I tried watching the new adaptation of War and Peace last night.
I couldn't watch a whole episode.
You know I love Tolstoy. You know what I often think of adaptations. You know what I think about Andrew Davies and the Colin Firth effect (my fear came true, by the way).
So I won't say anything about this series. What I say instead is: fine, this isn't for me, but we'll always have the book, and if this adaptation gets more people to read War and Peace, great.
You can say, let's be realistic, most people won't. Some will be interested but find the size daunting. Some will think watching an adaptation is good enough. Some will intend to read it but never come round to reading it. After all I'm not much better- I can humiliate myself now by making a list of classic novels I haven't read despite watching the adaptations: Les Misérables, The Three Musketeers, The Age of Innocence, A Room with a View, The Wings of the Dove, Washington Square, Jude the Obscure, Far from the Madding Crowd, Barry Lyndon, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and so on and so forth. The seen-the-film-not-read-the-book list will be much longer if we include more modern works: The Green Mile, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Psycho, The Shining, American Psycho, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Brokeback Mountain, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, We Need to Talk About Kevin, etc.
Still, it will get someone to read the book. However critical I am of the adaptations of Anna Karenina, they led me to the novel. For years I heard my mom's praise of Tolstoy and was indifferent- or I was interested, but not enough to tackle the book, partly because of its size, partly because of its tragic ending, partly because of my ignorance of Russian literature and indifference to Russia. Then after watching about 4 adaptations, I thought: why not read Tolstoy's novel when I'm obsessed with Anna Karenina and already know the story so well? So I won't be angry now. I'll see this new adaptation as 1 of those TV series that other people watch and I don't, like Games of Thrones or Downton Abbey (I'm indifferent to many things in popular culture anyway*), or something that motivates someone to read Tolstoy's book. That's it.
We'll always have the novels.
*: I intended to write a post called "Di Nguyen on pop culture, or Why I have no friends", but it sounds pretentious and hipsterish, so never mind.