Leo Tolstoy & Nick Hornby

I was going to title this Tolstoy versus Hornby, but that’s not what I mean.

Having recently finished Anna Karenina I picked out of my bedside stack a Christmas present (at least two years old) of Nick Hornby’s Juliet Naked. I had started it once before, but as the subject matter appeared to be the insane fan worship of a has-been rock star – not exactly central to my interests – it got queue-jumped.

I hesitate to admit it, but my enjoyment of my in-bed morning reading has now risen sharply. Hornby’s language is a chuckling delight. For instance, the fan and the colleague he has inadvertently started sleeping/living with arrive at work together: “Gina kissed him goodbye, on the lips, and squeezed his bottom playfully while colleagues watched, stupefied with excitement.”

Of course, Hornby is a lighter read than a Russian classic. Tolstoy’s people and the period are distant, and his use of language may well have lost some of its verve in translation. Also, while I was reading Anna Karenina, I did enjoy it, but there is relief in finding a character springing off the page in a sentence or two, and of internal monologues that make me smile in recognition (and don’t last for five pages).

With Anna Karenina there is a vast and satisfying depth to the characters, but so little humour and how much I miss it (and how difficult I find that in my own writing). It is difficult to love a character if you don’t get to smile while reading about them.

4 thoughts on “Leo Tolstoy & Nick Hornby

  1. Yes, you are right. A different time-frame and a far more serious period. I am re-reading Tolstoy as well and it does take a lot of words to describe a character but I allow for the distance in time and find it still ‘somewhat’ enjoyable.

  2. I read War & Peace in junior high school and was enthralled with Tolstoy after that. I agree with what depth he shows the characters and the realistic events that transpire come together to create a masterpiece.

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