Daily Archives: March 29, 2016

81% done with War and Peace


‘discipline under fire is obtainable only by movement in masses’.

‘Guerrilla war has always been successful, as history shows’. Even to this day. Yet we never learn this lesson.

I could do without his X over Y math theories, but it is nice to see him apply the scientific approach, albeit fumblingly. It’s even more amazing since he’s trying to measure the spirit of men this way.

81% done with War and Peace


Tolstoy says that no Army (before the Russians) had ever lost the final battle but still won the war. Rome lost all the time but because never lost the war, they kept throwing soldiers at you until you wore down. Also, Tolstoy talks about how the Russians didn’t fight “by the rules” (they used guerrilla tactics) so you could say this was, in a sense, a modern war. Total fight for survival, all bets are off.

81% done with War and Peace


The other generals “… could not resist their desire to cut off and break up two French corps, and by way of reporting their intention to Kutuzov they sent him a blank sheet of paper in an envelope.” As terrible as the consequences are of this, “killed and lost thousands of men”, it is one of those wonderful moments in history like when Gen McAuliffe replied to the invitation to surrender only with “NUTS!”

80% done with War and Peace


I really need to learn more about the 19th century Great Man of history thesis and why it’s no longer supported by any serious historian. I always go on about the influence men like Napoleon and Hitler have on general morale as being an indicator of their power, but I feel as if I don’t quite understand what Tolstoy is showing us is a bunk thesis. Homework for me.

80% done with War and Peace


Rarely do you get a work of art where at least one of the “heroes” is old. Yes, many of the characters of importance here are young, Tolstoy does not neglect the old and wise. Even Andrei’s father, before his illness, was a sharp (though opinionated and eccentric) man with a lot to teach still. And this is no old, wise-man trope, like we’d get in a film, but all of Tolstoy’s characters are sincere.

80% done with War and Peace


“Wait a moment, I’ll light a candle. You damned rascal, where do you always hide it?” I love these little moments when some important person admonishes some underling but then almost as quickly solves their own problem (because it was their fault). I think this is Tolstoy’s way of having a bit of fun with people in authority – a bit of wish fulfillment to dismount these people from their high-horses.

God’s Work: Read on March 29, 2016

Aside from two images which I felt were not very strong (the laughing portraits of the President’s in his dream, and the final “shaft” and “penetrate” (we get it, just trust your reader), this is a wonderfully crafted story.

Canty uses language, not as a blunt instrument, but finds words that can take on many, confused meanings. My favorite was “Yolked” from the hymn song title: I imagined eggs, reproduction, fragility, runniness, eggs in a basket. He then repeats the egg imagery by calling the congregation “hens and chicks”. Later we get the word “stalky”: Sander “hangs around the edge of the room like a curtain, a piece of furniture…”, like a stalker with shady intentions, but also like the growing yellow flowers his mother planted: unsure, unready, green. And he later mentions planting seeds (of faith) but implying sex, too.

One line that I wasn’t able to interpret was when Sander says to his mother about Clara and her father, “But the two of them… ” What does this mean? I immediately thought incest, but it’s left unresolved.

I loved this messiness of language, of confused faith in Sander who Clara turns to for genuine help but who can’t help her. He’s helpless, as is she, but at least she can have pleasure.

And in the end I felt as if he had been cast into that oblivion his faith believes in: “Still eight weeks of summer left”, and without Clara. An eternity for a 15 year old.

90% done with God’s Work

I didn’t think she’d come back, but it means she was serious. But her father pulls her out. And she’s gone forever.

All this in the warm summer, the most pleasurable time, pleasure everywhere except for him, and for what? It feels now like his sin has sent him into that oblivion of nothing they believe, 8 weeks of summer. Forever.

80% done with God’s Work

“Have you ever touched a baby’s head?” unexpected question

I like how’s she honestly asking about faith but he’s as far away from his as he can get.

The Catherine wheel, torture device, her second name, second nature. Her other nature like the tattoo or second nature to to torture? He is tortured. But so is she

She wants his guidance but he wants sex and she doesn’t want that and it’s all confused.

70% done with God’s Work

Sander, interesting name. Sand, itchy, used in an hourglass (time running out).

The laughing presidents image doesn’t work that well.

He “hangs around the edge of the room like a curtain, a piece of furniture…” then we get the word “stalky” to describe the new flowers = these are related.

Shaft, penetrate, a little much here. We get it

They’re Jehovas Witnesses

60% done with God’s Work

I like the jump of time from him telling Clara that he can’t take a walk with her on Sunday, but on Monday he can. Very next line is his mother asking what her son’s intentions are. That stands out, she knows what he’s thinking about with that girl.

” and at that exact moment he splits into two people, the one he has always been and some itchy, wayward newborn. “

20% done with God’s Work

We know right away he is young, a kid.

The flowers wag their tongues at him as if they are mocking him?

Mom, just by her clothes is a fundamentalist Christian?

Image of the forbidden pubic hair combined with his bad haircut

He’s observant (noticing the door that had been open is now closed)

He is always hungry (in more ways than one)