the 'cheat sheet' that had been part of my edition. It was actually a pamphlet of several pages and it was also my bookmark. It contained a roster of the characters with all of their nic-names and titles, a time-line for the first half of the 1800s, battle maps of the war between Russia and Napoleon, and a street-map of Moscow.

I suppose I could have done the research to collect the same info and made my own 'cheat sheet' and several times I began that project but it kept getting set aside. And then in the move from California to here in 2001, we lost the remaining volumes of the Great Books along with what remained of our personal libraries after we had sold hundreds of volumes for necessities. Well, mostly necessities. In that move I also lost my Russian history and language text books that I'd managed to hang onto and for several years after leaving college had continued to practice reading the language and learning new vocabulary.

So in 2001 I was without a copy of War and Peace for the first time since 1975 and remained so until 2005 when I was able to buy a still shrink-wrapped set of the Great Books from the library sale table. The entire 54 volume set for one buck per book! I thought I was in heaven. That was shortly after I started blogging so I posted about it but I'm not sure I'd recommend anyone bother reading it as that was when I treated my blog like a personal journal and frequently rambled for several thousand words on whatever was on my mind. Hypergraphia anyone. It did generate my first comment though and from England at that. Which startled me and possibly made me shy because I all but stopped posting for several months after that.

And I'm rambling now. All of that and I'm still not close to making the point I began this post to make.

Yesterday doing Bloggiesta related tasks, I came across the Chunckster Challenge and immediately thought of War and Peace. So I got the Great Books copy off the shelf to check its page count to see if it would count for the over 750 page books of which you can read 3 instead of 6 over 450 to qualify for the highest rank. And that was when I came up against the two column per page issue. I have for many years--since 1978 when I began reading the Great Books set, counted every double columned pages as two pages. Yeah. Even before book blogging I was an obsessive page count tallier. :) But I wasn't sure if I could get away with that in this case. The Great Books edition is 696 pages and doubled that puts it well over 1300 pages.

I thought I remembered that my copy had been over 1300 pages but I couldn't swear to it. Plus I wasn't sure it was the same translation which could make it different enough to make a difference. So I set out to try to find referenced online a single volume, single column pages, by the same translator's, Louise and Aylmer Maude, to see how the page count compared, and while I was at it any mention of what might sound or look like my old edition. That was a very interesting search because I had no memory of the translator's name, nor the publisher, nor year except that it had to be well before 1977 because the book was obviously on the older side by the time I got it. I vaguely remembered it was older than me by a few years which wold put its pub date some time before 1955.

Two things I remembered clearly. The dustcover and the cheat sheet. Also that the cloth cover was red and and embossed and there were pictures or maps inside the cover and the edge of the pages across the top were dyed dark blue and the front edges were cut in the raggedy way.

I started out by limiting my search to editions using the Maude translation and it was very hard to find any single volume hardback editions. But then I stumbled onto this cover image. Which made me gasp and my heart skip beats.. Gazing at it is almost like looking at my book through a glass window.

For those interested in such details: the publisher was Simon and Schuster NY and the pub date was 1942 and it was a limited edition called INNER SANCTUM. I found it on the UK site for Abe books but the seller is in New Mexico USA. The asking price is 35 pounds or $50 plus shipping which they warn will be nearly double their usual shipping cost because the book is so heavy. Yeah, I can vouch for that, carrying it to school every day for a semester. Yet in spite of that I kept my copy in better shape than this one is by the seller's description. (Which you can see by clicking on the image) Who knew I was reading such a special edition. I guess I'm glad I didn't know it then because I might have been intimidated and kept it on the shelf looking amazing. i surely wouldn't have carried it to school every day for months.

Well this has turned into something I hadn't intended when I set out. I was planning to just write a sentence or two along the order of This is a pic of the copy of War and Peace I owned once upon a time and finding it online makes me a little bit sad and a little bit joyful and a whole lot nostalgic. The sad part is obvious. The joyful part? Some of that is from looking at the picture and remembering good times associated with it. But most is about loving the research process and feeling very rewarded by the success. I need to make note of that and look for more opportunities to achieve such rewards.

Watch for my entry into the Chunckster Challenge later this week. Don't know yet if I'll put War and Peace on my TBR for that or not. I want to but the year's half gone already and I'm going to be out of town for six weeks this summer and when I get back it'll be time to start prepping for NaNo if I haven't already. Plus, I am after all reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past in the e-book format I posted about a bit over a week ago which, even tho it's 1.3 million words long it won't count as a chunkster because it's an e-book. I'm at least reading the first book of it, Swann's Way, for the Gilmore Girls Challenge. Plus I'm planning to join the E-Book Challenge as well and will count each of the seven books in the Proust I manage to read as one for that.

Before picking up War and Peace again though, I want to make my own cheat sheet. At the very least of the time-line and the roster. That should be much easier now with the internet, Now there's a research project to sink my teeth into.

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