Party of One: The Selected Writings of Clifton Fadiman

By Clifton Fadiman | Go to book overview

War and Peace

War and Peace hardly calls for comment. It is translucent. It seems to have been composed in the sunlight. Yet so fascinating is it that almost all critics who are interested in the novel have at one time or another had their say concerning it. I do not claim to add anything to their words. I hope merely to set Tolstoy's masterpiece before the reader in such a way that he will not be dismayed by its labyrinthine length or put off by its seeming remoteness from our own concerns.

War and Peace has been called the greatest novel ever written. These very words have been used, to my knowledge, by E. M. Forster, Hugh Walpole, John Calsworthy, and Compton Mackenzie; and a similar judgment has been made by many others. Note that it is particularly novelists themselves who hold this opinion. Is not this the book all novelists would like to have written? Is it not to the novelist what Hamlet is to the playwright?

That War and Peace is one of the greatest novels ever written is beyond question. But I do not know what is meant by calling it "the greatest." No calipers exist to measure the relative greatness of great novels. It is more useful, rather, to repeat the judgment of J. Donald Adams: "Reading it again and again is to realize the immeasurable gulf that is fixed between a merely good book and a great one." Let us not fret therefore over whether or not War and Peace is the greatest

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Party of One: The Selected Writings of Clifton Fadiman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 5
  • Contents 9
  • Prefatory and Retrospective 13
  • From My Notebooks 33
  • Admirations 45
  • No Knights in Minnesota 47
  • A Traveler in Reality 54
  • I- Nominate for The Pulitzer Prize-- 63
  • Abner Dean's Naked Little Man 71
  • G. K. C. 74
  • She Did Not Know How To Be Famous 77
  • Puzzlements 83
  • Gertrude Stein 85
  • William Faulkner 98
  • Lead-Ins 127
  • A Note on Huckleberry Finn 129
  • Dodsworth 132
  • Moby Dick 136
  • Portrait of a Misanthrope 145
  • Three Notes on Henry James 154
  • War and Peace 176
  • Pickwick and Dickens 203
  • Conversation 251
  • Onstage 269
  • Clowns, Humorists, Comics 271
  • Emlyn Williams, Charles Laughton, and the Art Of Reading Aloud 274
  • Reflections on Musical Comedy 280
  • Judy and Juan 285
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Host-- 292
  • The Reading Lamp 303
  • The Book-Reviewing Business 305
  • An Experiment in Teaching 320
  • The Wild Child 324
  • Pillow Books 334
  • The Voice of the Dodo 341
  • A Gentle Dirge for The Familiar Essay 349
  • The Decline of Attention 354
  • Children's Reading 367
  • Books for Children 382
  • Mother Goose 396
  • The Maze in the Snow 404
  • How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear! 411
  • Assortment 421
  • Fanfare for Fireworks, Fawkes, And the Fifth 423
  • Fadiman's Law of Optimum Improvement 430
  • Plain Thoughts on Fancy Language 437
  • A Period Sample: Three Reviews of John O'Hara 446
  • The Wolfe at the Door 455
  • How to Attract the Attention Of a Schrafft's Hostess 461
  • Some Passing Remarks On Some Passing Remarks 466
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