One of my super powers is that I have an ego the size of Russia, which compelled me to read Leo Tolstoy’s hefty War and Peace twice, back to back.
I was 18, and like all other 18-yr olds, was spring breaking in Cancun, drinking and reveling in first world debaucheries. And by Cancun, I mean family vacation at Seaside, OR, modestly clad against the chilly Pacific coast weather in sweatpants and hoodies.
During the day, to recover from the previous night’s rowdy board games and early retirement, I was plowing through War and Peace. A respectable 800 pages, saturated with monologues and prosaic descriptions of the chariots of Napoleon’s army, it’s an understatement to say that I was pleased with myself upon completing the tale.
With great pride, my father boasted to my family how commendable it was that an 18-yr old read War and Peace purely for pleasure – and on her vacation to boot. Soon my aunts, grandma and others fortunate enough to be related to me were notified that there was a genius in the family.
Riding on a cloud of euphoria much like Napoleon must have ridden his chariots into Russia, I basked in the glow of my relatives’ admiration. It almost made up for the lack of basking I was doing on the sunless Pacific coast.
However, similar to the quick demise of the French army at the hand of the cruel Russian winter, my bookish triumph rapidly faded when I discovered I had read the abridged version, while my relatives thought I read the unabridged. I could never face them again with any dignity! This nerdy victory was all I had: I was a terrible athlete, didn’t play any musical instrument and was never valedictorian, because there is no such thing as a home school valedictorian.
Clearly, my only option was to immediately read the unabridged version, so that 20 years from now at our family reunion, when everyone is still talking about my feat in hushed, awed voices, I can hold my head high.
So back to 19th century Russia I trudged. Oh, how painful it was. Reading 1,400 pages of a verbose Russian tale that one has just read is the closest thing to mental torture I have ever experienced. Besides trying to remember the increasingly cryptic password for my computer.
But I did it, with only minimal cerebral trauma.
My ego has thankfully shrunk since then – not due to any maturing on my part – but because a decade has passed since I read the book twice and I can’t remember a word of it. Now my only shot at maintaining the worship of my relatives is skipping every family gathering so they can’t query me about the book.
But whatever will they talk about if not my teenage accomplishment? Certainly not their own lives or boring stuff like that.
Good grief, do I have to read it again for the sake of my family??! NooooooooooOOOOoooooOOOoo!