If I Were Tolstoy’s Editor

“We are forced to fall back upon fatalism to explain irrational events (that is those of which we cannot comprehend the reason). The more we try to explain those events in history rationally, the more irrational and incomprehensible they seem to us. Every man lives for himself, making use of his free-will for attainment of his own objects, and feels in his whole being that he can do or not do any action. But as soon as he does anything, that act, committed at a certain moment in time, becomes irrevocable and is the property of history, in which it has a significance, predestined and not subject to free choice.

There are two aspects to the life of every man:  the personal life, which is free in proportion as its interests are abstract, and the elemental life of the swarm, in which a man must inevitably follow the laws laid down for him.”  –Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

I did it.

I finished reading War and Peace.  And I loved it.  (You can read about my failed start.)

In fact, after reading it, I was tempted to go back and start re-reading from the beginning, in order to capture more of the nuance, the brilliance of Tolstoy’s staging, foreshadowing and character development.

The book is 1386 pages long. And I would not cut a single word…except possibly one tiny little change.

If I were Tolstoy’s editor, I would have asked him to leave out Part Two of the Epilogue.  I can imagine the conversation between the artist and the editor:

Tolstoy: But I wasn’t finished!  All of this NEEDED to be said!  It’s the entire reason I wrote the book!

Editor:  My friend, the story was over.  Leave the rest to the reader. The novel is magnificent.  In their thoughts they will ponder your piece of work for years to come.  They will write books themselves about your epic.  Let it end.

Tosltoy:  I will not.  I insist on the last part.

Editor:  What if we include it at the end as Part Two of the Epilogue…a kind of Author’s Notes?

Tolstoy:  Hmmph.  Whoever heard of Part Two of an Epilogue?

I can imagine this conversation going on for many months.  I recently read somewhere that it took Tolstoy over a year to write the opening scene.  (It introduces many of the characters.)

I find it hard to believe that anyone living today could weave such a tapestry of thought. The best-selling novels currently in production, while gripping and suspenseful, take me about 2-3 days to process.  War and Peace took me 3 months.  I savored it.

On the cover of the book, Virginia Woolf writes, “There remains the greatest of all novelists–for what else can we call the author of War and Peace?”

I am afraid very few readers take the time to read novels like this any more.  Do kids still read this in high school? When I tell my own friends or acquaintances that I have just finished War and Peace, in the hopes of meeting someone else who may have read it, I am met with raised eyebrows and shaking heads.  They back away slowly.  The general consensus is that I either have nothing else to do with my life or that I am just plain weird. Now it’s possible that I am weird, but I assure you, I have many other things to do in my life including working, raising a teen, caring for an aging parent.

As Churchill once said, “Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.”

Celebrating art is life for me. I do it in between trips to the middle school (and sometimes read in the middle school parking lot). I create in the evening, and at work.  I think of things to make while lying in bed, in the shower, preparing a meal.

What is life if not to celebrate art and the work of fellow artists and artisans?

By the way, I finally finished the red scarf I started well over a year ago.  It’s not a masterpiece.  But it was made with patience and persistence.  And I eventually gifted it to my sister, who accomplished a huge goal.

Bravo. Prodolzhat…


A Little Lace Goes a Long Way

I have this stash of lace from my mom, that I keep in the basement, well-protected.  I never know what to do with it, but it’s always in the back of my mind as a resource.

The other day I purchased a (very) cheap sweat-shirty looking top on sale at a discount store where I normally buy groceries. So you know the price was right.

I wore it a few times before I started to get an idea to “cuten” it up a bit.

I ran downstairs to my stash of lace and found something perfect. I added it around the bottom of the shirt.

This took MAYBE half an hour.

It’s cute, right?

That’s when I got out the ruffler and decided to try ruffling the lace a bit to create a flower pin to wear on this shirt (or any other for that matter). I adjusted the ruffler to take a small “bite” so that the ruffle was soft.

You can see that it forms a natural curve and so I then proceeded to sew it onto a piece of wool I had around.

Really, this is very easy and fun stuff if you have the right tools.

I added a button and hot-glued a pin-back onto the back.  Pin-backs are widely available in places like JoAnn’s, Michael’s, etc.

To summarize, everything that’s needed for a project like this:

  • Lace
  • Ruffler foot (or needle and thread if you gather by hand)
  • Basic sewing supplies
  • A round piece of felt
  • A button or another cute center (silk flower?)
  • Pin back
  • Glue gun

This looks adorable on a handbag, a headband, a jean jacket, anywhere! You can also ruffle some fabric and create another look.

Have some fun…I highly recommend a ruffler foot for your machine.  They haven’t changed in years, and I wrote about it here.

So take a break from quilt blocks and try something new!