Oprah’s Tolstoy Expert Goes: “Meh”

Give War and Peace a Chance

If you’re not reading Andrew D. Kaufman’s book right now, hooray! That means his book is working.

Kaufman, who describes himself as “a featured Tolstoy expert on Oprah.com,” has written a book called Give War and Peace a Chance, in which he raves about the salubrious effects of reading Leo Tolstoy’s 1300-page masterpiece.

In a way his project is similar to Rebecca Mead’s book about Middlemarch, or Geoff Dyer’s book about D.H. Lawrence, or any number of recent book-length works of tribute/criticism that explore a famous piece of literature from every angle. I usually like these books. They’re part history, part essay, part criticism, and the best of them—like Mead’s and Dyer’s—transcend their categories to become marvels of analysis and introspection.

Kaufman’s book, on the other hand, pretty much begs you to set it down and pick up a different book instead. Give War and Peace a chance, it says! Okay, fine. The first step is to NOT read anything else, starting with Kaufman’s book. If you take his message to heart, you won’t even crack open Kaufman’s book. Surely this is the most self-congratulatory, self-defeating book ever published. Just think of the billions of people on Earth who are NOT reading Give War and Peace a Chance right now. Instead they’re free to maybe, possibly, take a crack at reading War and Peace. Every person who doesn’t read Give War and Peace a Chance represents another little triumph for Andrew D. Kaufman, the featured Tolstoy expert on Oprah.com. Truly his un-ambition knows no bounds.

Maybe I’ll write a book called Hey, America, Go Ahead and Microwave a Half Dozen Hot Dogs, Eat Them in Bed While Watching Law & Order Reruns, and Sleep Through Your Alarm the Next Morning: Because That’s Exactly What You Were Going to Do, Anyway.

– Brian Hurley

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