8.10.10

Tolstoy is my Cat?

Quite an assertion, I know, but not one that I've made lightly. It's rare that I say 'Tolstoy is my Cat' and someone doesn't bat an eyelid or ask what on earth it means, so I thought maybe the time had come to explain why my blog has this phenomenal yet slightly nonsensical name. 

Anna Karenina (Oprah's Book Club)First of all, I love him. Tolstoy, that is, although my cat comes a very close second. In the simplest of terms, to me Tolstoy is the greatest of writers and Anna Karenina is my favourite all time book. There is no equal for its breadth, scope, accurate portrayal of human behaviour and its influences and, most importantly, pure, simple wasted heartbreak, which branded itself into my conscientiousness from the first read. It's a triumph, and if I'm going to associate my work with anyone's, why not his? (There's a joke in there somewhere). In any case, at the most basic blogger level, I hoped the mention of Tolstoy might help the reader anticipate literary fiction and the odd short story, which is hopefully what this blog provides. 

War and Peace (Vintage Classics)Also, Tolstoy, to me, is a challenge. I am a ferocious and maniacal reader, with the appetite to devour books in a few sittings if they pique my interest. I once read one of my mum's trashy holiday novels in a day to show her that it was flimsy throw-away trash (sorry Mum). There are, to date, only two books that have ever defeated me and kept me, wilfully or not, from their end: Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Tolstoy's War and Peace. At every attempt Moby Dick has aggressively bores me to tears with descriptions of sailing, the sea and 135 threateningly epic chapter heads that stretch out before you like a sentence, meaning that I have never got passed the first chapter even though I've had a copy since I was about 15. Also, I hated the one Melville story I ever managed to get through (Bartleby) and I can't help but feel (snobbish, I know) his credibility has been slightly undermined, through no fault of his own, by the now eternal association of Moby Dick with Starbucks. 'Nuff said. War and Peace, on the other hand, is meaty and substantial and arrogant enough to be 537 pages long and actually consist of 15 books and 2 epilogues, with a few extra notes, just in case we were still wondering, from Tolstoy at the end. When I picked it up that first time Tolstoy threw down the gauntlet and by the time I die I will have finished it, even if it is the act that actually kills me. Suffice to say, I've only got to page 459, the start of Book 5, thus far in my multiple readings. I guess if I was superstitious, finishing it wouldn't be something I'd want to hurry... Anyway, by reminding myself of Tolstoy every time I open my own blog, it reminds me that grandiose arrogance and timeless stories can live forever (a great incitement to labour) and also that, if an old man can sit for years at a time, freezing to death with a pencil and gaslight in 19th Century Russia, then I should really be able to conjure something up, sat at a computer in a nice warm room in 21st Century England.  

Also, as a completion of this theme, check out Literary Traveler for a complete run-down of Tolstoy's life and works, as also the chance to see an oh-so-relevant extract from War and Peace where Tolstoy compares someone to a cat.  
Moab Is My Washpot
The second reason for naming my blog 'Tolstoy is my Cat' is that, to me, it immediately brings to mind 'Moab is my Washpot', which is the name of the first autobiography by Stephen Fry. This pleased me greatly, as it would any Stephen Fry fan (if you're not, get out:), so it remains here as a nice little pun for the initiated. I also like the Old Testament nod, although that's very much the secondary reference. I've also just, as I type this, realised that 'Moab' is much like 'Moby', which brings this blog entry full-circle. Hurrah.  

The third and final reason is simple. My cat is indeed called Tolstoy, and seeing as I feed him and cuddle him and generally enable him, he's probably the closest thing I have right now to a biggest fan. Roll on the rest. :)

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