Learning to enjoy a good book

I like to think of myself as a good reader, but I never got through the Mount Everest of reading - Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace." News of two new translations offers some more opportunity for disappointment, though.

One translation by Andrew Bromfield claimed to be the only English version of the original version. It is based on Tolstoy's first draft and knocks off about 400 pages from the edition you and I probably had to read (or at least attempted to) in high school or college.

The good? It's a lot shorter and it has a happy ending - Petya Rostov and Prince Andrei don't die. I know this because I did read the Cliff Notes.

The bad? News accounts reported a lot of Tolstoy scholars were outraged by the Bromfield translation and said that it was not "War and Peace," that it was less War and more Peace.

Imagine me at a bar bragging about reading "War and Peace" and getting called on which translation.

The other translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky doesn't help either because it's actually longer at 1,276 pages. The husband-wife team translated "Anna Karenina" last year, and it became a best-seller thanks to Oprah recommending it for her book club.

If this translation does not do as well, shoppers may find it at Bed, Bath and Beyond as a classy doorstop.

For me, books have inspired, entertained and provided new insights into reality.

I remember reading all of the Sherlock Holmes books in junior high and being amazed at how someone was able to be so productive. Enough so that I studied published notebooks of Arthur Conan Doyle to see how he structured his stories.

In college, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson propelled me toward journalism. Today, the language and character profiles in "Up In The Old Hotel" by Joseph Mitchell encourage me to write better.

I hope books will play a similar role in my children's lives, though I know books have a lot to compete against in today's world of the Internet, blogs, cell phones and 500 television channels. It's tough for me to find time to read, too.

It troubles me how our 4-year-old daughter Katie can be mesmerized by The Disney Channel or Noggin and how quickly she has become computer savvy, as she navigates the Sesame Street Web site.

About the only time she is quiet is when we read to her, and that is mostly at bedtime. She always wants more after I read one or two books to her. Sometimes, I can, but other times I tell her it's too late to read another book.

So, though "War and Peace" may still be out of my reach, I am unchallenged when it comes to Dr. Seuss or any of the Disney Princess books.

Jay Jones is a staff reporter for the Rockdale Citizen. E-mail Jay at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.