One-Minute Book Reviews

January 9, 2008

Janice Harayda of One-Minute Book Reviews Named One of 25 ‘Women Bloggers to Watch in 2008′

Have you been visiting One-Minute Book Reviews since it was running around in Pampers just over a year ago? Consider yourself a visionary.

Janice Harayda, editor-in-chief of One-Minute Book Reviews, has been named one of 25 “Women Bloggers to Watch in 2008″ by the site Virtual Woman’s Day, which aims “to bring together women from around the world to network together, learn together and grow together” virtualwomansday.blogspot.com/2008/01/women-bloggers-to-watch-in-2008.html. Heidi Richards, creator of VWD, also publishes We, a quarterly magazine about women.

One-Minute Book Reviews has had a policy since its launch in late 2006 of devoting at least 50 percent of its posts to books by female authors.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

Newbery and Caldecott Medals TBA 7:45 a.m. Monday, Jan. 14

[Update: The complete list of 2008 Newbery and Caldecott winners and Honor Books has been posted on One-Minute Book Reviews www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/01/14/. The Coretta Scott King and Michael L. Printz winners also appear in the first post of the day on Jan. 14, 2008. Other Jan. 14 posts include a review of and reading group guide to the 2008 Caldecott medalist, Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret.]

A public service announcement for the patience-impaired …

No, you’re not the only one having trouble logging onto the American Library Association site this week. Here are the facts you may have been looking for:

The ALA will announce the winners of its annual children’s book on awards on Monday, January 14, on a free live Webcast from its midwinter meeting in Philadelphia. The Webcast http://unikron.com/clients/ala-webcast-2008/ will begin at 7:45 a.m. EST. Names of the winners will be posted on the ALA site www.ala.org by 10:30 a.m. The list will include the recipients of the John Newbery Medal for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” and the Randolph Caldecott Medal for “the most distinguished American picture book for children.

[Note: Because it may be difficult to log onto the ALA site on Monday, I'll post the Newbery and Caldecott winners on this site as soon as I have the them. And if the librarians pick another winner with the "scrotum" on the first page, as they did last year, it's likely that I'll also have comments on the awards.]

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

A One-Minute Book Review of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’

Scaling the Mount Everest of literature through print and audio editions

War and Peace. By Leo Tolstoy. Translated by Constance Garnett. Modern Library, 1,386 pages, $24.95.

By Janice Harayda

Reading War and Peace is like walking into a large cocktail party at which you don’t know anybody until, hours later, Napoleon turns up fresh from his victory in the Battle of Austerlitz. How do you get your bearings on a novel that has more than 500 characters and, even in the relatively compact Modern Library edition, 1,386 pages?

More than most masterpieces, War and Peace asks you to make a leap of faith and repays the effort. The characters who at first swarm at you in a mob soon coalesce into sets. Chief among them are three well-to-do families – the Rostovs, the Bezuhovs and the Bolkonskys – whose fates rise and fall in the years just before and after Napoleon’s disastrous march on Moscow in the winter of 1812.

Leo Tolstoy sets their stories against a teeming panorama of Russian history as he develops the fatalistic theme that free will is an illusion. The choices people make reflect powerful historical forces: The higher someone’s social standing, “the more conspicuous is the inevitability and predestination of every act he commits.”

Tolstoy’s fondness for this theme involves digressions that have defeated many readers. Listening to an unabridged audio edition may help you ride out the philosophical and historical detours from the plot. A recorded version will also give you pronunciations of those 500 Russian or other names, and could add far drama to your commute than any all-news radio station. The radio may give you reports of one-alarm blazes in dumpsters. Tolstoy gives you: “The valet on going in informed the count that Moscow was on fire.”

Best line: The first, a line of dialogue at a party: “Well, Prince, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family.” This isn’t nearly as famous as the first line Anna Karenina (“Happy families are all alike …”). But it has its own genius. Part of it is that it reates the impression that you are eavesdropping with tantalizing effects.

Worst line: Tolstoy elaborates on his view of history and free will in the second of two epilogues in the book: “Napoleon could not command a campaign against Russia, and never did command it.” Is that clear? If not, he adds: “Our false conception that the command that precedes an event is the cause of an event is due to the fact that when the event has taken place and those few out of thousands of commands, which happen to be consistent with the course of events, are carried out, we forget those which were not, because they could not be carried out.”

Caveat lector: This review uses the Russian spellings in the Constance Garnett translation in the 1994 Modern Library hardcover edition www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/. Some scholars favor more recent translations. A newer Modern Library edition has a foreword by A. N. Wilson.

Published: 1869

Furthermore: Unabridged audio editions of War and Peace are available from Audible www.audible.com.

You can also follow Janice Harayda on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

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