What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

Field-Tested by Greg Storey

in Scottsdale, Arizona

While books make up a significant portion of my expenditures every year, I have to admit that reading is somewhat of a chore for me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy getting involved in a great story, or caught up in an engaging article, but I have the attention span of a cat at dusk, cranked up on Shrimp Medley, during a massive bird migration.

Now my wife — well, she’ll kick your ass in reading.

Last summer, after our initial vacation plans were squashed by a hurricane plotting a collision course with Playa del Carmen, we spent a four-day weekend in the middle of the Arizona desert. I knew nothing about our destination, other than we had 48 hours to make new plans. The wife discovered the resort and assured me it would be great, because not only was it going to be quiet and relaxing, but it would be the perfect place to read.

I’ve always envied my wife’s ability to consume books like oxygen. Actually, that’s not quite right: remember that part near the end of Fargo, when Thug #1 is feeding the body of Thug #2 into a wood chipper? Well, she’s sort of like that. The wood chipper, I mean. Except with, you know, books.

Give my wife 300 pages after breakfast, and they’re done before lunch. 600? Puh-lease. Unless the title’s design or architecture-related, reading a book is a bit more involved for me and is an achievement usually marked by cake and pointy hats.

So there we were, baking in the Arizona sun. I’m doing pretty good if I can get through four pages before my eyes start to water and I need to doze off for another two-to-ten minute power nap (repeat as needed). Meanwhile Mrs. Reading Rainbow is knocking down books like old Englishmen drop pheasant in the fall.

From time to time, I’ll ask her what page she’s on, knowing that I’ve been lucky to make it ten pages before my English-induced narcolepsy kicks in. Her answer would be acceptable for other questions like: “How many laps in the Daytona 500?”, “How many days in a Martian year?”, or "How long has Jesus been gone?" After a while I start to believe that it’s quite possible my wife has lasers in her eyes, which would explain a lot.

By the time we started preparations for our trip back home, I realized that we were leaving with more books than we carried into the desert. As we packed, I settled on a new goal in life: find the tome that not even the Spartan of Words can kill in a day.

Weeks went by, and then I heard a short story on NPR about a new translation of the epic War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Though I did my absolute best to avoid taking Classical Lit in my younger years, I knew this was a beefy book, the one that could not be consumed almost instantly. I couldn’t buy it fast enough.

That was four months ago. Some time in January, the book was carefully removed from its glorious and beautifully designed dust jacket, a ritual in our home when one of us is about to start a book. Many moons have passed, and to this day, Tolstoy’s spot on the bookcase still remains empty.

I may have won this battle, but I already know that I’ve lost the war.

Greg Storey is principal of Airbag Industries, LLC where he produces and manages internet-related concerns for businesses of all shapes and sizes. He is better known for publishing a notorious weblog of the same name.

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